17 May 2015

As the Easter season draws to a close, the final challenge of this part of the Lectionary, before turning to Pentecost, is for us to commit to Christlike holiness – which, as it turns out, is also a call to unity and community. For this task, we will certainly the empowerment of God’s Spirit that next week promises, but if we are willing to answer the call, our quest to live our connectedness will have deeply healing effects on our world.

May our worship connect us more deeply with God, with others and even with ourselves this week.

READINGS:
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26: Peter suggests that the disciples should find a replacement for Judas, so they select two candidates and draw lots, and Matthias is added as an apostle to join the other eleven.

Psalm 1: Those who love God’s instruction and refuse to join in the company and works of the wicked are truly happy and bear fruit, while the wicked are ultimately destroyed.

1 John 5:9-13: God has testified about Jesus that life is in him, and whoever has God’s Son has life eternal, so if we believe God’s testimony, we have this life.

John 17:6-19: Jesus prays for his followers, the ones to whom he has revealed God’s name and God’s word which is truth. He prays that God would keep them safe, would make them one as he and the Father are one, and would make them holy in the truth.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
This last Sunday of Easter (which is the week before Pentecost) closes out the Easter season in a strange way. Although at first glance, the readings seem to be rather disparate, a deeper examination reveals that through each of them two themes are repeated. The first is the call to holiness. In Acts, the apostles seek to complete their number again in order to continue Christ’s work effectively. In Psalm 1 the righteous person is praised and revealed to be one who bears fruit and who is truly blessed. In John’s letter, the holy person is shown to be one who receives God’s testimony about Jesus and who receives life from Jesus. Finally, in Jesus’ prayer in John 17, Jesus asks that God would keep his disciples safe and would make them holy through God’s truth in God’s word. The second theme is that of unity with God and with one another, which flows out of the call to love of the previous few weeks in the Lectionary. In Acts, the unity of the apostles is extended to include the new appointment of Matthias. In Psalm 1, the righteous person is one who rejects the company of the wicked but who, unlike the wicked, finds a place among the company of the righteous. In John’s letter, believing in Jesus as the one who brings life connects us with God and in Jesus’ prayer in John 17, Jesus prays for the unity of the disciples with one another even as he is one with God. In the end, these two themes merge and become one, because it is in our union with God and one another that true holiness is expressed and lived. It is wickedness that divides and separates, while holiness (which John Wesley defined as perfect love) unites and joins and creates community. The message of the Lectionary this week, then, is for us to embrace the life that God gives us in Christ and allow it to bring us into loving communion with God and with others.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
In the quest for global justice the idea of “holiness” may seem out of place and irrelevant. However, when we define holiness in the way the Lectionary seems to be inviting us to this week, it turns out to be a very relevant and important characteristic to develop. When we think of holiness as a sharing of the life of Christ in unity, we discover that the quest for such holiness leads us right into issues of justice. As we seek to connect and share life with others, we inevitably find ourselves seeking to address the causes of inequality and poverty, we work for power sharing and collaboration, and we recognise our connectedness, which leads us to seek the best for all people. In addition, we discover our connectedness with all life, resulting in a greater awareness of our need to care for creation. When holiness is about sharing life in community, the quest for holiness becomes inseparable from the quest for justice – the two are really synonymous. As we strive for holiness, then, we will find ourselves reaching out to one another across the lines of ideology, religion, race, nationality, education, and economic station. If there is anything our world needs today, it’s people who seek to recognise and strengthen our connectedness, rather than preserve what divides us – and the holiness which is presented in the Scriptures this week is exactly the guide that will lead us to become such people.

Local Application:
It’s tragic that holiness has so often been defined, especially in Christian circles, as separation from – from other people, from particular ideas, from religions or groups that are different from us. I’m not sure where we got this idea, since Jesus, who we all agree was the epitome of holiness, was a connector, bringing together people of vastly different ideological, religious, theological, political, and economic positions. In addition, Jesus calls us to follow him – to do as he did – which should mean that, as we seek to be “righteous” or holy, we should also be seeking to share life with others in whatever way we can. The call of the Lectionary this week, and of the Gospel, then, is not to separate ourselves, but to connect ourselves, to take the risk of reaching out to others and welcoming them into our circle – as the apostles did with Matthias. Ironically, it is through this obsession with connection rather than division that we cease to be “of” the world. We live in the world, but we are oriented toward God’s unifying love and life, rather than toward the divisiveness which characterises so much of the agendas of those who ignore God’s life. The question we might want to ask in our worship this week is this: how do we become people who foster Christlike connectedness?

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
The Family You Have Given
Finding God Together
Word Of God
Jesus In Disguise

Hymn Suggestions:
Blest Are The Pure In Heart
For All Thy Saints, O Lord
For The Healing Of The Nations
Christ From Whom All Blessings Flow
A Charge To Keep I Have
Everyone Belongs
Join Our Hearts
We Are One Body (Link to YouTube video)
I, The Lord Of Sea And Sky (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Breaking of Bread

Video Suggestions:
Jesus Said These Things…
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