3. ACTS 11:1-18
- The Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter speaks to the heart of today’s gospel:- “…..your Son revealed the meaning of love, increase in us that same love, that all may know we are your disciples”.
- The profound often sounds and seems so simple, but I know that it is not the rule, and believe that this Collect is a very necessary ask.
- I think that after the Election of just over a week ago, we in our wonderful country, need to take that command very seriously.
- We ask this not only because it is right and good to do so, but because the leaders of the nations of this world simply do not appear to have the recipes for peace and goodwill on their menus, and in their rhetoric, appeal mostly to power and self- preservation
- REVELATION 21:1-6.
- On the third Sunday of Easter, that’s two weeks back, I stood here and spoke among other things on “The glory of God”.This was so because of the N/T lesson from The Revelation to John, informed of that wonderful vision of the writer, as millions upon millions around the throne of God sang in endless praise and worshipped. A truly glorious vision.
- I concluded that homily reminding that God reveals his glory in truth and love, and this has been supremely demonstrated in the person of Jesus the Christ. And further, God’s glory is revealed in us especially when we denigrate our pride and forgive and love others especially those who have hurt us.
- Today’s lesson from The Revelation tells of something perhaps equal in glory as the writer shares his vision of “The new Heaven andthe new Earth”revealing also the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.
- The promise of God to his people Israel is echoed in the O/T particularly from the prophets such as Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah, where it is prophesied that:- “My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people”, which is from Ezekiel (65:19).
- This promise includes relief from human suffering, where sorrow, grief and pain will be gone. “I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people, no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry ofdistress”,that’s from Isaiah (65:19).Death too, will be no more, which will fulfil the dreams of those prophets.
- The writer of John’s vision of the new city of God amplifies the dream of the prophets which was a constant, but this time Jerusalem becomes the eternal never-to-be-demolished and re-built again, for it will become the beautiful indestructible heavenly dwelling place of God where He and his people will dwell in glorious and loving union for ever.
- It is all a most wonderful, uplifting vision and promise.
- And then comes the crowning moment of the lesson:-“See I am making all things new”. Exciting words, profoundly recounted in the beautiful hymn: “New every morning is thelove”by John Keble, Anglican priest and leader of The Oxford Movement, written so long ago but still relevant :-
- The apostle Paul writing to the Christians at Corinth must surely have been mindful of similar things as he wrote: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciles himself to us through Christ” (2 Cor.17-18).
3. ACTS 11:1-18
- The other lesson for today from the Acts of the Apostles, reveals how the apostles, now full of the power of the Holy Spirit, went about witnessing so powerfully and effectively to the truth and love of God in Christ.
- They discovered that the love of God was not specifically for the Jewish people alone, but as prophesied to Abram so long ago that it was:-“for allthe families of the earth…” (Gen.12:3) which of course included “the nations”or the Gentiles. Such is the power of the work of God’s Christ wherein his life and death and resurrection is revealed. The extraordinary power of all conquering love is meant for all of God’s creation.
- Gentiles did not, as some of the apostles thought, have to become Jews first by rites, before being able to receive the Holy Spirit. They were to be taken as they came and receive baptism after expressing their belief in Christ.
- A little earlier, in the preceding Chapter 10 of The Acts, St. Luke records Peter as saying in his speech after his meeting with the gentile Cornelius:- “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what race hebelongs to (Acts 10:34).
- Before I began preparing this homily I spoke to a friend about it in regard to loving each other and he came up with the point that one may not “like” another but that shouldn’t preclude the “loving” part. This reminded me of a story of the late David Niven, a really good actor who in his autobiography “Themoon’s a balloon”wrote that he had been invited to a party in Manhattan. He knew all of the other mostly famous guests who were there, and who all really loved/liked him, apart fromone, who didn’t! He spent the whole evening being unhappy because of that!
- Some may rightfully judge this as being over sensitive and immature and I would agree but many have this personality trait which really has nothing much to do with what Our Lord commands of us.
- Now, I have in the past spoken here of this twice before (I think) and I am going to repeat it now because it is true, and amplifies a truth.
- Shortly after I met Jennifer I got my very first Valentine’s Day card. I still have it! I knew from whom it came because I recognized her handwriting on the envelope.
- On the front of the card was written:- “O my Valentine how I do love thee”. And on the inside was written:- “It isn’t easy”.
- We’ve been married for almost 54 years now and I don’t think I’ve changed much; so thank you for putting up with me Jennifer.
- Our gospel portion for today from John comprises just six powerful verses about the love and glory of God revealed in Jesus the Christ:-
- It is revealed in the Sacrificeof the Man Jesus on that awful instrument of death, the cross.
- It is revealed in his obediencein walking to it, and suffering on it.
- It is revealed in his forgivingof those who condemned him and those who executed him.
- It is revealed in his powerful resurrection and ascension, and finally in his command to all and forever to love and forgive one another.
- The love that Our Lord commands of us is not necessarily the emotional “liking” of others, it is really about, and often so about, small things in every- day life:-
- About giving away when the need is there and when you haven’t got much yourself.
- About respecting another’s opinion even though you may not agree with them.
- About being patient and helpful with other drivers on the road even when they are rude and abrasive.
- About keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, as Rudyard Kipling put it.
- The list for each of us will go on and on and will hopefully give us food for further reflection on what Our Lord commands and expects of all who are his disciples.
- In the name of God FS & HS. Amen.
Missing sermons from this list may be available from the office.