Easter 6A

Illuminations on the Lectionary readings for May 14, 2023 (Easter 6A)

First Reading: Acts 17:22-31

Here is the reassuring message of Sunday’s readings: The God who made us all is with us always, watches over us and hears our prayers.

Paul preaching at the Areopagus in Athens

Paul preaching at the Areopagus in Athens (1877), wall painting by Anton Dietrich (1833-1904), in the auditorium of the Christian-Weise-Gymnasium in Zittau, Saxony, Germany. (Click image to enlarge)

Even after the resurrected Jesus has gone back to the Creator, God remains in the world through the Holy Spirit. As today’s Collect sums up, God’s promises exceed all that we can desire. Our first reading from Acts tells us about Paul in Athens. He tells a crowd of skeptical Greeks that their altar to an unknown God actually celebrates our God, who made the world and is the One in whom we live and move and have our being.

Psalm: Psalm 66:7-18

Sometimes when bad things happen, it may feel as if even God’s presence has failed to protect us. This portion of Psalm 66 at first seems to suggest that God tests us with heavy burdens, standing aside when enemies ride over us and we must go through fire and water. This is a theological idea that we would rather not hear. But then the verses turn back to hope and faith: God hears our prayers and does not reject them. God keeps watch over all the people and, at the last, brings us out to a place of refreshment, a spacious place of relief.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22

This passage from the first letter written in the name of Peter offers fascinating glimpses of the early church working out its theology at a time when many Christians faced persecution. Echoing the hope of Psalm 66, these verses assure us that we earn blessing when we suffer for doing the right thing: Just as Noah and his family endured the flood so that humanity could survive, our baptism – which Noah’s flood prefigured with salvation through water – now saves us.

Gospel: John 14:15-21

Jesus’s Farewell Discourse continues. In this week’s passage Jesus continues to assure the apostles that, while he is leaving soon to return to the Creator, he will not leave them orphaned. Even if the world no longer sees Jesus, the apostles will see him. Jesus promises that God will send an Advocate – the Holy Spirit – to remain with them forever. And, in memorable words that remain a favorite quote from John’s Gospel, Jesus concludes this passage: “If you love me, keep my commandments … They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

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