The Gospel reading assigned to today is the account of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. Jesus prays to the Father that his disciples will not be taken out of the world but kept safe from the evil one. In this context the author of this Gospel is using the word ‘world’ to represent human society organizing itself without God. If we profess to be disciples of Jesus, we should not expect to be taken away from our troubles in this life. We should not expect some kind of escape route from pain. While there may be many good reasons for some people to leave the hustle and bustle of modern living to go to a monastery and pray, this is not what is being suggested by Jesus here. In this passage, Jesus seems to want his disciples, the vast majority at least, to stay put. To stay where they are and not crave an easy life at the hands of a society organizing itself without God. Jesus does not promise his followers an easy ride, but he does promise ultimate victory. Two positive things can be said here. Firstly, it is in battling against the storm that we can find joy. To share a tiny bit in Jesus’ suffering is pure privilege. It enables us to get a glimpse of the love of God for us revealed in Jesus. Secondly, and linked to this, if we are united to Jesus through his suffering, we can join in the promise that just as Jesus gives himself to his heavenly Father, so, in turn, the Father will fully accept all of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus closes with these words “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they may also be sanctified in truth.” Why does this happen? Because God’s plan was that Jesus was God and could do this for us. This truth surpasses any temporary pain we might experience in this life. The key is to hold onto this. This is why Jesus prays that we are kept safe from the evil one. Let’s use all our energies to reject the evil one so that we may always know fullness of life with Jesus.
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
1 John 5:9-13
Why do some people in our society accept the Gospel message while others do not? This was a great historical debate between, amongst others, John Wesley and George Whitefield. John Wesley was adamant that all people could be ‘saved’ while George Whitefield had different views. In our Gospel reading this week, Jesus seems to suggest there is some mileage in the latter’s views. Jesus says “You did not choose me, but I chose you..” However, we need to consider other things that Jesus said. Jesus is on record as saying that ‘the harvest is plentiful’ and also ‘go into ALL nations baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. Whatever our views on predestination, what is clear is that God has not chosen to reveal to us those who are pre-destined. Therefore, we proceed to proclaim the Gospel by all the means that we can to all people that we can until told otherwise. Peter captures his Lord’s sentiment on this issue when he writes: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” It is our joy, calling and privilege to do nothing less!
1 John 5:1-6
One of the mantras of the modern age is that you end up enjoying the lifestyle that you have earned. Work hard and you will be successful in life. Is this true? The Gospel reading assigned for this week is the account in John’s Gospel of Jesus as the true vine. In one verse, we come across the words, ‘apart from me you can do nothing’. It is so tempting to believe that our skills, qualifications, possessions, career, status and reputation are the fruits of our hard work, dedication and ability. After all, we have made something of our lives. Here Jesus delicately reminds us all, that this is simply not the case. If we are skilled with our hands, it is a gift from God; if we are good at written exams, it is a gift from God; if we enjoy high paid jobs in a peaceful and thriving economy, it is a gift from God. Our health, our energy, our artistic, creative, analytical and social abilities are all gifts from God. The education and health services we benefit from are gifts from God. Every single ability, talent and opportunity comes from the God who knitted us together in our mother’s womb. What is our response? It is to be eternally thankful and not to boast. It is to live in a permanent state of humble gratitude to God and not to condemn or criticise others. After all, apart from God, we can do nothing!
1 John 4:7-21
How many wars or conflicts are caused by one group of people believing that they are different from others? In the Gospel reading assigned for today, Jesus addresses this whole issue of exclusivity. In Ancient Israel, many of the Jewish religious leaders believed that Israel was the only nation important to God. They believed that other nations were ultimately destined for destruction. Jesus made it clear that God’s sheep are not only from Judaism but also from the non-Jewish world. True, Jesus, for practical reasons, encouraged his followers to start with the ‘lost sheep of Israel’ but then made it clear that the Church’s mission was universal. Jesus stayed and taught in Samaria, praised the Roman centurion for his faith, told a story about a good Samaritan and declared that many from the North, South, East and West will sit down in the Kingdom of God. Lord forbid that we should ever think that our Christian faith is only for us and people like us.
1 John 3:16-24
The Gospel reading appointed for this week is Luke’s account of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples in the upper room. Luke includes the detail of the disciples actually touching Jesus and then Jesus eating with them. What is the significance of this? Perhaps there was a heresy circulating in the early church that Jesus had not fully risen in bodily form and was just a vision. The Gospel writers are emphatic about there being a physical, bodily resurrection. Today many people, including some Christians, still dispute the reality of a physical resurrection. Perhaps their thinking is that corpses do not come back to life and not even God can do this. This is a curious view to hold of the God who created a universe 100 billion light years in diameter and formed humanity from dust. Surely, the author and sustainer of all life could easily accomplish new life from death. The wonderful reality is that just as God did this with Jesus, He can accomplish the same with all of us who are in union with Jesus. However, for me, the real wonder is even more profound. The real wonder is that God bothered with us in the first place. Why, when we had rejected Him, did God do this for us? That is the real miracle. Let us continue to ponder that, this week.
New Testament Reading for this Sunday: Acts 3:12-19
Psalm for this Sunday: Psalm 4
Epistle Reading for this Sunday: 1 John 3:1-7
Gospel Reading for this Sunday: Luke 24:36-48
Have you ever considered how debilitating intense fear is? Our brain responds to this type of fear in one of two ways: fight or flight. That is, attack or run away. Once this part of the ‘reptilian’ brain ‘takes over’, all higher order functions of the brain close down and we cannot show love, compassion or kindness to others. It is the antithesis of the Gospel. What is behind such intense fear? Who, or what, is so opposed to the Gospel if not Satan? This is why Jesus so frequently urged his disciples to overcome fear. Following the resurrection, Jesus’ first words to his followers were once again in this vein when he said, ‘Peace be with you’. In the Near Eastern world, this greeting meant much more than, ‘do not worry’. The Greek word from the New Testament was similar to the Hebrew word ‘Shalom’. This was understood as a foretaste of the Kingdom of God where peace, wholeness, reconciliation, justice and love predominate. These ‘Kingdom’ values drive out timidity, worry and intense fear. In this season of Easter, we celebrate the fact that sin and death are eternally defeated. We have nothing to fear. Let us therefore be bold in proclaiming the Gospel to everyone we come across.
New Testament Reading for Today: Acts 4:32-35
Psalm for Today: Psalm 133
Epistle Reading for Today: 1 John 1:1 – 2:2
Gospel Reading for Today: John 20: 19-31