Sermon for Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

May 15, 2022

Acts 11:1-18                        Psalm 148                                            Revelation 21:1-6                             John 13:31-35

10:30        We typically use one of the forms of the prayers of the people found in our prayer book, but not today.  Today we are using the option of writing our own.  Well, actually, Sam, Ray, and Dean Sullins wrote the prayers of the people for today.  If you look on page 383, it lists what is to be included in our prayers during worship.  Then, it says we MAY use any of the forms that follow.  This morning, as I said, we not be using one of the forms.

          We have designated today as youth Sunday to celebrate the end of the school year.  This weekend there were a number of graduations.  Some of these students will be starting work, others college.  Others are still attending classes and preparing for exams.  These students (and teachers) are days away from summer vacation. 

We also have members of our church who after years of teaching are retiring.  Pam Baxter and Lindley Barnett are retiring and during the pandemic, Ellen Massey also retired. We appreciate their service.

This is a time of transition for individuals and families.  In addition to adjusting to summer schedules, people are turning the page and starting a new chapter in life.  So today we are celebrating past accomplishments and the promise of the future.

          In this Easter Season we read from the Book of Acts of the Apostles and the new beginning – the establishment of our faith.  Today we read of Peter being criticized for eating with the Gentiles.  Peter is Jewish and the first believers of our faith were Jewish.  Jesus taught from the Jewish scriptures.  He teaches us to follow the commandments, and in today’s gospel says:

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.

In another gospel, Matthew, when Jesus is asked what is the greatest of all commandments, he answers, “Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like unto it:  Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  After saying this Jesus teaches us that everyone is our neighbor and he makes no exceptions.

          “You shall love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”  When we put this commandment together with loving our neighbors as ourselves, of course Peter should eat with the Gentiles.  But for the Jewish people, Peter’s actions go against what they had been taught. 

          The Jewish faith survived, in part, because they choose their friends carefully, they kept within their faith and limited their interaction with Gentiles (the term used to describe all people who are NOT Jewish).  They only did business with the Gentiles.  They did not worship, eat, or dress like the Gentiles.  And, they certainly did not marry Gentiles.  

          So, when Peter, the leader of the Way (what the people called the early Christian movement), begins associating with the Gentiles, the people challenge him by asking, “Why do you go to [the Gentile] men and eat with them?”  Peter responds by telling them of his vision which lead him to the home of a Gentile family in Caesarea where he shared the story of Jesus and the salvation he offers.  The entire household was baptized that day and Peter says, “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?”

          Love God and love one another, everything in the scriptures, all its teachings and commandments flow from this, Jesus says.  People will know we are Christ’s disciples if we love one another as Christ loves us.  Love. It is the reason we are here. 

          In the book of the Revelation to John, we are given the image of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven and told that home of God is among mortals.  And the one seated on the throne says, “See, I am making all things new.”  Transitions, such as we are experiencing now, are a part of every life.  God is with us, Christ lives among us, and all things are being made new.  This is not to say that change is easy, it is not.  The hope of the future comes from the knowledge that God is with us, even as we grieve the loss of what we have now, or had until now. 

          It is important to grieve and it is important to remember that God is making things new.  The final verse says, “To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”  Jesus tells the woman at the well he is the living water.  Let us celebrate our past which brought us to today.  And, let us drink the water from the spring of the living water and look to the future with the hope that comes from knowing that God is here among the mortals wiping the tears from our eyes and promising us new life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let us pray. 

          Almighty God, our hearts are full with thanksgiving for the gift of our minds and all the opportunities we have to study, learn, and meditate on the wonders of your creation, but in and out of the classroom.  As this school year comes to a close, help all our students and teachers use their time away from the classroom for rest and refreshment and renewal.  As we start a new chapter in our lives, help us, to continue to grow in faith and in the knowledge and love of you and of one another, so that others may see in our lives we are Christ’s disciples.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.   Amen.

Prayers of the People by Sam, Ray & Dean Sullins

We pray that St. Paul’s stained glass window repair goes well and that the church is restored to its full glory

We pray for an end to the war in Ukraine and for World Peace.

We pray for all of the children this summer break, that they have all the necessities that they need to thrive and be happy and healthy.

We pray that end of the year testing goes well for all the students of our community.

We pray that COVID goes away.