Adventurous Lectionary – Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 5

Adventurous Lectionary – Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 5 April 28, 2024

The Adventurous Lectionary – The Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 5, 2024

Acts 10:44-48

Psalm 98

I John 5:1-6

John 15:9-17

I have to confess that when I read today’s readings, the first thing that came into my mind was the Led Zeppelin song, “Whole Lotta Love.” Love is the anthem and heart of today’s readings.  God is love and God’s love invites us to love in action.  Those who love go beyond the ego and its needs and are willing to sacrifice to transform our world and create new communities of love.  Love is about self-transcendence and moving from self-interest to world loyalty.

 In the brief passage from Acts, we see love in action.  God’s love extends beyond the Jewish tradition to embrace the whole world. The passage makes little sense without context, so I would suggest that the preacher spend a few moments on Acts 10:1-43. Peter has a dream in which he is invited to go beyond the dietary habits of his religion. God calls him to disobey “the old time religion” in order to faithful to God’s new covenant, embodied in the ministry of Jesus.  God is not calling Peter to abandon Judaism but expand his vision of God’s mercy and let his vision expand his ministry to the Gentile world.  Cornelius, a Roman solider, faithful to God, also has a vision inviting him to send for Peter.  The Spirit is at work in dreams and visions, providing us with guidance on our spiritual journeys and inviting us to expand our understandings of God.

Peter overcomes his reticence regarding unclean food and people to visit Cornelius in his home. And there in a Gentile household the Spirit descends. The Pentecost promise is embodied as God’s spirit goes beyond ethnic barriers, welcoming all people into the household of faith.  Nothing is unclean.  Nothing is off limits.  The grace of God is unhindered by any human limits.  Everyone belongs in God’s ever-expanding circle of love.

Today many people describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” The fastest growing group of Americans describe themselves with the word “none” when it comes to religious affiliation.  This passage invites us to be both “spiritual and religious,” to have a spiritual home (the Jesus movement) that frees us for new and sometimes iconoclastic ways of living.  It also invites us, in the spirit of the encounter of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, to respect the experiences of those outside our religious circle.  Peter embraces Cornelius’ welcome, no doubt eats at his home, and adapts to his customs rather than the strict “in and out” guidelines of “orthodoxy.”  We too need to listen to the experiences of others, let them widen our perspective, and reach out in ways that honor their equality and full humanity.  There is no outside to God’s circle of love.

The joyous hymn of Psalm 98 proclaims that God is a doing a new thing that embraces all peoples and all creation.  God’s faithfulness is reflected in God’s innovation and calls us to sing a new song as we embrace our own inspired creativity. God’s love creates new life and puts a joyful song in our hearts.  What new song shall we sing?  What new possibilities await us as we seek to be faithful to God’s way?

The words of John 1 speak of a lively faith, embodying what Diana Butler Bass describes as the interplay of believing, belonging, and behaving.  Faith in Christ is manifest in works of love and community building.  Faith embraces the whole person, gives us a new ethical orientation, and makes love our primary motivation.  Loving God and loving Christ lead to loving others, a commandment that is not burdensome but life-giving. God’s love embraces us and inspires us to embrace others.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims the transforming power of love and places love at heart of our relationship to God, himself, and one another.  Love levels the playing field, joining Master and follower, Savior and saved, in one dynamic and intimate reality.  Jesus invites us to abide in his love, to let his flow through us, just as the vine flows through the branches.  When we abide in Christ’s love, we love one another and in the loving open the floodgates to the energy of love which transforms cells and souls.  We become Beloved Community, a home for all creation where, as a church placard notes, “all are pilgrims and none are strangers.”

Today’s scriptures are a testimony to love.  Love goes beyond boundaries and involves the willingness to sacrifice for others.  Love is manifest in sharing in God’s creativity and living our lives with joy despite challenges and threats.

Those who love will receive a full portion of God’s Spirit and discover holiness in all creation and in the varieties of human experience and ethnicity. This is not cheap grace or sloppy love but love grounded in our intent to reflect God’s love in every encounter even if it means sacrifice and discomfort.  Love that pushes us beyond our comfort zone to see God in all things and all things in God.


Bruce Epperly is a pastor, professor, and author of over eighty books, “Jesus: Mystic, Healer, and Prophet,” “Process and Politics,” Spirituality, Simplicity, and Service: The Timeless Wisdom of Francis, Clare, and Bonaventure,” and “The Elephant is Running: Process and Open and Relational Theology and Religious Pluralism.” He is the author of the upcoming “The God of Tomorrow: Whitehead and Teilhard on Metaphysics, Mysticism, and Mission” and “Head, Heart, and Hands: An Introduction to St. Bonaventure.”





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