Fifth Sunday of Easter
[Keep a moment of silence, calling to mind that, though we might be unable to gather together, we share fellowship as a Church family as we offer this short act worship in our own homes]
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus said, “You are my disciples if you have love for one another” [John 13:35]
Almighty God, who though your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect; through Jesus Christ our risen Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Gospel Reading: John 13.31-35
A reading from the Gospel according to St John
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Today’s lessons are mainly about transformation, about trust and newness, even Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac, a new covenant. They abound a new commandment and a new heaven and earth, and great praise to God’s universal glory. St Peter’s account, in Acts, tells of the transforming reach of the Gospel in his report to those in Jerusalem and where they and we can begin to sense the consternation of the Jewish Christians as they hear the Good News. Peter explains about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that it is for the Gentile’s too and they begin to grasp that you cannot put a boundary on the transforming grace of God.
I am studying ‘The Canonical Scriptures’ at the moment in my Theology course and it is remarkable to learn how the entirety of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, intelligently tells the story of God’s grace, even amongst some terrors of the Old Testament. Throughout the whole Bible every story echoes His promises and unconditional loving kindness, embodied perfectly and ultimately in Christ as a new way of living emerges. In biblical terms Grace means ‘unconditional love, unmerited favour the receiving of something not earned or even deserved, which comes from God’ and that, ‘Only God can give…and which if we believe it will transform us’. God’s grace was given freely for our redemption through the sacrifice, death and resurrection of Our Lord ~ through which He showed us unbounding love and mercy, a lead we are asked to follow.
Even in our human faithfulness we have all roped off many areas of our lives where we do not expect the grace of God to be at work and therefore never see it, or at least we do not look, perhaps in that family member it is hard to love right now or in a human atrocity? How could God transform them? Today’s readings come with a gentle kick warning us of our parochial narrowness where we mostly look around us and see war, starvation, poverty, violence, abuse – and easily loose heart.
Someone close to me once, who was into architecture, taught me to always look up. Our lessons seem to say the same, look up, look out with eyes to trust and see the transforming power of God at work, all across the landscapes of our world. St John, in Revelation, urges us to lift our eyes, he paints a beautiful picture of the ultimate transformation of creation. Imagine, no more death, no more crying, no more mourning, no more pain. We are given the breath-taking image of God wiping away the tears of those who weep. How can we fail to be positive? This can only happen if we link together the Revelation passage together with Jesus’ call for us to love one another in John’s Gospel. Instead, we put boundaries on our love for one another, around those with whom we disagree, dislike or even hate. We don’t have to agree or like each other, but for us Christians, love is not optional, and it cannot have boundaries if it is to transforms lives. Just the simplest act of kindness and graciousness can bring transformation; how disarming is a peaceable word or response.
Jesus spoke repeatedly about forgiveness, to show us that God accepts us as we are, loves us as we are, and helps us to change if we will believe and trust Him. And that is how God loves us; with unconditional acceptance. He does not condemn us, or punish us, instead we are given the free gift of His grace, His loving kindness and mercy. Jesus, in His farewell, stresses the importance of love, ‘You are my disciples if you have love for one another’; He teaches about suffering and promises and that those who follow His ways will know peace and joy for evermore.
Gracious and righteous God, we praise that you are always active, moving throughout history, working in our lives, intimately involved in striving to work out your purposes. We thank and praise you for your immeasurable love and gift of grace. Always watching over us, constantly reaching out to bless us, daily by our sides; always forgiving and wiping away our sins, fears and tears. Forgive us that we can lose sight of your holiness and wonder, forgetting your commandments and being careless in our discipleship.
Lord, hear us...
Gracious Lord, we give thanks for the faithfulness of your disciples and the love of your saints throughout all the ages. May your glory be revealed through your Church today. Bless John our bishop, Father Keith and Father Robert, and all who lead and reach out in your mission. We ask your blessing on all who are seeking to bring reconciliation, love and peace to the world especially in the war-torn countries of Ukraine and Syria.
Lord, hear us...
Gracious Lord, help us to reach out to strangers in our midst, especially to those in need; refugees, the homeless, the lonely and the outcast and the unloved. As the early Church lived in one heart and mind and shared everything they had, may we be gracious and always mindful of the needs of others. Give us the hearts to welcome the newcomer joyfully into our midst.
Lord, hear us...
Gracious Lord, we remember your suffering and we pray for all who have been betrayed or deserted by friends and family. We remember those whose relationships are breaking down and those separated from loved ones, we pray for all who are suffering at this time .
Lord, hear us...
Gracious Lord, we give thanks that by your gracious gift you destroyed death and by your rising to life again have restored us to eternal life. We remember in your presence the saints who have been loyal to you unto the end. We ask that our friends and loved ones departed may share with them in the glory of your kingdom. We call to mind our own departed loved ones and friends.
Lord, hear us...
Gracious Lord, give us we pray, that same love for you and for one another, help us to love, help us to forgive, help us to swallow our pride and take any first steps in bringing reconciliation in a world full of brokenness. God send us out, to love, to see old situations with new vision; that the lives of the people we meet, whoever they are, might be permanently transformed by the power of your Holy Spirit at work in our hearts and minds. We commend ourselves and your world to your peace and unfailing love.
Lord, hear us...
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer for those unable to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion]
Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits you have given me, for all the pains and insults you have borne for me. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
[After the Prayer of St Richard of Chichester]
[Keep a moment of silence for spiritual communion with the Lord and with our brothers and sisters]
There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice which is more than liberty.
For the love of God is broader than the measure of our mind;
and the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple, we should take him at his word;
and our lives would be illumined, by the glory of the Lord.
Frederick William Faber (1814-1863)
Eternal God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; grant us to walk in His way, to rejoice in His truth, and to share His risen life; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen.
Bible Readings: New Revised Standard Version  - Word of the Lord: Church in Wales - Canterbury Preacher’s Companion 2019 - CCL Parish Copyright Licence: 753662