O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Our first reading is
the end of a longer story that begins with the Apostle Peter having a dream in
which he is commanded to eat unclean animals (10:9). He refuses, but a voice
tells him that he should not call unclean what God has called clean. He is then visited by some Gentiles who ask
him to visit them and bring the gospel to them (10:17). He takes the dream as a sign that he is to do
so. His visit results in the passage
that follows, which is a major turning point for the followers of Jesus. Gentiles are to be included in the new movement. They, too, are the People of God
10:44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
Psalm 981 Sing to the Lord a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.
2 With his right hand and his holy arm *
has he won for himself the victory.
3 The Lord has made known his victory; *
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.
4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, *
and all of the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
5 Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; *
lift up your voice, rejoice and sing.
6 Sing to the Lord with the harp, *
with the harp and the voice of song.
7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
shout with joy before the King, the Lord.
8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
the lands and those who dwell therein.
9 Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
when he comes to judge the earth.
10 In righteousness shall he judge the world *
Our second reading continues a major theme of this letter which we have been reading this Eastertide: Love of God and love of one another is inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other. The writer then goes on to talk about how this love “conquers the world.” “The world” to John means everything that is hostile to God. Note the entrance of the Spirit, who Jesus promised in John’s Gospel will lead us into all truth (16:13).
5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.
Across the three-year cycle of readings, this Sixth Sunday of Easter presents the “new commandment” of Jesus: “love one another as I have loved you.” In today’s passage, Jesus begins by declaring the source of his love, the Father’s love for him. Jesus “abides” in the Father’s love, so Jesus’ disciples “abide” in his love. “Abide” is an important word in John’s Gospel, signifying a deep unity which cannot be broken. It is, therefore, utterly reliable, and it is that reliability that brings us joy in spite of what the world has to offer us. This love manifests itself in two other ways. First, it erases the master/slave relationship. Jesus calls us friends (and the implication is that we so ought to call one another). Second, out of this unconditional love will grow fruit, “fruit that will last.” The chief “fruit that will last” is an open and trusting relationship with God.
15:9 Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved. The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2021, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study.