24 April 2016

The power of Easter lies not just in the life it offers us, but also in the way we are recruited to be life-bringers. This week, the role of love in leading us to life – and enabling us to bring life to others – stands out in the Lectionary. Love is never easy, it is always messy, unpredictable and scandalously inclusive. But, if we seek to follow Christ, we cannot avoid the privilege and the responsibility we have to be people of love.

May your worship lead into this love of Christ, and into his life, a little more this week.

READINGS:
Acts 11:1-18
: Peter explains to the believers in Jerusalem how the Holy Spirit was received by Gentiles in Caesaria.

Psalm 148: A psalm exhorting all of creation and all peoples to praise God.

Revelation 21:1-6: John sees a vision of the New Jerusalem descending from heaven, and a voice that proclaims that God’s dwelling place is now among people on earth.

John 13:31-35: Jesus’ new commandment – to love one another.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The Easter message shifts this week from Jesus’ offer of life to us, to the way we seek to live out that life as we follow him – and it’s a startling message of inclusivity and love. Jesus’ new commandment is frequently sung and quoted, but the “one another” that Jesus’ calls us to love is often limited to Christian believers. Now, in the lectionary, as the Gospel is laid aside the other readings, we realise that this “one another” goes much further. In Acts, we discover that the previously excluded Gentiles are now included in God’s Kingdom. In the Psalm, all of creation is included in this “one another” as the entire creation is exhorted to offer praise. And in John’s Revelation vision, we discover that God so includes all, that God moves God’s dwelling place (“heaven”) into our earthly neighbourhood. There can be no greater, all-encompassing statement of love for all from God. We have no more excuses for turning the Gospel into an exclusive message!

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:One of the big questions of our generation is “who is in and who is out?”. Global economic and trade regulations are designed to favour some (who tend to be the wealthy) and disempower others (who tend to live in third world countries). Political conversations are always being drawn in partisan ways with clear lines indicating who is on which side – and woe betide those who try to cross those lines. Religious communities and power structures, equally, have tended to focus on who is with us and who is against us. From geographical to economic to political to religious to racial to sexual to generational lines, our world is built on defining who is in and who is out. The prophetic Church, the Church of the resurrection, of love, of the God who lives among us, must be a Church that blurs every line, and invites everyone into the grace and love of God – and a Church that challenges the lines that exclude and oppress. This is what Jesus calls us to when he instructs us to love one another, and it is what is demonstrated in Peter’s willingness to minister to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house, and in God’s gift of the Spirit to these “outsiders”. In practical terms, then, we are called to be those who will reach across the lines to welcome and embrace those who believe, think, dress, behave and live in ways that we would consider different.

Local Application:
In recent years the worship of the Church has been strongly divided along stylistic and generational lines. More and more churches are discovering, though, that any church or service that is built on division or exclusivity is bound to fail. Increasingly we are witnessing that the most healthy, vibrant and growing communities are those that include – that bring diverse people together to worship, to learn from each other and to learn to love one another. This is not easy, but if we seek to reach people who are not part of any church, if we seek to make an impact on our wider community, then we need to demonstrate that we can live the message we preach, and that those we seek to reach will be included and loved and brought into contact with a loving and inclusive God – not judged or condemned in the hopes that the fear of hell or God’s rejection will scare them into the Kingdom. It also means that, as the people of God, we need to learn to love one another across denominational, theological and practical boundaries. Furthermore, this love must extend out from the church to include those of other faiths and cultures. This is the challenge we must face in our worship this week.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
How You Have Loved
A Love So Strong
Where Is The Love

Hymn Suggestions:
Come Let Us Sing Of a Wonderful Love
Love Divine All Loves Excelling
Praise To The Lord, The Almighty
All Creatures Of Our God And King
Everyone Belongs
You Are
God Of The Moon (Link to YouTube video)
Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace
Servant Song (Brother, Sister Let Me Serve You)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Breaking Of Bread

Video Suggestions:
Known By Love

Drama Script:
You’re Not Like Me

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