Sixth Sunday of Easter

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Readings

1 Peter 3:13-22

13 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

19 So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— 20 those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. 21 And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

22 Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.

John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20 When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

Homily

In a few days, we will be celebrating Ascension Day – the day we remember how Jesus left his disciples and returned to his place of glory in heaven. His followers were left with the task of sharing the good news of God’s hope, forgiveness and love with the world. The task of those first followers remains the task of every follower since. We too are to take what we have known and experienced of God’s transforming love and share it with others.

It is a daunting task. In our reading from the first letter of Peter, we get the impression that not everyone responded warmly to the disciples’ message. Jesus says that the world will not always recognize God’s Spirit at work in its midst. Again that may echo with disciples today if we have friends, family or neighbours who are – at best – politely dismissive of the faith we hold dear, or – at worst – downright hostile. And of course, we must not forget the many Christians globally who face genuine persecution and danger for following Jesus.

Both our readings have encouragements for us today as we do our part to share God’s love with the world. Peter is so practical, isn’t he? Just do what is right. Act with gentleness and respect – people will struggle to object to that! He has a point. When people cannot accept our beliefs, our kindness, generosity and goodness of heart sometimes have to do the talking. But again, what a tall order!

However, Jesus promises us that he does not leave alone and unsupported in the task that lies before us. He will send an Advocate – sometimes translated as Helper or Comforter or Mediator – the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will never lead us, will guide us, will help us continue Jesus’ work where we are called to serve.

As we draw to the end of Easter season, we are commissioned again, with those first followers, to go out into all the world with the love and good news of Jesus, sharing the Easter hope we have experienced. But we cannot do it on our own. So as Ascension and Pentecost approach, let us pray afresh for the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to fill us, comfort us, equip and guide us to be God’s people wherever we are.

Intercessions

Let us pray to God,
who alone makes us dwell in safety:

For all who are affected by coronavirus,
through illness or isolation or anxiety,
that they may find relief and recovery:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For those who are guiding our nation at this time,
and shaping national policies,
that they may make wise decisions:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For doctors, nurses and medical researchers,
that through their skill and insights
many will be restored to health:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

For the vulnerable and the fearful,
for the gravely ill and the dying,
that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

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