By Barbara Klugh
Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. Great readings this week. God’s spirit moved among the Gentiles, and both John’s letter and John’s Gospel help us to live the new life we have been given.
Acts 10:44-48: On Easter Day, we read the account of Peter, Cornelius, and Cornelius’ family and friends. Peter preached a wonderful sermon where he gave a synopsis of the Gospel: Jesus was baptized, anointed by the Spirit, went about doing good, healed the oppressed, was crucified, raised by God, and appeared to selected witnesses. Peter finished by saying, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness for sins through his name.”
This week’s reading tells what happened next. While Peter was speaking, “The Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.” Peter and the circumcised believers were astounded that the Spirit fell on the Gentiles who were speaking in tongues and praising God. “Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So Peter “ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Peter had begun his sermon with the words, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” So Peter understood God’s vision, and then he saw the outcome as God’s Spirit moved among the people. This “Gentile Pentecost” demonstrated that the saving love of Christ is offered to all people, and marks a defining moment in the spread of the Gospel.
Psalm 98: This week’s Psalm is one of the Royal, or Enthronement, Psalms (Ps 93-99). It urges God’s people—indeed, all of creation—to sing joyfully to God as the victorious King and who is coming to judge the world. “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.” I always think we should sing a new song to the Lord each day, because that’s exactly what the Lord is doing each day for us.
Click here for a video of Psalm 98 sung joyfully by the congregation of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho.
1 John 5:1-6: John continues to explore the inseparable relationship between God and love with changing emphases. In this week’s reading, John reminds us that we are God’s children when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. As God’s children, we love God and we demonstrate our love when we love the rest of God’s children and obey God’s commandments, “and these commandments are not burdensome.” That doesn’t mean the commandments are easy to follow, but we are equipped to be victorious over the corrupt workings of the world (or the corruption within ourselves) through our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a privilege to abide in Christ and to love as he loves.
Our reading ends with the beginning of a new section about testimony concerning Jesus, the Son of God. John writes, “This is the one who came by water and by 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 Sprit is the truth.” Most commentaries think this statement is referring to Jesus’ baptism by water and the descending of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ crucifixion, in which he made the perfect sacrifice.
John 15:9-17: This week’ reading continues from last week’s, as Jesus described himself as the true vine. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” We see that it all begins with God. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the disciples and us in the same way. Jesus says these thing so his joy may be in us and so our joy will be complete. We cannot have complete joy if we’re not attached to Jesus, the true vine.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” To me this means that love is not a feeling, because feelings (mine anyway) change like the clouds in the sky, and they’re not under our control. So love must be an action, or a posture. We can love regardless of how we are feeling. I have a note in the margin of my Bible; I don’t know if I thought it up myself or copied it from somewhere: “After you give all the love you can, let the Holy Spirit take over.” Makes a difference.
And Jesus called his disciples and us his friends. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And Jesus laid down his life the very next day.
Then Jesus says, “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.” We’ve been grafted on to the true vine. I cannot imagine a better place to be.