We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Easter 6, Year A

I.Theme –   We will know Jesus after his resurrection in the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit, the Spirit of Truth will abide in us as Jesus abides in us. 

 "The Advocate"  –Misioneros Del Sagrado Corazón en el Perú. 

The lectionary readings are here  or individually:

Old Testament – Acts 17:22-31
Psalm – Psalm 66:7-18 Page 674, BCP
Epistle –1 Peter 3:13-22
Gospel – John 14:15-21

This week is somewhat philosophical in the search for meaning – who will support the disciples after Jesus is gone ?

Paul goes to Athens and tries to build a common basis with Greek philosophy and Christ though Christ divinity was hard to muster with the Athenians. There is an appeal to universal wisdom.

So too does the writer of first Peter  by presenting Jesus as proclaiming salvation to the lost souls in Hades during the time between Good Friday and Easter morning.  The writer tries to ease the suffering of those at his time saying "even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed." This week brings in the Holy Spirit. 1st Peter says "He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit."

John’s Gospel tries to provide of meaning of the Holy Spirit. The readings are shifting from Jesus physical presence to the presence of the Holy Spirit which will help the disciples carry on his work.   The Holy Spirit is called the advocate, communicating the truth and to be a consistent presence with both the community and the disciple. This Spirit will abide in us as Jesus abides in us. 

The Spirit is sent in Jesus’ name and reminds us of what he taught. The spirit is the advocate – one who will support, help and intercede for them. The Paraclete (counselor, helper) comes to speak to us for Jesus. Jesus emphasizes the intimate unity of Jesus, God, the Spirit, and the believer. 

II. Summary

First Reading – Acts 17:22-31

On his second missionary journey, Paul has crossed into what is Turkey and has arrived in Athens, a city known for its interest in the divine and its openness to discussion of philosophies and religions. He argues for Christianity in the synagogue and in the marketplace. Epicurean and Stoic philosophers see him as dabbling in philosophy and proclaiming “foreign divinities” (v. 18), of Jesus and the resurrection (possibly thought by them to be a god). He is invited to join in philosophical discussions at the “Areopagus” (v. 19) on edge of the marketplace. He presents the good news to a people of a culture very different from the one in which it was first proclaimed. He explains it in their terms.

This passage commends preaching that seeks to establish a foundation of common ground with an audience.  

After praising the Athenians for their piety and gods (“objects of your worship”, v. 23), he draws attention to an altar to “‘an unknown god’”. He tells them: I know that god; he is God; he “made the world …” (v. 24) and is “Lord” of it. He depends on nothing (“as though …”, v. 25), so he is greater than all Greek gods; he is the source of all (“gives … life”). Not being confined to specific “shrines” (v. 24) and needing no sacrifices (“nor … served …”, v. 25) shows his greatness. God created “all nations” (v. 26) from proto-human, Adam (“one ancestor”): Stoics too believed in the unity of humanity. Deuteronomy 32:8 says that God “fixed the boundaries of the peoples”; dividing history into eras is basic to faith (v. 26b). The Greeks thought of the seasons of nature’s cycles and the earth’s habitable zones. They searched and groped for God (v. 27); we go further: we find, obey and serve him.

Paul now quotes Greek writers in defence of his arguments (v. 28). For “God’s offspring” (v. 29) idols are inadequate objects of worship; only the true God, the creator of heaven and earth and of all lower orders of spiritual being, is worthy of our worship and service. Jesus has brought an era when turning to God is imperative; “ignorance” (v. 30) of his ways is no longer acceptable – because God will have Jesus (“a man”, v. 31) judge people’s worthiness. This we know because he has raised Jesus. Raising “a man” to divine status is hard for Paul’s hearers to accept. Some are open to further discussion but others are not (v. 32).

Where the Jerusalem authorities turn into a murderous mob (with even Saul/Paul acting as an accessory), here the sophisticated sages of Athens express a willingness to hear more—though some (most?) remained unconvinced. But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:32–34 NRSV) 

Psalm – Psalm 66:7-18

Despite persecution and difficulty, the people of God continue to offer themselves with thankful sacrifice, wherever they are.

Throughout history he has done great things “among mortals” (v. 5). His rule is world-wide, over all “the nations” (v. 7). Vv. 8-12 are a communal thanksgiving. God preserves us in life (v. 9a); he protects us. In past difficulties he has “tested us” (v. 10), purifying us as “silver” ore is changed to pure silver. Israel has been subjugated by other people (perhaps during the Exile), yet after enduring every kind of difficulty (“through fire and … water”, v. 12), God has brought her to freedom again.

In vv. 13-20, an individual (perhaps the king) vows to offer sacrifice in the Temple in thanks. He invites the community to hear “what [God] … has done for me” (v. 16). He was repentant so God listened to him (v. 19) and has heeded his requests made in prayer. “Blessed be God” (v. 20) for hearing and for his covenant (“steadfast”) love. 

Epistle -1 Peter 3:13-22

The author has noted the persecution being endured by his readers; now he treats the topic explicitly.

Suffering for good conduct puts you in a happy and fortunate (“blessed”) state with God. Reverence for God should transcend all fears. Be prepared to defend your commitment to Christ, and your faith (“hope”, v. 15) in him, to anyone who asks. Continue to live ethical, godly lives (“keep your conscience clear”, v. 16) so that your persecutors may be shamed (and desist from harrowing you). It is morally “better” (v. 17) to suffer for doing God’s will.

Christ, “the righteous” (v. 18), is your example of suffering; he brings you to God. He really died (“in the flesh”), but he overcame death. Even the condemnation carried out in the Flood is overcome by the power of the gospel, for Jesus proclaimed it (while dead) to the wayward dead (“spirits in prison … who did not obey”, vv. 19-20), so that their fate might be reversed. (See also 4:6.). He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit

The saving of Noah and his family (“eight persons”, v. 20) “through water”is the forerunner of baptism. It saves not by ritual cleansing (“removal of dirt”, v. 21) but rather by putting you in a state to be found worthy at the Last Day (“appeal”), sharing as we do in Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ is now in heaven, where heavenly powers (“angels …”, v. 22) are subject to him.  

Gospel –  John 14:15-21

This passage continues from last week’s reading, and is part of Jesus’ final speech to his followers before his arrest, trial, torture, and brutal execution.

Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for his departure.

He has given them a special commandment: to “love one another” just as he has loved them (13:34). Love requires obedience and (v. 21) those who love him are those who obey.

What does it mean to have a relationship with Jesus in his absence? By keeping his commandments we should our love for Jesus. 15:12 explains: ‘This is my command, that you love one another.’ It recalls the so-called ‘new commandment’ of 13:34, ‘that you love one another as I have loved you’. It’s just for John not 10

It is about sharing a message of love for the world and that also entails being a community of love,

Keeping Jesus’ commandments makes possible the continuance of their relationship with him – but how will this be manifested ?

The readings are shifting from Jesus physical presence to the presence of the Holy Spirit which will help the disciples carry on his work. Jesus defines his own role in 14:16 as a ‘helper’ (parakletos).

There are three different promises presence in 14:15-24 (though our reading stops with 21)

The promise of the Paraclete (vv. 16-17), the counselor, helper

The promise of Jesus’ return (vv. 18-20)

The coming of the Father and Jesus (v. 23)

This week we have the promise of an Advocate (the Spirit of Truth or one who communicates the truth) to be a continuous presence with the community and or the individual disciple.

This Spirit will abide in us as Jesus abides in us. It is a Spirit of truth. Johannine believers don’t "imitate" Jesus; they participate in him wholly

This verse and the following ones require us to remember that a crucial stress in John is that of abiding. Jesus abides in the Father, the Father in Jesus, Jesus in his followers, his followers in him, the Spirit in them, etc., etc. This means that when it comes to love, Jesus, God, the Spirit, and his followers are all inter-changeable terms.

The focus is less on help as disciples are arraigned before the courts and more on help to enable them to do their job. The legal language still shines through: they are to bear testimony to Jesus as witnesses (15:26). 16:5-15 even portrays the whole mission of the Spirit and the disciples as mounting a case to the world about the truth of Jesus and winning it.

In contrast to Luke, who depicts the Holy Spirit as heavily active in the lives of characters from the beginning of his Gospel until the end of Acts, John insists that the Holy Spirit will come only after Jesus himself departs.

Why is this? A clue lies in Jesus’ referring to the Holy Spirit not as The Paraclete, but rather as Another Paraclete. Jesus was the first.

While Jesus walked the earth, his ministry was limited to one locale and one person, himself. Upon his departure, his disciples are given the Spirit and moved from apprentices to full, mature revealers of God’s love. And this happens not just to the first disciples, but all those who would come later, those who never saw the historical Jesus. John insists that present believers have no disadvantage in comparison to the first believers. Everything they were taught and they experienced is available to the same degree

What does the Holy Spirit Look like ?

Clue #1: the Holy Spirit looks like an Advocate –the one who stands up for you when you need it; the one who speaks on your behalf; the one who lends you a helping hand, takes your side, and won’t leave you while you’re down.

Clue #2: the Holy Spirit looks like Jesus. The Spirit is "another advocate" because Jesus is the first. The Spirit, Jesus goes on to say, will abide with us just as Jesus the Word made flesh has abided with us. The Spirit is sent in Jesus’ name and reminds us of what he taught (14:25). In a very real way, the Spirit mediates Jesus presence and helps to keep his promise that he will not leave us orphaned and will come to us.

Jesus had actually bestowed the Holy Spirit on the disciples gathered in the locked room on Easter night. Jesus says he will give the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with and in his disciples forever, wherever they go, always, everywhere. This is promise is a gift, not something the disciples have somehow earned, but a gift which calls us to keep him commands by loving one another. This is the representative of God, also in God, as their “Advocate” or champion: one who will support, help and intercede for them. The Paraclete comes to speak to us for Jesus

He is neither perceivable nor knowable by unbelievers, so they have no access to him. But “you” both recognize (“know”) him, because he will be within you and will remain (abide) in you. Jesus will come to you in the Spirit (v. 18).

John emphasizes the intimate unity of Jesus, God, the Spirit, and the believer. John understands the Spirit as bringing the presence of both the God and Jesus to the believer

Each of the Gospels handles it differently to try to explain it

LUKE-ACTS develops the theme of the promised Spirit so that the coming of the Spirit is delayed until the Jewish festival of Pentecost, some 7 weeks after Easter

Jesus is not going to abandon them. He will come to them.

When he returns at the end of this era (v. 20), you will recognize that you have been taken into intimate association with both the Father and the Son. But (v. 21) this will only be so for followers who have divine love and show it by obeying me. Only to them will Jesus, the risen Christ, appear.


III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:

First ReadingActs 17:22-31

PsalmPsalm 66:8-20 

Epistle  – 1 Peter 3:13-22 

Gospel  – John 14:15-21