Seventh Sunday of Easter

29th May 2022

Reflection.

I spent a couple of hours on Monday and a few more on Tuesday with Christian Climate Action who had organised a 24 hour vigil outside the Methodist Central Hall where the Shell AGM was taking place. Like Paul and his companions, their vigil reflected their conviction that they were acting in the service of Jesus Christ, that they were witnessing to his love for the world and his wish for all to share in the gift of salvation. Whilst there were no earthquakes, there were frequent heavy outbreaks of thunder, lightning and torrential rain – umbrellas only have a limited effectiveness!

There were many passers by, some oblivious to the plight of the earth and the acute necessity of the protest, others vaguely or deeply interested, whilst others were clearly affronted by anything that threaded the status quo – all responses with which Paul as an evangelist would have been familiar. Not that Paul, nor Climate Christian Action, supported anarchy. The security guards and the police ‘supervising’ the demonstration responded in kind to the politeness of those taking part.

What really stands out in the passage from Acts and amongst those taking part at the vigil was the commitment to serving God. Note the words of the slave girl, “These are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation”. For Paul that salvation meant equality of all – free and slave, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor – and the vision of a world in which love and care for one other was universal. These are the very same aims of those protesting against the leadership and direction of Shell and other oil companies. For the continuing and expanding production of fossil fuels is the cause of global heating and climate change which is already killing and harming people across the world – from excess heat in the Indian sub-continent, from flooding in South Africa, Australia and Brazil, from droughts in the Sehal, Kenya, Argentina and California, to name but a few – and is decimating bio-diversity, melting icecaps and glaciers whilst at the same time creating huge profits for investors and shareholders. As Christians we are tasked with calling out inequality and injustice when we see it. We are tasked with responding to the needs of others, even or rather especially, those trapped in places where life is hard and support is limited. As last week we heard how Paul responded to the cry for help from the people of Macedonia, so today we we are called to respond to the cry for help that comes from Bangladesh and the Maldives, from Venezuela and the Lebanon and so many more countries. Jesus said that just as he and his Father were one, so they and we should be as one so that the world may see glory of God, see the salvation that is possible, know the power of love to heal and restore all things anew. 

Acts 16:16-34

With Paul and Silas, we came to Philippi in Macedonia, a Roman colony, and, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptised without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Psalm 97

1 The Lord is King;
let the earth rejoice; *
let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him, *
righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

3 A fire goes before him *
and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world; *
the earth sees it and is afraid.

5 The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, *
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

6 The heavens declare his righteousness, *
and all the peoples see his glory.

7 Confounded be all who worship carved images
and delight in false gods! *
Bow down before him, all you gods.

8 Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice, *
because of your judgments, O Lord.

9 For you are the Lord,
most high over all the earth; *
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil; *
he preserves the lives of his saints
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous, *
and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, *
and give thanks to his holy Name.

Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21

At the end of the visions I, John, heard these words:

“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.

“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

John 17:20-26

Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Sixth  Sunday of Easter

22nd May 2022

Reflection

“God …come to us. Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations.” Thus begins today’s psalm, followed by the passage from the Book of Revelation which shows us a vision of what the earth could look like of God’s ways, God’s reign, was universally practiced. That is an image of hope we need to hold onto when we hear of the suffering caused by war, by free markets, by religious intolerance, by climate change. The world does not have to be so – if only we transform the way we live and the systems we live by to align with God’s will. 

The reading from Acts tell us of a call for help from Macedonia. We are not told what is the cause of their plight not what has prompted them to seek help from God/ Paul. Paul and his companions are in no doubt that what the Macedonians need is the Good News. Why? Because the message of the Good News is that God’s kingdom is at hand. The Good News assures people that they are loved by God and by their fellows, and that this love is not just words. The Good News is about practical, on the ground transformations that ‘heal the sick, cure diseases, excise demons, raise the dead to life’. The Good News doesn’t just sort out individual problems, it tackles the systems too. Fo example, where Jesus tackled the system that said you shouldn’t heal people on the Sabbath, the Good News today tackles the system that lets healthcare be a postcode lottery, that lets private companies make vast profits from Covid while failing reward NHS staff,  that lets private heath care grow whilst underfunding public hospitals, that lets CEO’s double their income while care workers struggle to earn the living wage. 

We, as Christians, should not close our ears to the cries for help that come from all over the world, that come from every corner of the UK, that come not just from our fellow human beings but from our brothers and sisters in creation – wildlife and domesticated animals, trees and plants, seas and oceans … Our response should be active – as was Paul’s. We are called to share the Good News – both it’s message and its actions. We must heal and transform both the lives of individuals and the systems in which they – and we – live. The time between Ascension Day (this Thursday) and Pentecost is now marked by global ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ campaign. Let’s use this time to begin, or resume with even greater passion, the transformation of lives and systems that will bring in the universal Kingdom of God.

Acts 16:9-15

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.

We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 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. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptised, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Psalm 67

1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

2 Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

7 May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

In the spirit the angel carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day– and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

John 5:1-9

After Jesus healed the son of the official in Capernaum, there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids– blind, lame, and paralysed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.