First Reading: Acts 16:16-34
Paul and Silas in Prison
16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities. 20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’ 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ 29 The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ 31 They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ 32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34 He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
7 All worshippers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
8 Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
12 ‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.16 ‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’
17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
20 The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
GOSPEL: John 17:20-26
20 ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’
CHILDREN’S SERMON: Hold up your pointer finger on your right hand. What do you think of? Now hold up your pointer finger on you left hand. OK. Bump you hands together and show no fingers on the right hand and two fingers on the left. One and one is two. Do you agree?
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Today is the 7th Sunday in the Easter season. Next Sunday is Pentecost. We are half way through the Church year. The first half of the church year we focus on who our God is as revealed through the birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Next week we switch to the Pentecost season and our focus changes from who our God is to who we are to our God.
On Easter Sunday we celebrated the resurrection, the empty tomb. We chanted, “The Lord is risen.” We celebrated that Christ is alive. Easter is not the end of God’s work! Resurrection, though, was not just an event on a day. Resurrection was an unveiling of the next phase of God’s plan. Our text today challenges us to understand the goal of resurrection. As we have followed the Easter texts this year it seems to me we have been building an action plan for our lives today.
I want to start by reminding us of the journey we have been on. On Easter evening Jesus appeared to confused and scared followers gathered behind locked doors. We saw that Jesus is not just risen and no longer bound by space or place or time but that he still comes to imperfect followers struggling with fear, doubt and misunderstanding. He did not rise and disappear. Jesus still comes into our lives not because we are perfect but because he loves us and we need him.
Later Jesus appeared at a fishing trip and helped the disciples to begin to cast a new vision. “Feed my sheep.” He leads even when we don’t see him all the time.
Then we looked at Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Life is no longer random. We are guided. He walks with us even through the valley of the shadow of death and even in the presence of enemies.
Two weeks ago we were reminded that the kingdom of God does not work like the kingdom of this world. Jesus gave a new command – love one another, even our enemies. Our rule book is different than the world’s rule book.
Last week I asked myself what more is there to understand? God makes his home in us! Now that is a mouth full. God makes his home in me… and you. Somehow we are in Jesus and Jesus is in God. I’m not an orphan. I’m not invisible. I’m not forgotten. I’m not his robot. I’m his home. Jesus is there in Ukraine, in the hospital with Covid patients and on the street with those so scared of random ethnic violence. Jesus was at Uvalde. He was with the victims this week and all those grieving.
Today we come to the peak of the church year as we listen to Jesus’ final prayer for us as he walks from the upper room to Gethsemane.
But first I want to repeat the children’s sermon. I’m going to use it to focus us today. Hold up one finger from each hand. As I hold my fingers up I might think of the song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!” I thought of the song “One is the loneliest number you’ll ever do” 1968 by Harry Nilsson. Now snap your two fists together and raise a second finger on the left hand and drop the one on the right finger. What happened? One and one made two. Let me repeat that one and one, bump, made two. Now do it again just to make sure we have this picture in our mind. But…. Is one and one two? Elementary school children would know that’s true but as you move through math, we learn there is 1 ½ in-between as well as an infinity of other numbers we generally don’t think about. Today we look at one plus one in God’s mathematics. Jesus prayed,
‘I ask not only on behalf of these,
but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,
21 that they may all be one.
Today we touch on the mystery of the Trinity and on the mystery of God’s kingdom. I am leaning heavily on the book As For Me And My Household by Walter Wangerin, Jr, a professor at Valparaiso when my daughter was there.
Genesis 1 starts, “In the beginning God created…” God created humanity in his image. We are made in the image of God. Genesis 2 circles back and tells of the creation of Eve. “It is not good for man to be alone.” To be gender appropriate today, we might rephrase it to “It is not good for people to be alone.” Aloneness hurts. Aloneness isolates. This resonates in the news as we hear references like this: don’t separate children from parents at the border, don’t separate an unborn child from the mother, don’t kill elementary children, don’t create stand-alone monopolies. “Global thinking” is an in-word and “glocal” is used for matters near us. We live in community. God created Eve! Do our finger trick! It is not good for people to be alone.
The Pandemic has been so destructive because it has forced isolation for fear of contagion. People die and suffer alone. Children miss school friends. Elders miss youth. It is not good that we be alone. We are made in the image of God who is sociological – a God head, one being but three. Bearing the image of God does not make me powerful, Godlike. it makes me social.
Jesus prays in our text that we “will be one,” that we will be “united.” I don’t think when he prays for oneness that means that we all fly together on United Airlines to get to a common destination, heaven. So what does he mean by “united?” “One” can mean different things to different folks.
- One can mean we are all of the same political party: one in ideals.
- Or it can mean we are agreed because I allow you to lead because…you are smarter, more education, male, whatever
- One can be 50-50. I do half and you do half. We agree not to argue about the 50% we hold back on. I acknowledge the other has gifts but I keep part of me hidden or unspoken to keep peace. My kids would say we are one adjacent.
- Fourthly, according to Wangerin, we acknowledge that one plus one creates something more like three. I acknowledge the wholeness of the other and my wholeness and that in coming together a third entity is created, the relationship between us. We are co-laborers, compatible. Jesus wants us working together, complementing each other with our gifts and ideas, not fighting for leadership, or running over each other. Jesus continues,
As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Perhaps some of us remember those teenage years when we thought that if we found that special other, the right “one,” we would “become one” and together live happily-ever-after. There are enough white hairs here today and enough scars among us to know the fallacy of romanticizing “one.” (Finger trick). One and one can mean two people living in one house, not oneness. We can be together in one church but not be one. It is not just agreeing “that Jesus is our Savior.” Baptism, conversion, or joining a church is only the beginning of our spiritual journey to oneness. Easter season shows Jesus trying to teach this truth to his followers. He is not recruiting followers like his earthly ministry. He is building a kingdom that is united. We are his people working together, sent by God.
Let’s be clear. Neither is oneness working together for a practical goal. We are not employees. The church embraces many tasks but it is called to unity of purpose. The church includes diversity, social justice and piety, Catholics and Evangelicals, men and women, Jews and Iranians. We are a body learning to function together. Resurrection starts that journey and challenges us to learn to stand together so the world knows we are sent by God. We are learning to obey God. We are learning to care for the space between me and thee. We are learning to complement and not compete or dominate.(Click fingers)
The resurrection is the beginning of the process. We are sent people. We are not individual agents. We are the church. We are a body. We work with God, sent by him. Satan tempted Eve to think she could “be like God.” She could have the same authority as God. She could decide what is good and what is evil. Resurrection teaches us that we are sent and God decides what is good and what is evil and he gets the credit. We are traveling from the ideal, perhaps individualistic idea of “God” and “me” to embracing “Trinity” and “community.” Resurrection points us to “we.”
Let’s click those fingers again and ask ourselves this time what this means for me. Hold up your fingers and bump them together. One finger is you and who is the other finger? Listen for God to speak. God wants us to remember that we are sent from God to ???. (pause) Jesus continues praying.
22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one
Now we run into another big word, “glory”. We are sent but we also create glory. Somehow by being united we experience “glory” in a way we do not as individuals. Hmmm, how to get words around this? I first thought of the Olympics and how the individual athletes get to standup and receive medals. Then I realized, actually they stand proud with their country’s flag and their country’s national anthem playing. They are sent and the commentators keep track of how many medals countries are accumulating. Being sent is not about “me” but about “we.” Our working together brings glory to our sender, our kingdom, our God.
My second thought was pondering how many times I have stood in awe at the response to Ukraine’s suffering. We see pictures on the news of the volunteer centers of people working together, of thousands being given refugee status in neighboring countries, of children being incorporated into schools in new languages and maybe of mass graves where people stood together to die. It touches out hearts. I also think of today, Memorial Day. People give their lives to defend ours. We honor them today as people representing the values of our country. As Christians we stand together as representatives of our God and we bring glory to God.
I have gone on too long today but let me leave you with the picture of us standing on the victor’s stand, waving the flag of faith. Perhaps the hymn playing will be “Amazing Grace” or one other of your favorite songs. We represent God who sent us, not because we are the best but because we are his. He loves and uses us just as we are right now. The world will know we have been sent and will give glory to God as we follow his leadership. The resurrection is like the picture of the volunteers in the Ukrainian processing centers, helping those fleeing cruelty and war. Volunteers are from all over the world to help the wounded.
Resurrection is historical truth but it is also a mission statement. Let us take time today to choose a picture that speaks to us of being sent in a task that gives glory to God. Jesus concludes,
May (they) be with me where I am, to see my glory,
which you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
The people of God said, “Amen!”