Scripture Readings: 1 Kings 19:15–16, 19–21 | Psalm 16 | Galatians 5:1, 13–25 | Luke 9:51–62
“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14).
All our Scripture readings today, in one way or another, call us to contemplate devotion: to reflect on what it means to be completely committed to the Living God and His will for us. But more than that, they also highlight how the Living God is completely committed to us. Devoted to rescuing and re-creating His broken world, and drawing us who trust in Him deep into His blessed life.
But before jumping into our readings today, let’s remember that there are plenty of ways we can misunderstand devotion… plenty of ways we can get off track when we follow our assumptions about what the Lord wants of us, instead of looking intently to Jesus and following His lead.
Thankfully, our Gospel reading today invites us all to reflect on what a Christ-shaped devotion looks like, both back then, but also today:
St. Luke tells us that “When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). This marks a clear change of direction in Jesus’ ministry. Up until now, He had been travelling through the northern region of Galilee, sharing the Good News of the Kingdom of God with all the countryside. But now, the time had come for Him to head South to the holy city… wholeheartedly determined to carry out His great rescue mission: to go to Jerusalem, to take up His cross, and give His life to save the world.
As the amazing culmination of the entire Scriptural story… the story of God’s faithful love for His stubborn, sinful people, and our whole broken world… Jesus, the Son of God was going to Jerusalem to die. To be betrayed and rejected by the ones He came to save, but then to turn that tragedy into a gift of New Life for all.
But long before He and His disciples even get close to Jerusalem, Luke tells us they faced resistance: Travelling through a Samaritan village, they were not welcomed.
Now Samaritans have a long and fraught history with Jews. Both communities have a shared ancestry, as the Samaritans were descendants of the remnant of the Northern tribes of Israel, who survived the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles. Yet even so, both communities saw each other as ethnically and religiously compromised, to the end that Jews and Samaritans despised and avoided each other. And so, because Jesus was going to Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish religious and cultural life, the Samaritans wanted absolutely nothing to do with Him or His disciples. Despite Christ’s willingness to share God’s Kingdom work with them, they only saw an enemy… and so they rejected Him.
Of course there are lots of examples of this kind of dynamic at work in our world these days: of people who share so much in common… yet remain deeply divided over the few differences.
I’m not talking about the tensions that naturally rise from people holding conflicting values. Of course we won’t agree with everyone, and there will be times when we must stand firm and resist what we understand to be wrong.
But the question for us is: how are we to treat those who hold onto conflicting values? What do we do with the people we cannot seem to come to peace with? Can we deeply disagree about many things without demonizing… or trying to destroy the lives of those we disagree with?
As we heard today, the disciples didn’t seem to think so. At least two of them, James and John, thought their devotion to God’s Kingdom called for burning up those who were ‘opposed’ to them and their message. “Lord,” they said, “do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). In the back of there minds must have been the stories of the great prophet Elijah, who in 1 Kings had himself called down fire from heaven against soldiers of a wicked king.
But instead of unleashing fire against the Samaritans, Jesus rebukes His own students… and simply moves on. He doesn’t engage in debate. He doesn’t repay their unkindness with anger. Despite the rejection that Jesus faced, He does not let it deter Him from carrying out His mission. He remained devoted to laying down His life to save, not only His fellow Jews, but these Samaritans as well… and all peoples under heaven.
Christ-shaped devotion is not about winning every argument, or coming out on top of every conflict. Nor is it, for that matter, about keeping everyone happy… as if that were even possible. What Jesus did was to not let rejection or conflict distract Him from God’s great rescue mission… from devoting His life wholeheartedly to the life of the Kingdom that He had come to bring, even though this would mean walking the road of rejection and suffering.
As Christ’s followers today, will we walk this road with Him?
St. Luke goes on to introduce us to others, who wanted to follow Jesus… but who had their own visions, and assumptions of what it would look like to devote their lives to Him: One said “I will follow you wherever you go.” (Luke 9:57), but Jesus then pointed out that His own life was one of never quite belonging… of never really settling down and fitting into society. A life of a pilgrim. A wandering misfit. Is that what you want?
After Jesus invites another to follow Him, the would-be disciple says: “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” (Luke 9:59). In other words, ‘Let me first fulfill my family obligations.’ Again, Jesus pushes for wholehearted devotion, saying to them: “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60).
Yet another says: “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home. Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:61-62).
All three of these would-be disciples wanted to take part in the Kingdom… but up to a point. They wanted to follow on their own terms… in ways that they were comfortable with… but Jesus pushed back on their assumptions… on their ideas of what wholehearted devotion means… not because He was cruel, or uncaring… not because He didn’t want them to follow Him… just the opposite! But He wanted them, and wants every would-be disciple to know what we’re getting into. Jesus was inviting them, as He invites us all to share wholeheartedly in His life… with all its challenges and struggles… and so to know what it means with Him to be devoted to God’s kingdom.
We all come with our own ideas about what it means to be a devoted Christian: what following this religion requires of us, and how our lives will be shaped by it (or not!). But Christ-shaped devotion isn’t bound by our own assumptions, or ideas… but by a whole new way of life given to us by the Living God. A life completely committed not to a religion, but to Jesus our Lord… and to one another!
As St. Paul points out in our reading today from Galatians, there’s no such thing for those who follow Jesus as private devotion. Our commitment to the Living God connects us to all His children… set free to share together in the life of Christ Jesus our Lord.
To the Christians in Galatia, divided by serious religious and cultural disagreements, St. Paul took great pains to point out that devotion to Christ Jesus is not just a bunch of rituals to practice, or rules to follow… and argue over. Truly Christ-shaped devotion, the fulfillment of the righteous law of God, is His holy love at work in us, setting us free from everything that keeps us from loving one another.
Galatians 5:13-15, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”
St. Paul goes on to point out the destructive signs of what happens when we’re devoted to our own desires, which run in the opposite direction of the holy love of God: Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
But then St. Paul points us towards what it looks like when we are sharing in the new life Jesus gives us: what begins to take shape in our lives as those devoted to walking with Him. Galatians 5:22-25, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”
Remember, all these things are the results of the Spirit of God at work in us. This isn’t a list of things we need to do or have in order to make ourselves holy, or prove we’re devoted to God. These are the signs of God’s new life that the Holy Spirit is devoted to bringing to life in us His people. The Living God Himself is wholeheartedly committed to re-creating us to be like Him! To be shaped by God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This is the gift that Christ won for us at the cross: to share in God’s new life, and through the Spirit, for His life to set us free to love Him and one another. This is what the Living God is devoted to doing in us and our world. Will we follow our Saviour and let His faithful love guide our way? Amen.
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, & Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Scripture Readings: 1 Kings 19:1–15 | Psalm 42, 43 | Galatians 3:23–29 | Luke 8:26–39
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39).
Our Scripture readings today from 1 Kings and the Gospel of Luke may not seem all that similar, but in some key ways they are deeply connected… like two sides of a coin, they bear different images, but share a common theme: the stories of people whose lives were turned around by the Living God, only to be sent out again in unexpected directions.
In 1 Kings we jump right into the middle of the story of Elijah: the passionate and powerful prophet of Yahweh, the Living God, who had the audacity to confront Israel’s unfaithful King, Ahab, who with his wife Jezebel, had led God’s people to worship and serve Baal, a Canaanite deity.
Just before our reading today, Elijah had called for a dramatic duel, a showdown on Mt. Carmel before all the people of Israel between Yahweh, the LORD, and the popular prophets of Baal… to prove once and for all who was truly God Almighty.
1 Kings 18:21 says that “Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people did not answer him a word.” What follows this call to wholehearted faithfulness was a dramatic display of Yahweh’s unrivaled power. I’ll leave it to you to read over 1 Kings Chapter 18 this week to get all the details, but the pastor and scholar Peter Leithart summarizes the outcome well: “Yahweh wins a decisive victory over Baal at Carmel, and the people who bowed to golden calves and kissed the Baals fall on their faces to declare, “Yahweh is God! Yahweh is God!”” It seems that Israel had finally turned back to the Living God for good, and Leithart goes on to capture what must have been the faithful prophet’s dream come true: “Yahweh’s victory over Baal is so public that the people obey Elijah’s command to slaughter the prophets of Baal, none of whom return from Carmel… It seems possible that Ahab will follow Elijah as his lead prophet, that Elijah will shape the future of Israel from a position of prominence. The covenant renewed, Israel is back on the right track.
It is not to be.”
Instead, Queen Jezebel seeks to strike back… and instead of leading God’s people back to their LORD, Elijah becomes Israel’s most wanted. Despondent, he heads south, to Mt. Sinai, also called Horeb, where God had once met with Moses long ago… leaving behind the people he once sought to save, who he now felt had all abandoned him.
Along the way, we hear how the LORD had provided for and sustained his faithful prophet, but Elijah could only see tragedy, loss, and utter failure: “It is enough;” he prays, “now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4). Leithart points out that “Elijah wishes to die, but this is not simple despair. He realizes that he is no more effective than his prophetic fathers in calling Israel back to the covenant. Israel’s renewal is not going to take place, at least not the way that Elijah envisions.” His great hopes and dreams for his people were shattered, and it’s more than he thinks he can bare. And so when he finally arrives and Mt. Sinai, he brings this complaint: “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10).
Perhaps we can relate to Elijah sometimes: When our hopes and dreams fall apart. When the good work we pour ourselves into seems wasted. When we see those we love heading for disaster, and feel helpless to turn things around. When we feel like no one is there for us… like it’s just us against the world.
Everything Elijah had worked for, and risked his life for, seems to have come to nothing. Elijah was at the end of his rope, and ready to give it all up.
But God had not given up on Elijah. Or for that matter, on His people. So Yahweh sends Elijah back out into the world on an unexpected mission: 1 Kings 19:15-18, “Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Despite how things seemed, Elijah was not alone. The LORD still had thousands who had remained faithful to Him, and the enemies seeking Elijah’s life would be delt with in God’s due time. Though in his own eyes, there had been no hope left, no future worth fighting for, the LORD told Elijah to go… and invite others to share in the work of God’s Kingdom.
Turning now to our reading from the Gospel of Luke, and the strange story of a man rescued from the powers of darkness… and pigs drowned in the sea.
We know very little about this man, aside from the ways his life had become a symbol of devastation. Driven into the wild by demonic forces, naked and living among the dead in the tombs… unable to be restrained… this man’s life had been completely overwhelmed by forces far beyond his, or anyone else’s control. In this state, he had no hope, no future. He was all alone with the darkness.
But then, a boat pulls onto the shore, and Jesus of Nazareth steps out. And immediately, this man falls at His feet, and the demons within start to panic: Luke 8:28, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” This man no one could master now cowered in fear… and for good reason. The unclean spirits understood all too well that they were in the presence power.
In short order, Jesus casts out the legion of demons, who enter into the nearby heard of pigs, and who then drive themselves to destruction, drowned in the sea. The neighbours nearby, and witnesses of this dramatic display of spiritual authority and power beg Jesus to go away. To get back into His boat, and leave them (and their pigs) alone.
And our Lord doesn’t argue with them. He doesn’t demand they let Him and His disciples stay. He doesn’t get drawn into debates, and force His way into their lives. Even though He had travelled all that way to share the Good News of God’s Kingdom with them, Jesus does not use His great power to coerce anyone to accept Him. His power brings freedom, and wholeness, and life, but we can refuse to receive this gracious gift. And that’s what they do: they turn away Jesus.
But even as He prepares to leave, Jesus does not turn away from them. Instead, He sends out someone else to share the Good News with them.
Luke tells us the man who had now been freed from the demons begged to remain with Jesus… to stay close to the One who had given him back his life. Now this seems like a totally reasonable request, as N.T. Wright points out: “The man, quite understandably, wants to be allowed to stay with Jesus. Not only is he now bonded to him by the astonishing rescue he has experienced; he may well assume that things would not be easy back in his home territory, where everyone knew the tragic tale of his recent life. There might be considerable reluctance to accept him again as a member of a family or a village.”  In that moment, moving on and following Jesus must have seemed like the most obvious option.
But even so, Jesus had another important mission in mind: Luke tells us Christ “sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:38-39). He’s sent away not because Christ doesn’t care about the man. No, he is sent back so that those in his neighbourhood could see in him a living sign of God’s life-giving, saving power up close and personal. In other words, Christ was inviting this man to share in the work of God’s kingdom. As N.T. Wright puts it “Having experienced the good news in action, he must now tell it himself.” 
His life turned upside down by the grace and power of God, this man follows Jesus’ word to him… going about telling all his neighbours all that Jesus had done for him, and inviting them to believe the Good News that had transformed his story for good.
Today we heard two stories of people whose lives were changed by encountering the Living God and experiencing His power… and were both sent out again to invite others to turn to God too.
Elijah came in search of the LORD, despairing and ready to give up on himself and his people, but God sent him back knowing he was not alone, to help others join in God’s work in the world.
The man freed from demonic forces came to Jesus full of gratitude and hope, seeking simply to be close to the One who had rescued him, but Jesus sent him back to show all those nearby what God’s kingdom really looks like, and to invite them to believe, and experience it for themselves.
Maybe we are coming to God today discouraged, convinced that we are all alone, and that we cannot make a difference. Maybe we’re coming to God with gratitude and hope in our hearts… eager to be in His presence and to experience His life-giving power.
However we’re coming to the Living God today, are we willing to go where He wants to send us? Even if it is surprising, unexpected… or not what we asked for?
Our readings today remind us that though God’s ways are often not what we imagined, His life-giving, sustaining, saving power remains at work in us His people. God sends us out into our world, but He also goes with us always. Empowering us by His Holy Spirit to carry out whatever He asks of us.
So may we take heart, and go… sharing with others all that Jesus has done for us, and inviting them also to turn to the Living God and share in His good Kingdom. Amen.
 Peter J. Leithart, 1 & 2 Kings, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006), 138.
 Peter J. Leithart, 1 & 2 Kings, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006), 140–141.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 101–102.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 101–102.
Today is Father's Day in Canada, and so many will mark this day by remembering and honouring their fathers who have loved, cared for, guided, and raised them up. For many of us, this is a day of deep gratitude, and it is right that we give thanks along with them for those who truly embodied the gift of fatherhood.
For some of us today is less straightforward, and perhaps more of a struggle... perhaps due to difficulties or losses in one's parental relationships, or for those whom the experience of pursuing fatherhood has been one of sorrow and disappointment. Along with them, we do well to acknowledge that family life is often a challenging road, and to listen to and honour their sufferings, which are also known and shared by our loving God.
Whether today is a day of celebration for you, or a day of difficulty, or some mixture of both: may you receive God's blessing today exactly as it is needed. May God surround you and those you love, as well as all those who have loved and supported you, with peace, hope, fellowship, kindness, and understanding.
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, & Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Scripture Readings: Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31 | Psalm 8 | Romans 5:1–5 | John 16:12–15
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16:12-13.
Congratulations again to our graduating students: as a Parish family we are so proud of you, and all that you have accomplished.
As one chapter of your life draws to a close, and another begins I’d like to offer you, along with all of us here today a simple suggestion: stay curious. Stay curious. Stay open to learning new and surprising things about our world… about the people all around you… and even about yourself. Things that may challenge you… things that may encourage you… but most of all, things that draw you closer and closer to truth.
Don’t settle for easy answers if they do not lead to truth. And be willing to dig, and search, and seek out truth… even if it’s a struggle. For as St. Paul pointed out in our reading today from Romans, we know “that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5). In other words, sometimes the right path can be hard… but it’s also well worth it in the end. And we can believe that through the Holy Spirit, God’s love will be with us through it all.
So stay curious. Search for truth. And may God be with you always.
But saying all this might raise the question: Who is God anyway? Who exactly are we talking about when we speak of God?
There are all sorts of ideas out there about God… some ideas we might find easy enough to get behind… others are more of a struggle… and still others frankly seem outrageous… incompatible with One worthy of worship. With so many different ideas about God out there, sometimes it’s a struggle to know what we should believe.
And not only that, but for a whole lot of reasons, over the course of our lives, our own ideas about God keep on shifting and changing as well. With all this debate and uncertainty, sometimes it might just seem easier to give up trying to figure out God.
But what if, instead of it being a matter of sorting out our own ideas, or the ideas of others… of trying to figure God out for ourselves… what if God showed up in such a way so that we could come to know the truth? What if God wants to be known, and shows up in ways we can actually understand?
Maybe ‘understand’ is the wrong word. ‘Understand’ implies complete comprehension… like when we master a subject or skill… being able to explain all the ins and outs… that’s how we know many things about our world… but there are also other ways to know… even if we don’t completely ‘understand’.
Think of a child. A toddler, gradually coming to ‘know’ their family: unconsciously building up a picture of their parents over the years… through seeing their actions… hearing their words, experiencing the ups and downs of daily life together… and learning a lot about themselves and who they are through these relationships.
At what point would we say a child knows their parents? When they understand everything about them? Probably not. When the child can express in words and ideas their parent’s complex personalities? I wouldn’t go that far either. Wouldn’t we be able to say a child who merely recognizes their mother’s voice, their father’s smile, their family’s faces has in some way come to know them? Incompletely, of course, but truly… as best they can. And if they stay curious… if they keep paying attention, and seeking to grow in understanding, they’ll get to know their family members more and more. Even if they never ever completely understand them.
Another example is love: we can come to understand the chemical reactions in our brains and bodies that take place when we share in deep human connections… but that doesn’t mean that we’ve ‘explained’ what it means to love. There’s still a deep mystery about it… one we’re invited, and even created to experience, to offer, and to receive.
In other words, we come to know what it means to love not by observing it from a safe distance, but by sharing it. By stepping into it. And by receiving it.
Coming to know the Living God is more like this: not simply studying a subject or skill, or solving a puzzle, and then moving on to something else… but gradually growing closer to Someone we can’t completely understand… but who is actually longing for us to experience their love… to share their life… to know freedom… connection… justice… mercy… forgiveness… truth. Not only for one season of life, but for all eternity.
How do we know this? Because we believe the Living God has spoken… God has showed up… and has shown Himself to the world.
We believe God has been doing this for quite some time now… thousands of years in fact… through the story of Abraham’s family… the people of Israel, who were set aside to get to know God up close and personal, so that all the world might come to know and share God’s love along with them.
We believe God speaks to us today through this story… a story of blessing, of failure, of forgiveness, and finding new life… a story of our whole human family… and that at the climax of the story of Israel… we meet Jesus of Nazareth: someone who’s words and actions, whose entire life reflects the love of God; someone who gave His life on the cross in order to bring God’s new life to our broken world; someone who, against all expectations, rose again from the grave, and started off God’s hope-filled New Creation; someone who claimed to share full communion with God, and who invites everyone to share that connection as well.
And we believe because Jesus has given His Holy Spirit to dwell inside us… to bring God’s New Life to take root within us so we too can experience God’s love, and let His love, freedom… connection… justice… mercy… forgiveness… and truth grow in us every day, and bring His healing to our broken world.
In the Christian calendar, today is Trinity Sunday: a day that Christians remember that the Living God is not a logical puzzle to solve, or an abstract idea of the divine, or an irrelevant footnote in the history of human religious thoughts… but Someone who knows us all, and wants us to come to know them too. Someone who is the source of our longings for love… for freedom… for connection… for justice… for mercy… for forgiveness… for truth… and who’s also the only Someone who can fulfill all of these longings. Someone who has made themselves known most clearly in the face of Jesus Christ, and someone who invites us all to have their life fill and fulfill all that we are.
Who is God? Christians have come to know the Living God as the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit… the Three-in-One and One-in-Three we worship, serve, and share our lives with. We know this is a mystery… not a riddle to solve, or a subject to master, but a family to gradually come to trust… a communion of love to experience… a story to step into and follow into new adventures… and so find new life again and again.
The Christian Church believes in the Trinity because throughout the centuries and even today, we keep encountering Jesus Christ the Risen Son of God, who makes known to us the loving heart of God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit keeps drawing us into their fellowship. Though we don’t understand it all, and we often struggle along the way, this Triune God keeps working in and through us: through our words and our actions, so His freedom… connection… justice… mercy… forgiveness… and truth can flow into our broken world, and all might come to experience and know His love.
This is what the Church teaches and believes… but rather than settling the matter, this great mystery invites us all to stay curious. To keep on searching for deeper understanding… to be open to new discoveries as we seek to know God better that will challenge and encourage us. And as we do so, we can trust that God Himself is at work in and through us to draw us closer and closer to the truth.
So may we all stay curious, search for truth, and find God with us always. Amen.
Today is Trinity Sunday, in which we Christians reflect with wonder upon the revelation of the Living God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: One God, Three Persons.
Explaining the depths of the Trinity is not the point. Instead, we are invited to come to know this Triune God, who has offered this self-revelation in Jesus Christ, and who draws us into God's love through the Holy Spirit at work in us.
Here is a great video by the Bible Project exploring how God has come to be known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, and Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Scripture Readings: Acts 2:1–21 | Psalm 104:24–35 | Romans 8:14–17 | John 14:8–17, 25–27
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14).
Happy Pentecost! The day we Christians celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit of God onto the first disciples of Jesus, filling them with God’s own personal presence and power. Last week, we reflected on the Ascension of the Risen Jesus, and the hope that comes from knowing that He’s the one on the throne of both heaven and earth, reigning even now as the eternal King of Kings. Today, we’re going to explore the power of God at guiding His people: it’s source, it’s character, and it’s intended purposes… all of which invite us to reflect on Pentecost and see this surprising power at work in St. Peter, and his fellow Apostles… fishermen, tax collectors and nobodies, turned into ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.
But before we turn straight to Acts Chapter 2, it might help us to remember that Pentecost was first of all an ancient Jewish festival, deeply rooted in the story of the Living God’s rescue of Israel, in order for them to become a people transformed by His holy love.
Pentecost, which derives its name from the Greek word for ‘fiftieth’, was celebrated by the Israelites giving back to the LORD the first-fruits of their harvests… sort of like a more explicitly religious Thanksgiving. But it was also much more than a festival marking the start of the harvest: it marked the beginning of Israel’s new life as God’s family, as they entered into God’s covenant, and received His holy Law to guide them.
Speaking about the story of Exodus, the Anglican Bishop and scholar, N.T. Wright, reminds us that, “50 days after Passover, they came to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the law. Pentecost, the fiftieth day, isn’t (in other words) just about the ‘first fruits’, the sheaf which says the harvest has begun. It’s about God giving to his redeemed people the way of life by which they must now carry out his purposes.” In other words, Pentecost marked how God gave Israel a whole new way to live in the world… one which would help them remember the LORD who had rescued, and sustains them by His power, and that He desires to dwell among them in fellowship and peace.
After all, much of the Law given at Sinai was working out the guidelines for how the holy God of all would graciously live among His chosen children: there were laws given for how to build the Tabernacle, the sacred tent where God let His divine presence and glory reside in the midst of the people… laws for the priests to offer sacrifices of atonement, and bring God’s mercy and forgiveness to the people when they sinned, and turned back to Him… and laws for how Israelites were to live with one another, and those around them… pursuing justice and mercy, and so to make known the character of their LORD. These laws laid out for Israel what it meant to share in God’s own life: how to be His faithful people, and follow in His holy ways.
And centuries after Sinai, on the first Pentecost after Jesus rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven the Living God was at it again: offering a whole new way of life shaped by His ongoing presence and power, and made possible, and available through the victory of the Risen Christ. N.T. Wright goes on to say: “When the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, Moses went up the mountain, and then came down again with the law. Here, Jesus has gone up into heaven in the ascension, and—so Luke wants us to understand—he is now coming down again, not with a written law carved on tablets of stone, but with the dynamic energy of the law, designed to be written on human hearts.”
That ‘dynamic energy’ or power is God Himself pouring out His own Spirit into His people… dwelling with them not just through the Tabernacle, or its replacement, the Temple, but dwelling in their very lives. As St. Paul would later put it in 1 Corinthians 6:19, the very bodies of believers were now the “temple of the Holy Spirit”, the place where God’s eternal power and glory has chosen to take up space.
What had before been only a foretaste, a foreshadowing of God’s full plan for His people was finally taking form: because of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, and in His resurrection, every barrier between us and the Living God was coming down. Jesus had made a way for God and humanity to live in harmony… for us to finally share in His full fellowship. To share His peace. This is the purpose behind the power of God given at Pentecost: the reunion and reconciliation of all things in Jesus Christ. God’s new Creation coming to life through His Holy Spirit at work in us. Or as the scholar Craig Keener puts it, we see what Pentecost is all about when “God’s people live in unity, sacrificing for one another’s needs and living in such a faithful way that the world around gets a foretaste of the future kingdom.”
This is why, in order to describe the surprising ability of the Apostles to suddenly speak in languages they had never before understood, St. Peter can point to the words of the prophet Joel, who spoke of the coming Day of the LORD, depicted with vivid, world-shattering signs, proclaiming that God’s good Kingdom was arriving, and was now changing everything. What was happening in Jerusalem that day, St. Peter proclaimed, was nothing less then the end of the world breaking into the middle of history: God’s glorious future, His New Creation where heaven and earth are again at one, has now begun in Jesus, the Risen Lord, and through His Holy Spirit this New Creation has already started to re-create us, His people… starting off by reuniting the scattered people of Israel, cut off from each other by their differences in language and culture, but now suddenly they’re all equally able to hear the Good News and believe.
As the rest of St. Peter’s message goes on to say, the Spirit of God was at work in them that day to help Israel, and eventually the wider world, to respond to God’s gift of rescuing love through the resurrection of Jesus… to repent, turn around and turn back to God, believe in Christ, and be baptized into a whole new way of life… as God’s new family… not separated by race, or culture, or language, but equally invited to live God’s way in the world as children led, no longer by fear, but by God’s own life-giving Spirit.
This would be the character of the power of God the Spirit gives us: not fear-driven, slavish devotion, or the ability to endlessly pursue our own self-centred desires… but the power of the unbreakable bond between our Divine Parent and a child who Jesus shows us is loved even more than life itself.
This is how St. Paul speaks of God’s power at work in us in our reading today from his letter to the Christian Church in Rome: God’s Spirit connects us to our Heavenly Father, in the bonds of faith and love. Romans 8:15-17 “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:15-17)
Wait a minute. “if we suffer with him”??? Why does Paul insert the “s” word here? I mean, if God is our loving Father, and the Holy Spirit is His own presence and power dwelling inside of us His children… why must we suffer? Shouldn’t God’s power keep us from suffering?
Well, Paul says it all in verse 17: we don’t suffer because God doesn’t care about us… or because His power is not strong enough to stop the forces of darkness. Remember, we’re talking about the One who already conquered the grave… who in His death on the cross defeated death for us, trampled the devil, and shattered the chains of sin and shame that held us tight.
Then why do we suffer? Paul says, we Christians are to share in Christ’s sufferings, so that we’ll share in His glory… the glory of the One who gave His life to save us all.
In other words, if we are to share in the genuine life of God through His Spirit… if we are to walk in the ways of His holy love, that means bearing with our broken world… it means suffering along with others, and for the sake of others, just like Jesus does, so that His New Creation can bear fruit in us through the Holy Spirit… so that God’s joy, peace, generosity, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, patience, and love at work in us can help to heal His hurting world… which is often a painful process.
I appreciate how the scholar Charles Bartow talks about what it means to suffer with Christ: “The suffering Paul speaks of in this text does not have to do with suffering in silence in the face of injustice instead of combating it… It is not a matter of putting up with the immorality of imposed poverty, or the neglect or abuse of the earth and of those who inhabit it either.” Rather, it means staying true to the way of Jesus, to our Heavenly Father’s calling on our lives, even when that means our lives get harder as a result. It means following God’s Spirit even as He lead us into the dark, because that is where the light of Jesus Christ is needed the most.
As I thought about the power of God at work in His children today… drawing them into a whole new way of life, and helping them stay true, even when that might very well mean suffering, a little French village called Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon came to mind.
In his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, the author Malcolm Gladwell sets the scene for us nicely: “Le Chambon is one of a dozen villages on the Vivrarais Plateau, a mountainous region not far from the Italian and Swiss borders in south-central France. The winters are snowy and harsh. The area is remote, and the closest large towns are well down the mountain, miles away. The region is heavily agricultural, with farms tucked away in and around piney woods. For several centuries, Le Chambon had been home to a variety of dissident Protestant sects, chief among them the Huguenots. The local Huguenot pastor was a man named André Trocmé. He was a pacifist. On the Sunday after France fell to the Germans, Trocmé preached a sermon at the Protestant temple of Le Chambon. ‘Loving, forgiving, and doing good to our adversaries is our duty,” he said. “Yet we must do this without giving up, and without being cowardly. We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the Gospel. We shall do so without fear, but also without pride and without hate.”
Inspiring words. But much more than that, these words were backed up by faithful action. Not long afterwards, desperate refugees, many of them Jewish, began arriving at Le Chambon, and the people did everything in their power to shelter them, to provide for them, to help them find safety… in short, to save them… putting themselves and their village in danger, time and again, in order to care for the strangers at their door, who they knew Christ the Lord had called them to love.
These were just ordinary people. Farmers, homemakers, tradesmen, regular folk, but their lives had been shaped by the Gospel of Jesus in such a way, that they were ready to do what was called for without hesitation… ready even to suffer with Jesus for the sake of their neighbours, and as a result over 3,000 Jews were rescued from the Holocaust.
This is what the power of God poured out at Pentecost looks like: preparing ordinary people… like the villagers of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon… like St. Peter, the unlearned fishermen turned Apostle and Martyr… preparing people like you and I to live as God’s people… as loyal subjects of Jesus Christ, the Risen King of Kings… who Himself is the source of this power working in us through His Spirit at work in us.
Again, it’s not about us, and our own capabilities… it’s God’s gracious gift… ‘His power working in us, which can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.’ Craig Keener puts this nicely: “The first disciples Jesus recruited in Luke were hardly the models of power we would expect when they began following him... The entire point of Pentecost is that God will accomplish his purposes through us, not because we are powerful in ourselves, but because he will show his power through us.”
The Living God Himself is the source of our ability to believe… to stay true to Jesus and even to suffer with Him as we walk in His ways. It is the Living God’s own inner life, His character that the Spirit is drawing us into: filling us with His joy, peace, patience, self-control, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, and holy love… so that we can take part in the purpose of His power: God’s new Creation… the reconciliation of all things in Jesus Christ, so that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved… safe in the arms of our Heavenly Father.
In short, Pentecost is all about sharing in the New Life of the Living God. Holy Spirit, come and share this life with us. Amen.
 Tom Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-12 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2008), 21.
 Tom Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-12 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2008), 22.
 Craig S. Keener, “Day of Pentecost, Years A, B, C,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume One (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 527.
 Charles L. Bartow, “Day of Pentecost, Year C,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume Two, ed. Roger E. Van Harn (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 90.
 Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (New York, NY: Back Bay Books, 2013), 264.
 Craig S. Keener, “Day of Pentecost, Years A, B, C,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume One (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 527–528.
Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit of God to dwell with us in power, filling us with His Holy presence, and preparing us to live as His people in the world, faithfully following Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord.
To explore what it means for God's presence to dwell with us, check out this short video by the Bible Project called the Temple. And to learn a bit more about the Holy Spirit, check out this video on the same theme:
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, and Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Scripture Reading: Acts 1:1–11 | Psalm 47 | Ephesians 1:15–23 | Luke 24:44–53
“God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.”
This year is a pretty significant one for us members of the British Commonwealth: as we know, Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her 70th year on the throne. At the moment, she is apparently the third longest reigning monarch of all time, and in a few weeks she will be moving up to second place… but Louis the XIV of France still has a two-year lead on her. Still, 70+ years as Queen is a tremendous feat: a lifetime spent on the throne, with millions of citizens from all around the globe living under her authority.
But as remarkable as the reign of our country’s Queen has been, today we celebrate the reign and rule of One who is higher still… One whom Queen Elizabeth II herself acknowledges as the King of kings.
This week, Christians around the globe are celebrating the Ascension of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord to the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Our readings today from Acts and the Gospel of Luke recount how after His resurrection, the Risen Christ took leave of His disciples, in order to claim His cosmological kingship… to reign with God the Father as the ultimate authority in heaven and earth. We Christians publicly pay our allegiance to our King each week as we recite the Creeds, proclaiming our faith that Jesus “ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father…” and when we claim that “His kingdom will have no end.”
But looking around our world today… at the various leaders of the nations with their wars and constant power games… at the horrific ways we humans treat each other, thinking especially this week of the murder of those schoolchildren and teachers in Uvalde, Texas… as we see the seemingly unending lists of injustices, tragedies, and disasters… it can be easy at times to imagine that our world’s out of control. That God must be unwilling, or unable to stand up against all this evil. That He either doesn’t care, or that He can’t do anything. I mean, why else would He allow His faithful subjects to suffer? When it looks like evil is calling the shots, what else are we supposed to believe?
But it’s precisely when the darkness is deepest that the light is most needed… and that is when our faith in Christ as King of Kings matters the most.
Without discounting the fact that we have been witnessing some truly horrible tragedies these days, and seem to be facing a season of increased fear and insecurity… this isn’t actually a new situation for the Church. From day one, Christians have been proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord of all in a world that constantly seems to be run by despots and warmongers, and those who stand opposed to the way of Jesus Christ.
In a word, we do not claim that Christ is King of kings because the world is already put to rights… but because we believe in, and know the One who already suffered in order to save it… and who is at work even now to bring about God’s Kingdom. We’ve been entrusted with the Good News of Jesus Christ, the crucified and Risen Lord, and it’s our mission to live as those who know who’s really on the throne.
In our reading today from Ephesians Chapter 1, the Apostle Paul, who faced his own fair share of discouragement and sufferings, writes to the Church in Ephesus, and highlights two gifts from God meant to enable them, and us, to stay true to our Christian calling: the gift of hope and the gift of His power. Ephesians 1:18-21 says, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Ephesians 1:17-19).
Hope and power. But not the kind of hope that our world’s drawn to… the hope that’s built on visible success, and constant progress… the optimism that occurs when ‘everything’s going my way’. And not the kind of power our world craves either… that is, the power to force others to do our will, the power to take what we want, when we want it… and to crush those who oppose us.
No, to understand the gifts of hope and the power of God that St. Paul has in mind, we also need to have the “eyes of our hearts enlightened”… we need to come to know God’s character and heart, and how He’s chosen to reveal Himself and His Kingdom to the world. And where better to look to understand how God’s hope and God’s power enable us to fulfill our calling than to the examples of the early Christian witnesses, also known as the martyrs.
After the Lord Jesus ascended, and the events of Pentecost, the disciples began to proclaim the Good News that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and that through Him, the reign of God, His Kingdom, has won the eternal victory over all the forces of death, sin, and spiritual darkness. As such, all peoples everywhere were now called to repent… to turn their lives towards God’s Kingdom, and to place their faith in the One who conquered the grave. To set aside old ways of life and old commitments that might have made sense if Caesar in Rome was truly king of kings, but which made no sense at all if the crucified and Risen Christ is truly Lord of all.
Many believed the Good News that they shared, and were drawn into the Christian community, sharing a whole new way of life devoted to God and one another in holy love… practicing things like forgiveness, generosity, and compassion in ways that often made their neighbours stop and take notice. Something about the Christian faith was out of sync with the rest of the world. Some were drawn to their strange way of life… while others tried to destroy it.
Time and again, the leaders of the nations, both great and small, found the message of Christ’s Kingdom and His way of life to be a threat, and so many Christians were publicly persecuted, arrested, tortured, and brutally executed… following in the footsteps of their Lord to the end. This story still continues in many places around the world today, with our Christian brothers and sisters having to practice their faith in secret just to survive.
And yet, in these very dark times, when the whole world seemed to be dead-set against them, many Christians stood firm in the faith, and refused to turn from the way of Christ… even if it cost them their life, or the lives of those they loved.
These brothers and sisters all came to know up close the evil at work in the world… but rather than giving in to their doubts, or the horrible pressures they faced, they held firmly onto the hope they had found in Jesus, the Risen Lord, and through His power at work in them, they found the strength to stay true. To lay down their lives like Jesus did, trusting that just as God had raised Him from the dead, they too would one day share in God’s New Life forever.
They knew, in other words, that no matter how hard those in power here on earth tried to secure their own place ‘on top’, Jesus the Risen Lord is the One who’s on the throne, and unlike even the longest-lived monarchs and dynasties, Christ’s is the only Kingdom that will truly have no end.
Ultimately, the Christian hope St. Paul speaks about is not about us… our strength, our circumstances, or even our survival. Our hope is in Jesus, the crucified and Risen One, who, though He reigns on high as King of kings, came first of all to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
We know the One who sits at God’s right hand in heaven cares deeply about our broken world, and that He is willing and able to do something about it… for He is the One who went through hell Himself at the cross to disarm the powers of darkness… to set us free from it’s horrible grasp, and set us free to share in His life forever.
Our hope rests on Jesus Christ our King, and this hope enables us to endure… to be faithful witnesses of God’s kingdom at work here and now, to let the whole world know by our words and our lives who’s really on the throne, and letting them know of His saving, self-giving love by putting it into practice.
This is the message of hope that the Ascension of Jesus calls to mind. But what about the power of God that St. Paul also spoke about?
Both our readings today, from Acts and the Gospel of Luke, point us in the same direction: to the coming of Holy Spirit, God’s own personal presence and power at work in His people. We’ll look a bit more into this next week as we celebrate Pentecost, but for now I think it’s enough to say that it’s through the Holy Spirit that our King Jesus brings His reign to life… in the lives of His people. As St. Paul said, the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, and set Him “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come…” is the same life-giving power of God at work in us who believe… enabling us to share the light of God’s good kingdom today.
It’s pretty unlikely that we will face outright persecution here in Gondola Point, but whatever pressures, darkness and doubts we face today, or in the days to come…
We can hold onto hope, and share this hope in our everyday lives... in what we say and do, in how we treat each other and all those around us. We can hold onto hope in the darkness, knowing that our Saviour’s on the throne, and He will reign forever. Amen.
 From the Nicene Creed, as found in the Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada (Toronto, ON: Anglican Book Centre, 1985), 189.
The Lord is risen and reigns on high! Alleluia!
Today we celebrate the ascension of Jesus the risen Lord to the right hand of God the Father to reign forever and ever. But what does Christ's reign look like?
Here is a great video from the folks at the Bible Project that helps explore what it means for Jesus, the Son of Man, to reign at God's right hand.
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, and Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Scripture Readings: Acts 16:9–15 | Psalm 67 | Revelation 21:10, & 22–22:5 | John 14:23–29
“the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)
Last week we spent some time looking at the ‘Big Picture’ of God’s love, and how the whole story of God’s salvation is headed towards a New Creation: the restoration and reunion of Heaven and Earth, drawing all peoples and nations together into one family in Jesus Christ.
And today, our reading from Revelation gives us another glimpse of this glorious destination that the LORD is leading us to: a New Jerusalem descending from Heaven where God’s people will dwell with Him forever… where the light and life of God shines out, and flows into all the world… bringing about the healing of the nations, who are all drawn near to share in the joy of God’s eternal reign.
This vision, again, is of the fulfillment of the entire story of God… the culmination of the work of the Risen Christ. But it is not simply about some distant horizon… it’s meant to help us understand our place in the story here and now. N.T. Wright words it well, when he reminds us that “Images of the future are vital to beckon us along the way. But they do more: they work backwards, as it were, towards us, shedding light on our present darkness. Jesus promises a peace which nothing in the present world can provide, a peace which comes from, and points to, God’s future.”
In the light of this ultimate peace which Jesus the Risen Lord will one day bring to complete consummation, we can take heart, and hold on confidently to hope. Even when the world around us seems dark and dangerously off track… when we feel isolated, vulnerable, small, and uncertain of what to do… the Risen Jesus calls us to trust Him. We do not need to be afraid. He sees and knows all that we need. And one day, we who stay true to His love will reign with Him forever.
This all sounds great, this ‘Big Picture’… but how do we get there from where we are today? How are you and I, and our small Parish family here in Gondola Point supposed to play a significant part in bringing this glorious vision to light? How do our ‘little lives’ fit into the ‘Big Picture’ of God’s plans?
What gives me hope is that no matter how ‘Big’ God’s picture and plans may be… and we’re talking BIG… the Living God seems to absolutely love starting small. And our reading today from the Book of Acts affirms this hope.
At this point in the Book of Acts, the author is recounting the second missionary journey of St. Paul the Apostle, whose ministry has been to share the Good News of the Risen Christ far beyond Israel’s borders… both to his fellow Jews, and to Gentiles as well… to those who knew little or nothing at all of the story of the Living God. Paul shared this ministry with a small team committed to this same mission, including at times, our patron, St. Luke, a prophet named Silas, and a younger disciple named Timothy. Together, they’d go from town to town in the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, preaching the message of Jesus, gathering those who believed into the first Christian Churches, (which often simply gathered for worship in one another’s homes), before moving on to the next community, to start all over again.
At times Paul would write to these communities, and offer some guidance and direction, and often they would appoint leaders to take care of these brand new Christian Churches, but it’s clear that Paul and the others trusted God Himself to continue to care for His children… to trust that the Holy Spirit would be at work in the midst of these little Churches, just as Jesus had promised: teaching them to follow the ways of Christ that Paul had passed onto them.
Paul could trust God’s Spirit to guide these Churches because time and again, God’s Spirit had guided him… bringing him through all sorts of challenges. But right before our reading today begins, St. Paul and company run into a new problem: they are unsure of where God was leading them next.
A few times, they had started to make plans… good, and God-honouring plans at that… but the doors kept slamming shut in their faces…. by God Himself. Acts 16:6-8 says that “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. [What is now Western Turkey.] When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.” Without a clear plan, Paul and company had to just keep going, and trust that the LORD would make plain what He had in mind for them to do in His time.
How often have we felt like this? Unsure of what God has in store for our lives, or how we are to take part in His ongoing mission. We Christians talk a lot about trusting God, and asking for Him to lead us, but as N.T. Wright puts it, “It’s one thing to trust God’s guidance when it’s actually quite obvious what to do next. It’s something else entirely when you seem to be going on and on up a blind alley.”
Sometimes it’s not just as individuals, but whole Church communities can have these times of uncertainty… of knowing that God has already led us through all sorts of challenges in the past, and has helped us share in many years of faithful ministry… but now we may face a moment when we need a fresh vision of God’s plan for us.
At times like this, it’s easy to feel vulnerable… and small. Like Paul and his Christian companions, seemingly adrift alone in the largely pagan Roman world. But just like them, we too can trust that God is still with us… that His Holy Spirit still guides us in the way of Jesus, the Risen Lord, bringing us His precious peace that the world can’t give.
And as our reading today reminds us, it was in that time of uncertainty that God sends them the guidance they needed. Acts 16:9-10 “During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.”
In His good time, God sends them in an unexpected direction: no longer spreading the Good News in Asia Minor, they were being sent to preach in Macedonia in Europe… to head deeper into the heart of the Greco-Roman world.
What would await them there as they approached the great Greek cities of commerce, culture, and influence? As our passage reminds us today: God seems to love starting small.
Not that Philippi, the city they ended up in, was all that small. We’re told it was a noteworthy community in the area, and a Roman colony to boot: a city with special connections to the Capital… a mini-Rome, meant to spread Rome’s values, culture, and way of life in the conquered lands of the wider world.
And so, Paul and company arrive in Philippi, and “remained in this city for some days.” (Acts 16:12). Typically, when Paul would go to a new city, one of his first stops would be the local synagogue: to first share the Good News about Jesus the Messiah with his fellow Jews in their places of worship… to start with those who at least knew something about the story of God’s saving love.
But this time, we’re told by the narrator, likely St. Luke himself, that “On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.” (Acts 16:13). This odd note tells us something significant about Philippi at the time: there likely was no synagogue in the city… no place for Jews and Gentiles who feared God to gather for prayer and worship… except outside the city limits. According to custom, a synagogue needed at least 10 Jewish men, and the gathering that St. Paul attended only mentions women being present… so it seems very likely that the Jewish community in Philippi was just a tiny minority literally on the outskirts of that local society.
This was a very small and vulnerable community of worshippers of the Living God, and it seems really unclear what kind of a difference they could hope to make in their world, aside from seeking to live lives of simple obedience and faithfulness to the LORD. And yet, they were precisely who the Living God had sent Paul and company to see. God had big plans to start His work in Philippi with this small gathering.
The scholar John Rottman points out that “it looks for all the world that God has diverted Paul and Silas to meet with Lydia and her obscure little group of women in Philippi. Notice the trouble to which God goes to initiate this personal meeting between the missionaries and the women’s prayer group that Saturday down by the river. God seems to have diverted the apostle Paul hundreds of miles, to have stopped him from preaching in Asia and from entering Mysia, all so he would be right on time to preach that day to that handful of women down by the river in Philippi.”
And God’s plans were not wasted: a Gentile worshipper of God named Lydia was part of the prayer gathering that day and we’re told “The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14). One heart was opened. God led Paul and his fellow missionaries hundreds of miles to start with this one heart He had opened.
God loves to start small, doesn’t He?
Of course, from that small start, that one open heart, things begin to grow. Lydia and her whole household believe the Good News about Jesus and are baptized into the Church, becoming a seed of God’s New Creation taking root in Philippi… a tiny colony of Christ’s Kingdom, spreading God’s life and light in the midst of the Roman Empire.
The story of Paul’s ministry in Philippi goes on from this small beginning, and quickly he encounters resistance, hostility, persecution, as well as surprising new life as the Holy Spirit continues to guide and work through his small life, his small group of friends, and the small Christian family they had been a part of bringing to life.
And this same kind of story has happened, again and again, all throughout the history of God’s people: a handful of people believe the Good News of Jesus, and through their seemingly small lives, God brings Christ’s kingdom to life in our world. The Holy Spirit continues to work in the Church, whether our gatherings are big or small, to draw us into the ‘Big Picture’ and the plans He has for our neighbourhood.
It's easy for us to feel discouraged at times… to let our hearts be troubled when it feels like God’s is absent… our way forward uncertain… and we are too small to make a difference. But God loves starting small! His eyes are on all His children, day and night, and He’s near to all who turn to Him in faith. Like Lydia, the LORD knows us all intimately, and He longs for us all to come to know Him intimately, and to share in His blessed life. For our hearts to be open… for our Parish family, and households, and our little lives to become the seeds of God’s New Creation… sharing the life and light of Christ any way we can.
Next week is Ascension Sunday, when the Risen Lord returns to the right hand of God the Father to reign forever. In two weeks time, we’ll celebrate the story of Pentecost, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, empowering us to faithfully follow God’s ways in the world.
But today, as we remember our little place in the ‘Big Picture’ of God’s story, let us take to heart the words of Jesus our Lord, especially when we feel small, and unsure of what to do:
“the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:26-27).
 N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year C (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), 65.
 Tom Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 13-28 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2008), 59.
 John M. Rottman, “Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume One (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 578.
The Lord is Risen! Alleluia!
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, and Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Scripture Readings: Acts 11:1–18 | Psalm 148 | Revelation 21:1–6 | John 13:31–35
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
Today’s Scripture passages are some of my absolute favorites. I’m especially drawn to our reading from the book of Revelation: to the words of comfort and hope that it gives us, no matter what troubles today may bring our way.
After all, the book of Revelation is not simply about the future… it’s actually a vision of the entire scope of human history… the future, yes, but it also helps us understand the past, and the present too… offering a heavenly perspective on our whole story.
Writings like Revelation offer us a sense of the bigger picture: it’s kind of like stepping back from a massive mural we’ve only ever looked at up close with a magnifying glass… stepping back far enough to take in the whole scene of life at once… where we can see that the beautiful ending flows out from all that has come before it… and that every step along the way, no matter how small it may seem, plays a vital role in reaching the destination.
And what is the beautiful vision of life’s destiny that Revelation offers to us? The complete union of Heaven and Earth… God and humanity at one forever. Every wound healed, every tear dried, and every sorrow turned to joy.
These words remind me of Julian of Norwich, an anchoress (sort of a Christian hermit), who in the 1300’s received a series of visions where she encountered the Risen Lord. She recounts that at one point, during these visions, she had been deeply troubled by the destructiveness of sin and all the sufferings it causes in the world… but in that moment, she was assured by Christ, that though sin must persist for now, “all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” This hope-filled promise echoes the words of God in Revelation which we just read: “And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5).
This is the ultimate hope of the Gospel: God’s new heavens and earth… a whole New Creation… united forever by Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain, and yet lives again. This is the ‘big picture’ that the Christian faith is all about… and has been since the beginning, which we are all taking part in today.
But one of the details in this ‘big picture’ often gets overlooked, and so we don’t always appreciate its implications for our daily lives. I’m speaking of the radical claim that God’s complete reunion with humanity… involves the human family’s complete reunion with itself! That is, people from every nation… no longer at odds with each other… retaining their own unique identity, but no longer divided from each other by culture, or sex, or status. Full fellowship with one another in Christ… that is an essential part of the Christian hope. The destiny we are headed to, and which guides our steps today.
Now this probably doesn’t sound all that shocking to us these days. After all, here in Canada, we’re used to hearing about the benefits of multiculturalism… the need for inclusion… and that our differences make us stronger. This is kind of the air we breathe today. Even if its not always how we behave towards one another, it’s at least a common enough vision of life in our society.
But what we are talking about, and more importantly, what our Scripture passages are talking about, is not simply a repetition, of our culture’s concern for inclusiveness. No, what we are invited to contemplate today is the very nature of the saving love of the Living God, and what this love means for you and I as followers of Christ today.
The claim that God intends to reunite all of humanity again may not seem that out of place to us, but for the early Church this claim required a radical re-imagining of what the Kingdom of God was all about… having to wrap their heads around the new and surprising welcome that Israel’s God was now giving to the wider Gentile world.
For the first Christians, coming exclusively from the Jewish community, understood the story of salvation to be centred completely on Israel. On their own people’s unique relationship with the Living God.
As we may remember, back in Genesis God met with a man named Abram, (later renamed Abraham), and entered into a Covenant with him: a formal relationship, kind of like a partnership, or marriage. Out of all of the families and nations of the world, Abraham and his descendants would be set apart to share in God’s mission to save His creation… to undo our deep divisions and the destruction we humans have wrought, and bring back the blessings of life humanity was created to share.
This promised plan was reaffirmed by God to several generations of Abraham’s family, until centuries later, after the Exodus from Egypt, God calls what is now the whole nation of Israelites into a deeper and much more deliberate way of life through the Covenant at Mt. Sinai, where they receive the Ten Commandments, and a whole host of other laws to guide God’s people as they live together in His holy presence. Chief among the laws that set Israel apart from their Gentile neighbours was the practice of circumcision, and laws around what foods they could eat… what would be considered clean for them, and what would be unclean.
Throughout the story of Scripture, though, we hear that God’s people were increasingly unfaithful to the covenant laws, and to their unique relationship with God that these laws were intended to support. Eventually, after centuries of walking away from God’s ways, Israel is shattered by civil war, with the ten Northern tribes cutting themselves off from Judah. Violent wars are fought both with their neighbours, and with each other, until both nations are finally overthrown and carried away into Exile.
Those descendants of Judah who survived, and who one day returned to the lands around Jerusalem, now had to exist under enormous pressures to assimilate to the cultures and ways of life of their Gentile overlords… fighting, and often dying, in order to not give up their Jewish traditions. Under these harsh conditions, many held tightly onto the practices that kept them distinct… like circumcision, dietary laws, and avoiding contact with Gentiles as much as possible… in order to preserve their own unique identity as God’s chosen people, striving to remain faithful to the LORD, unlike their forefathers.
Then maybe God would finally send them the Messiah, the Saviour, to rescue them. To set them free from the Gentile nations that were making life miserable, and to restore their family’s destiny to share in God’s love forever.
The first Christians held this same assumption: that Jesus had come as Israel’s Messiah… to save them and their people from the hands of their Gentile neighbours.
And many Christians today still hold these same assumptions… seeing Jesus as simply our Saviour… sent to deliver folks like you and I… but one who is not very interested in rescuing those other kinds of people… whomever they may be. God’s love, in other words, is only meant for us… it’s rescuing power is ours to enjoy and possess. What matters most is our place in God’s story.
Who do we see as being beyond God’s care and concern? Who are those that we assume have no place in His plans?
Against these assumptions, today’s reading from Acts makes plain that God does not play favorites… with Peter helping his brothers and sisters step back and take in the ‘bigger picture’.
In our reading, St. Peter is confronted by some Christians in Jerusalem who disapproved of his recent dealings with Gentiles, blurring the distinctions between God’s chosen people and everybody else. In Acts 11:3 they say to him: “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” In there eyes, Peter was being unfaithful to God’s will for His chosen family. Peter response is to retell the story of how God sent him to visit Cornelius, a Gentile army officer… the very embodiment of the hostile Gentile forces holding the Jewish community under their thumb.
But as he tells the story, Peter is adamant that the Holy Spirit sent him to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord to this Gentile army officer and his family. And as Peter obeyed, the Holy Spirit came in power and filled these Gentiles with the life of the Lord. Acts 11:15-17, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”
Peter proclaimed that God Himself was reaching out… to save those God’s people had thought unsavable. Those they considered beyond the boundaries of His love.
God Himself was making no distinction between Jew and Gentile anymore, but making a new family, united by faith in Jesus Christ. The same gift of the Holy Spirit, the same fellowship with the LORD, the same hope of salvation, and share in God’s mission was now being given to all nations. God Himself was re-uniting the whole of humanity in Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord. So Peter replies ‘who am I to try and get in God’s way’?
This was not at all what Peter’s Christian sisters and brothers had ever imagined. This wasn’t where they had thought God’s story was headed at all. But their response was wonderful: Acts 11:18, “When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
They were caught off guard… confused at first, but they were willing to let the Lord lead the somewhere new. To be faithful… not just to their traditions, or their assumptions, but to the saving hand of the Risen Lord at work.
They were open to a new vision of what God’s kingdom was all about… and so new possibilities were opening up before them. The old days of Jews and Gentiles being held apart had come to an end… and now God’s New Creation was coming to life in Jesus Christ: a new world-wide family of God… the Church… made up of every tribe, and tongue, and nation, was beginning to blossom… a new community where all are called to be bound together in the holy love of the LORD. ‘I guess God wants to save the Gentiles too…’ they came to understand. ‘And I guess that means if God loves them, we’ll need to learn to love them too.’
Of course, that wasn’t an easy process. It took the early Christians a whole lot of prayer, patience, pitfalls, and even open debates and disputes in order to fully appreciate the ‘bigger picture’ of God’s saving love, not just for them, but for the world. And it is a lesson that followers of Christ must relearn again and again.
Learning that Christ’s command to love one another as He has loved us is not just a commendation to be nice to our friends and our family… to people like us… but to embody a whole new way of life which sees no one as beyond the rescuing love of God in Jesus Christ. One which is willing to let go of our old ways of seeing the world, and to be surprised by the way the Holy Spirit wants to work through us to bring forth the fruit of God’s New Creation in our community.
Because Jesus the Risen Lord has revealed God’s ‘bigger picture’… because we now know how our human story is going to end… because we know God’s heart is to draw all creation into His fellowship… embracing our broken world, and making all things new in His saving love.
Because of all this, we can take the risk of learning to love one another. We can welcome anyone to come and share Christ’s love with us. We can live today in the light of eternity: in the blessed way of God’s kingdom… where death will be no more… mourning and crying and pain will be no more… where God Himself will wipe away every tear from all eyes, and truly make all things new. Amen.
 Julian of Norwich, Julian of Norwich: Showings, ed. Richard J. Payne, trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978), 225.
The Lord is Risen! Alleluia!
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, and Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Scripture Readings: Acts 9:36–43 | Psalm 23 | Revelation 7:9–17 | John 10:22–30
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28).
Today is Mother’s Day, when many of us celebrate the mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters, friends, and others that we know who have nurtured us, and helped us to grow in many ways. It’s a day that many look forward to each year, lifting up the women in our lives, and expressing our gratitude to them for sharing with us all the gift of life itself.
But as we know, for some of us, Mother’s Day is complicated… stirring up all sorts of painful memories or feelings. For some, it is the pain of not being able to be a mother. For others, it’s a reminder of parents, or children we have lost. Mother’s Day can also highlight the strained parental relationships that some of us face… or the pain of long separations made much worse by the pandemic.
For all these reasons and more, days like today remind us that life is not always that easy to navigate. And yet, life remains a gift that all of us have been given. So whether today brings us joy or pain, or some combination of both, I pray we can all give thanks for the gift of life, and for those who have shared it with us.
In the yearly life of the Church, today is also Good Shepherd Sunday, where our readings remind us of Jesus Christ, who is both our Good Shepherd, who guides and guards us into New Life, and the Lamb of God who laid down His life to take away the sins of the world. Today, the Church calls us to remember that Christ Himself is the ultimate source of our new life with God, and that He continues to nurture and care for us every day… and one of the most common ways He does so is through people like you and me.
Last week, we explored the ways in which God’s forgiveness and new life, made known in Jesus the Risen Lord, is meant to re-shape and guide our lives. That is, God forgives us for a purpose: to draw us into His family, and then to share His forgiveness and holy love with those around us in the world. This forgiveness takes shape in each of our lives in different ways. For St. Peter, we saw God’s grace turned him from a fisherman into a shepherd of the growing Christian community called the Church. Today, in our first reading from the Book of Acts, we get to see an example of how through Peter’s care for Christ’s flock God brings about new life.
The reading today introduces us to a disciple named Dorcas, or Tabitha… who we are told was “devoted to good works and acts of charity.” (Acts 9:36). Not much else is known about Dorcas, aside from the fact that she was well beloved by her Christian brothers and sisters in Joppa, and that she used her talents to make clothing. But this simple picture of a life of faithfulness, generosity, and genuine love is a beautiful example of someone walking in the way of Christ. As N.T. Wright points out, Dorcas “stands as it were for all those unsung heroines who have got on with what they can do best and have done it to the glory of God. Had it not been for Peter, she might never have made it into the pages of the New Testament, and we have to assume that there were dozens in the early years, and thousands in later years, who, like her, lived their lives in faith and hope, bearing the sorrows of life no doubt as well as celebrating its joys, and finding in the small acts of service to others a fulfilment of the gospel within their own sphere, using traditional skills to the glory of God… these are the people who form the heart of the church”. In her own ways, Dorcas embodied Christ’s love and gift of new life. And the Christians in Joppa are deeply grieved when she grows ill and dies.
Here the Scriptures remind us that even after the resurrection of Jesus, and the beginning of God’s New Creation in Him, life is still hard to navigate. Devoted followers of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord still face illness and suffering. We all still face the pain of death. Even a few short years after the first Easter and the empty tomb, Christians have understood the Gospel does not make us immune to grief.
But the Gospel does promise us that in Christ, God has forever broken death’s terrible grip on us, and that in Christ, God has given us the hope of the resurrection… the hope that just as Jesus passed through death, once for all, and was made new by the life-giving Holy Spirit of God, so too we who trust in Him will share in His new life forever. Death and separations are still a sorrow we all must face, but they are temporary: because of the Risen Christ we know not even death can snatch us from God’s hands.
In fact, long before the first Easter, Jesus had already been pointing us to God’s life-giving power: the Gospels all recount how Jesus raised others from the dead. The stories of the widow’s son… (Luke 7:11-17), Jairus’ daughter… (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56), and Lazarus (John 11:1-44) all show Jesus restoring these people who had died to full and natural life. And though they would all one day again face death, Jesus had transformed their stories into signs of hope… giving us glimpses of God’s great gift of New and Unending Life that was to come… that came into the world through the cross and empty tomb.
So while from the first days of the Church to today, we Christians know that we still must die, we now do so trusting that in Jesus Christ the Risen Lord, God is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death… and Christ Himself will lead us into life forever.
This is what the vision from the Book of Revelation reminds us: that even though followers of Jesus face suffering and death for His sake, the Lamb of God who gave His life for them will never forsake them.
John recounts this image from his vision: “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, fully embodied God’s power over death: as He first restored life to others, and ultimately in His own resurrection to eternal life. And in our reading from Acts, today, we see Him continuing His mission of guiding and caring for His flock… and bringing life to God’s children… through Peter, who was now empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. To follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, wherever He will lead.
Today we hear how Peter is called to the deathbed of Dorcas, invited by the other disciples to be with them in their time of grief. And Peter comes without delay, much like His Master had done before… and going into the room, alone with God and the body of Dorcas, Peter prays. Then he calls her by name, tells her to arise… and she opens her eyes, and lives again.
How did Peter do this? How could he raise someone to life? The answer can be found in Peter’s own words, time and again, throughout the Book of Acts whenever he’s part of the wonderous happenings that fill its pages. In fact, right before our reading today, in Acts 9:32-35, Peter visits a man who had been paralyzed for eight long years. But as he seeks to help, Peter says to the man: “‘Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!’ And immediately he got up.” (Acts 9:34).
‘Jesus Christ heals you’. This isn’t a magic formula or a spiritual healing technique… it was simply the reality of what was happening in these miraculous moments: Jesus the Risen Lord Himself was at work in Peter… through the Holy Spirit, Jesus was making His own healing power known through the hands of His disciple. Peter knew full well that on his own he had nothing to give that could help bring Dorcas to life… but he also knew that Jesus the Good Shepherd was working through him to care for His sheep… and bring them signs of new life, and draw others to believe.
This leads us to our Gospel Reading for this morning, where Jesus speaks of His care for those who believe and trust in Him… as an embodiment of the love of God the Father. Far from the idea of God as a distant, disapproving parent on the one hand, and a friendly sympathetic saviour shepherd on the other, Jesus identifies His own care and compassion for His flock as fully united with the Father. “My sheep hear my voice.” Christ says, “I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30).
Again, Jesus our Good Shepherd is fully united with God the Father. Everything flows from the self-giving, holy love that they share. In Jesus, we are embraced by the arms of God, and no one, can snatch us away from His side. As St. Paul so beautifully writes in his letter to the Romans:
“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39).
Jesus the Good Shepherd shares God’s saving love with us, and there is nothing, not even death, that can cut us off from Him. But as I said before, one of the main ways He shares God’s love with us is through our love for one another… through the ways we are to embody Christ’s care and compassion… His devotion, and generosity… His forgiveness and grace… loving each other as Jesus Christ the Lamb of God has first loved us.
As your priest and pastor (which is simply an ancient word meaning ‘shepherd’), I’ve been called to put this love into practice in a particular kind of way within the life of our parish. But shepherds don’t need to be ordained in order to tend their sheep. And mothers are not required to take formal training to raise their kids. What both shepherds and mothers need most of all is love for those in their care. In the same simple way, all of us are called, regardless of the shape or form that it takes, or of the particular roles that we play… all of us are called to share God’s love with one another: to seek the wellbeing of all Christ’s sheep, and care for all God’s children.
Whether we spend our days in quiet devotion, and humble acts of kindness, or are charged with faithfully nurturing and guiding a community of faith, the Risen Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is eager and able to share His saving love through our lives. Making His voice known through our words and actions as we follow His way. Drawing others into His flock through His grace at work in us. Offering signs of hope and new life through how we treat one another, as He leads us into the green pastures and still waters of God’s eternal life.
I’ll end now with the words of an ancient prayer:
“O sovereign and almighty Lord, bless all thy people and all thy flock. Give peace, thy help, thy love to us, thy servants the sheep of thy fold, that we may be united in the bond of peace and love, one body and one spirit, in one hope of our calling, in thy divine and boundless love; for the sake of Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep. Amen.”
 Tom Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-12 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2008), 154.
 Acts 9:41-42 “He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”
 Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle C (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 116.