SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
Readings Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 97; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21; John 17:20-26
Collect Almighty God, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven. Mercifully give us faith to know that, as he promised, he abides with us on earth to the end of time; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Alt 1 Risen and ascended Lord, as we rejoice at your triumph, fill your Church on earth with compassion, so that all who are estranged by sin may find forgiveness and know your peace, to the glory of God and in the unity of the Spirit.
Common Worship: Additional Collects (2004) alt.
Alt 2 Living God, mystery of love given and received: deepen our yearning for unity, so that the whole creation might share in your communion; through Jesus Christ, who makes known your love.
Prayers for an Inclusive Church (2009) alt.
Prayer over the Gifts
Source of all joy, receive our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Keep us in the love of Christ and bring us to the vision of his glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer After Communion
Eternal God, may we who share Christ’s banquet be one with him as he is one with you. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the risen and ascended Lord.
8 am THE FIRST LESSON IS TAKEN FROM THE 16TH CHAPTER OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES. BEGINNING AT THE 16TH VERSE.
10 am A READING FROM THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
One day, 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 baptized 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.
8 am THE WORD OF THE LORD.
10 am HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH.
THANKS BE TO GOD (ACTS 16:16-34)
REFRAIN Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous.
The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of the isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne. R
A fire goes before him and burns up his enemies on every side.
His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees it and is afraid. R
The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. R
Confounded be all who worship carved images and delight in false gods! Bow down before him, all you gods.
Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice, because of your judgements, O Lord. R
For you are the Lord, most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
The Lord loves those who hate evil; he preserves the lives of his saints and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. R
Light has sprung up for the righteous, and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.
Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name. R
8 am THE SECOND LESSON IS TAKEN FROM THE 22nd CHAPTER OF THE REVELATION TO SAINT JOHN, BEGINNING AT THE 12TH VERSE.
10 am A READING FROM THE REVELATION TO SAINT JOHN.
“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.
8 am THE WORD OF THE LORD.
10 am HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH.
THANKS BE TO GOD
(REVELATION 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21)
8 am THE LORD BE WITH YOU. AND WITH THY SPIRIT.
THE HOLY GOSPEL IS WRITTEN IN THE 14TH CHAPTER OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN, BEGINNING AT THE 23RD VERSE.
GLORY BE TO THEE, O LORD.
10 am THE LORD BE WITH YOU. AND ALSO WITH YOU.
THE HOLY GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN.
GLORY TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Jesus 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.”
THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
8am PRAISE BE TO THEE, O CHRIST
10am PRAISE TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Let us pray.
Holy God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
There are some things in life which are entirely predictable – somewhere a newspaper will have a headline reading something like, “Well, That Was a Bit Harsh!” over the labeling of the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as a genocide. The media can be equally predictable whenever Church leaders say anything about governments or financial institutions. If a bishop challenges injustice or corruption, someone will be quick to harrumph that “the Church should keep its nose out of business and politics”. Of course, Church leaders sometimes deserve criticism, if their statements are naïve or hypocritical, but the idea that Christians should concentrate on the purely spiritual reflects a real misunderstanding of what faith is for and about. It’s also usually a sure sign that there’s something fishy going on which someone should ask hard questions about.
The truth is that anyone who thinks Christian faith can be divorced from the world of money and politics can’t have been reading the Bible. It’s full of challenges to injustice; this is its lifeblood.
Our first reading today is a case in point.
Paul and Silas are in Philippi, a Roman colony in Macedonia, which had been deliberately populated with Roman Army veterans, so it was a place where the power of Rome was very visible. And, it had the happy effect of placing the veterans of the Roman army very far away from the Capital, where they might cause trouble. Paul and Silas were there proclaiming the message of Christ, and they were having some success, but one of their keenest followers wasn’t entirely welcome at first. In fact she was quite a nuisance. She was a slave girl who is described as having a “spirit of divination”. She would probably be diagnosed as mentally ill today, but in the first century the kind of outbursts she was coming out with, the visions and messages she felt compelled to pass on, would have been attributed to spirit possession.
This was a culture where people looked to all sorts of things to predict the future – the flight of birds, the condition of the internal organs of the animals they sacrificed. Seers like this were popular, whatever the cause of her gift or affliction, depending on how you looked at it. This girl’s owners were milking her for all they could get, exploiting her for their own ends – that’s why they were so furious when Paul and Silas healed her. To them she wasn’t a human being, or a person who was disturbed and deserved help; she was a unit of production, and Paul and Silas had put her out of action.
The slave owners complained to the authorities, who entirely agreed that this sort of thing must be stamped out. It was bad for business. Paul and Silas were flogged and thrown into prison, but in the middle of the night an earthquake struck, breaking open the doors. You’d expect the prisoners to make a run for it, and so did the jailer. He knew what would happen to him as a result. He knew it wasn’t just his job but also his life that was on the line.
The Romans had ways of making death extremely painful and humiliating when they wanted to make an example of someone, and he decided it was better to kill himself rather than wait for them to do it. Paul and Silas called out to him just in time, though. The prisoners were all still there. He had no need to fear. The jailer was so impressed by the fact that they even thought of his predicaments that he was converted and baptised that very night. And when that had been done, Paul and Silas went back to their cells to wait for the law to take its course.
To her owners the slave girl was a unit of production; to his employers the jailer was a tool of the state, an instrument they could use to carry out their will. They were no more than cogs in the machinery of the world around them, to be used and abused, picked up and discarded at will. They had no rights, no status, no voice, no control over their own lives. If they didn’t do what they were employed for they were worthless, and could be disposed of. But Paul and Silas saw them differently, as people with their own feelings and opinions, their own God-given dignity. Paul and Silas weren’t creating trouble for the sake of it when they interfered in the economic and political life of Philippi; they weren’t trying to build a rival empire for themselves either. They were just responding to human need, but they couldn’t do that without challenging the structures of power that had kept the slave girl and the jailer in their place.
It was the word “integrity” which came into my mind as I read these stories from Acts. Paul and Silas acted with integrity; they walked the talk. They followed the path they had to if they were to live the message they were preaching, and they went where that path led them.
Integrity is fundamental to the Gospel reading too.
Integrity is all about being one, being whole, holding things together rather than putting them in a tidy box and compartmentalizing things.
The slave-owners and rulers of Philippi compartmentalized their lives.
They probably loved their children and were kind to their friends; they put them in one compartment. But they thought of other people – slaves, jailers – as disposable, not really human at all; they were in another compartment entirely, a compartment for things that didn’t matter, people for whom you didn’t have to have empathy. If they’d stopped to think about what it was like to be that slave girl, or that jailer, if they had imagined their daughter or their friend in that position, they couldn’t have treated them the way they did.
There’s a name for this process of distancing yourself from groups you don’t want to think about. It’s called “othering”.
There’s us. We matter. Our joys and our sorrows are real.
Then there are the “others”; people we don’t want to think about.
We convince ourselves that they don’t feel the way we do. When we hit them or starve them, they don’t hurt like we would. Their suffering doesn’t count. “Othering” is what the Nazis did to the people they annihilated in the concentration camps; Jews, Gypsies, gay people, the disabled; they were all “other”, so what happened to them didn’t matter.
Today we still do this to people ; Muslims – well, they’re all terrorists, or might be, so why should they expect any rights? Indigenous people – well, they’re hardly civilized, so why should they expect any rights?
The poor? They’re just feckless; we would find work, save, organize ourselves better, if we were in their shoes.
They aren’t like us; they are “other”.
Living with integrity, though, is the opposite of “othering”. It means seeing our shared humanity rather than our differences, taking on board that every person is a person like us, realizing that if we lived their lives we might behave and feel as they do. It means allowing ourselves to feel empathy for them, to love them as we love ourselves. It is fundamental to a Christian Gospel, which proclaims that everyone is a child of God and that we’re all held together in God’s love.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus prays that his followers will be one, as he is one.
It’s a reading full of oneness, which is just another word for integrity. “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, … 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.” If all that sounds rather tangled, that’s because it’s meant to. If we are serious about our relationship with God we can’t compartmentalize it. We can’t put it in a box marked “spiritual”, to be opened for an hour on Sundays and then firmly locked up for the rest of the week. If it is real at all it will eventually invade every part of us, shaping the way we think about ourselves, the way we think about others, the way we make political and economic decisions, the way we do our jobs, the way we treat our families.
God is one, and in him everything else is one too.
The integrity Jesus wants for his followers – the oneness he’s praying for here – isn’t just a superficial matter of being nice to each other and turning up to church.
It is the kind of integrity that holds everything together – the bits of ourselves we like, and the bits we don’t like, the people we choose as friends and those we discount and push away, the material and the spiritual, prayer and money, worship and politics. It’s the kind of integrity that holds our beliefs and our actions together. If we believe that all people are made in the image of God, how can we ignore the way poverty and oppression mar that image. If we believe that God calls everyone and gives them a unique role, how can we ignore the injustices that people with the power to control their own lives and speak with their own voice do.
Should Christians stick their noses into politics and economics?
Of course they should, and not just their noses but the whole of the rest of themselves, too.
In fact, whether we like it or not, we are already tangled up in these things, shaping the world and being shaped by it. Our challenge and our privilege is to make sure that we live with integrity, as people who are one with ourselves, one with each other, one with those who are discounted and oppressed today, and therefore one with God who holds all things in heaven and earth in one embrace.
Let us pray.
Living God, mystery of love given and received: deepen our yearning for unity, so that the whole creation might share in your communion; through Jesus Christ, who makes known your love.