The Fifth Sunday of Easter
I John 4:7-21
Today’s scriptures are mystical, energetic, and empowering. Angels inspire and divine energy flows, giving life to all creation and fruitfulness to persons of faith.
Revelation is unbounded and democratic. The Pentecost spirit is unconstrained and flows to all people. An angel challenges Philip to hit the road. Not knowing exactly what’s in store, Philip nevertheless follows the angel’s guidance and comes upon an Ethiopian yearning to understand God’s good news. Philip’s evangelistic approach is guided by the Ethiopian’s questions: he does not harangue but listens; he has no ready-made answers but responds to the Ethiopian’s spiritual needs. He lets his conversation partner lead the way. He even breaks the color and sexual barrier by baptizing the Ethiopian, also a eunuch, at his request. God’s revelation welcomes all people and salvation is for Africa as well as Judea. Today’s readings open us to issues of race and sexuality, since the Ethiopian is marginalized racially and sexually according to traditional interpretations of Jewish law.
The passage from Psalm 22 continues the theme of universal revelation. Salvation and guidance is made available to all creation. God’s sovereignty extends beyond Israel to the whole Earth. God’s sovereignty is made perfect in loving and inclusive relationships.
Theologian Thomas Oord asks us whether love or power is the primary defining characteristic for God. It is clear that I John sees love as God’s very nature. Love is not weak, but embraces all creation, seeking salvation for all. God’s love powerfully transforms lives and sets us on the path of wholeness. God’s love flows to and through us, and as we love, we share in God’s loving and healing power. Those who are loved must let love flow through to themselves to the vulnerable and poor.
Love banishes fear. Yet, we are often fearful and out of our fear turn our backs on one another. Love invites us to live in love or as I John says to “abide in love.” If love is the beginning and end of life, the creative force in the universe, then ultimately we have nothing to fear. God’s over-flowing, ever-flowing, and sacrificial love gives us strength to sacrifice and love one another even when it is challenging and difficult.
John 15 invites us to consider how we stay connected to the vine. It opens us to practices of spiritual horticulture. These practices include intentional abiding in God by prayerful opening to divine energy, cutting out what is inessential or harmful to us, and seeing our intimate connection with the other branches of the vine. Although the vine is the source of life and energy, the branches are not passive; they must participate in their fruitfulness and support the fruitfulness of the other branches. There is an intimate interdependence between God and us: while God’s existence doesn’t depend on our fruitfulness, our bearing fruit enhances God’s life and mission in the world. In tending the branches – our own branch and others – we share in God’s healing presence in the world and advance God’s vision in our time.
Love abounds, energy abounds, life abounds, ready to give us more than we can ask or imagine.