Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B
May 6, 2018
Lessons: Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are called to love, to be stewards of God’s love, and to be lavish and sacrificial in sharing it with others.
Key Scripture: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13
Last Sunday’s Lectionary reflection invited us to “get up and go” by responding to the Holy Spirit’s nudging and God’s call to be stewards of the good news of Jesus. We are invited in last week’s lessons both to respond in love and to be ready to respond when needed with whomever God happens to put in our path. This week’s lessons continue the theme of love being the hallmark of Jesus followers, but we are now called to “lay it all down” for the sake of the love we have first experienced in Christ Jesus.
These lessons call us to an active faith model of discipleship: breaking down barriers (Acts 10:47-48) and laying down our very lives for our friends (John 15:12-13). It is quite likely true that we will not be asked to physically give ourselves over to death for the sake of our friends, but we are indeed asked to lay down our lives in the sense of laying down our human willfulness and “me-first” tendencies.
Loving others “Jesus style” may also mean laying down some precious traditions and assumptions to ensure that others have a place at the table. For those of us who are white, cisgender disciples, it may also mean laying down or using our privilege in ways that lift up and affirm our sisters and brothers of color and our LGBTQIA siblings who have been marginalized and oppressed for far too long. It surely means laying down our defenses and need to rationalize our perspectives and behaviors in order to listen to our sisters and brothers whose voices are regularly silenced or ignored.
Jesus also tells us that our status has been elevated to that of friends rather than servants. All who abide in Jesus’ love and follow his commands have a place at the family table, and this requires that we lay down any baggage we bring with us that excludes or marginalizes others. Yes, we lay down the life we bring to Jesus’ table, but we receive oh so much more in the form of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and abundant love.
Why in the world is it so difficult for us to lay it all down—to give up our way of life, our expectations, our privilege, and the stuff to which we cling? The answer, of course, is sin and our human brokenness. We need outsiders to justify our position as insiders. Humans crave power to have the illusion of lofty heights and gazing down on others. Our fragile humanity encourages us to find fault in others so that we can feel like we are good. All of this, however, is false.
Jesus wants us to follow his commandments, instructions that give life and bring hope, and to love others as he has loved each one of us. This is why laying down our lives is so important. When we quit trying to prop up our own worth and carry our own burdensome perception of goodness and stability and perfection, then we find ourselves suddenly free—free to love and free to abide in Jesus’ love. And that, dearly beloved people of God, is what it’s all about.
In worship today, invite people to lay down whatever is preventing them from fully loving God and others. If you like visuals, consider having a station where they can select landscape or smaller floral stones that they can then lay down at the foot of the font or cross or carry with them until they are ready to lay them down.
Invite the congregation to visualize what it may need to lay down in its corporate life for the sake of loving others and being welcoming to the stranger.
Ponder 1 John 5:3-4 with your youth: “For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.”
Invite them to explore how God’s commandments are life-giving and meant for our flourishing. How can Christ followers conquer the world through faith (and love)?
Praise God With All You Are!
Psalm 98 is a wonderful song of praise for children to experience. Check out this PDF handout for children from Psalms for Kids. https://www.psalmsforkids.com/psalm-98/
Add your own motions and noises to every line and make a joyful noise to the Lord. If you have a box of children’s instruments, bring them out. If not, make some simple instruments. You’ll find plenty of inspiration on Pinterest. Make it a lively song of praise!
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Sometimes stewardship is about what you can let go of or lay down. This week’s gospel lesson reminds us that we can show love and make room at the table for others by laying down the things in our life that may be standing in the way of sharing the good news and welcoming others to Christ’s table.
Stewardship at Home
This week spend some time thinking about what it means to be a fruit bearer. What’s your favorite fruit? Strawberries? Blueberries? Kiwi? Grapes? No matter which fruit you pick, there’s work involved in getting it from farm to table. None of the good harvest from God’s garden happens without effort—and sun, soil, rain, and tending.
It’s the same with us as disciples. We need tending—to our faith, our growth, our knowledge of scripture, our time in prayer, and our growth in community. What would it look like for you as a disciple to “bear fruit”? What do you need to be more fruitful as a Jesus follower?
This week consider buying some good fruit and sharing it with your local food pantry or community meal site. Fresh, good produce is often in short supply for those who need it most. Give thanks for the gift of fresh fruit from God’s garden. Ask God to help you become more fruitful in your faith walk, and pray for your congregation to flourish, too.
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/05/chosen-not-frozen-2/
Photos: Timetrius, Schipulites, Creative Commons usage license, and © mangostock – Fotolia.com Thanks!
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