The Sixth Sunday of Easter, 10 May 2015
I John 5:1-6
St. John 15:9-17
Posted from Jerusalem:
Background: Baptism in the name of Jesus
In the first reading, Luke introduces us to a baptism, specifically a baptism, “in the name of Jesus Christ.” The question immediately follows as to whether the Trinitarian formula was a later addition to this baptism “in the name of Jesus.” The phrase is mentioned in Acts several times but only four of those mentions are associated with baptism (Acts 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, and 18:5). The Catholic Encyclopedia does not see this as a “first stage usage” later supplanted by Trinitarian usage, but rather Luke intent to differentiate between the baptism of the Christians, and other baptism. The later fathers all agree with this assessment, the Didache, Tatian, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Origen all point to a Trinitarian formula. The description in Matthew 28:19 would also support this point of view. For those of you who might be interested in exploring this further you might want to look at Lars Hartman’s ‘Into the Name of the Lord Jesus’ – Baptism in the Early Church.
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
We have been here before, earlier in the Easter lectionary. The import of the reading is an underscoring of Peter’s authority and secondarily the importance of the gentile mission. Peter’s speech attracts both “the circumcised believers” (who are astounded that the Holy Spirit has been given to the Gentiles as well), and those who “heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.” Like Philip and the Eunuch, there is no reason for denial, no obstacle to baptism here and now. Here Luke speaks to the urgency of the matter – all must be given the gift. The gift of inclusion is returned, for the disciples are invited to stay with the household.
Breaking open Acts:
- Why does Luke paint Peter in such an important light?
- What should we infer about our own ministry and baptism?
- Why is the theme of urgency there?
Psalm 98 Cantate Domino
Sing to the LORD a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.
With his right hand and his holy arm *
has he won for himself the victory.
The LORD has made known his victory; *
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.
He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to
the house of Israel, *
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands; *
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.
Sing to the LORD with the harp, *
with the harp and the voice of song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
shout with joy before the King, the LORD.
Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
the lands and those who dwell therein.
Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,
when he comes to judge the earth.
In righteousness shall he judge the world *
and the peoples with equity.
The vision here is more than personal and wider than local. The clue is given in verse 3, “his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.” It is a universal vision for “all of the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” In spite of the global nature of this vision, the psalmist still acknowledges the place of Israel, “his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel.” But this vision is not only from a human point of view, all of nature seems to concur. Lands, seas, rivers, and hills all seem to join in the chorus extoling God’s victory. And what does this God come with? God comes with nothing less than righteousness and equity – a theme for our time.
Breaking open Psalm 98:
- How do you see God reaching into all of life – everywhere?
- What is God’s victory?
- Where do you see it in your life?
1 John 5:1-6
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.
We have already spent a good amount of time in I John, and the theme of love continues in this morning’s reading. John sees the love that we have for one another as reflective of the love that God first has had for us. There are particulars about this love, however. It is not a sentimental notion. Rather it is quite specific in its description of love. “Obey his commandments” is the standard by which we are to judge the love that we have for one another. The other standard is our belief in Jesus, the Son of God. Such a belief is life itself – blood and water life. And who witness our life in this water, blood, belief, and obedience? No other than the Spirit, who makes it possible.
Breaking open I John:
- What does the water and the blood mean to you?
- What does Christian Love mean to you?
- How does obedience to the commandment contribute to love?
St. John 15:9-17
Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."
The John of the Gospel is also concerned about love, and about abiding-in-love. This passage from the Farewell Discourse outlines the complexities and relationships of the love of God, and God’s covenant with humankind. Again we have words of obedience and faithfulness – we “abide” in these things. Jesus uses his own relationship with the disciples to describe to them the parameters of the love God has for us, and that Jesus has for them. It is not static, but rather a dynamic relationship of choice, need, and provision. It is in this context that the disciples can learn to love one another, and that will cause others later to see in Christians “the love they have for one another.”
Breaking open the Gospel:
- What does it mean to abide in love?
- How do you do that?
- How does God do that?
After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Questions and comments copyright © 2015, Michael T. Hiller