Worship Resources for April 28, 2024—Fifth Sunday of Easter

A note on Rev-o-lution:

After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.

I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. Thank you for all your kind words.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8

Narrative Lectionary: Church at Corinth, Acts 18:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 (Mark 9:34-35)

In this season of Easter, we continue to read from the book of Acts in lieu of the Hebrew Scriptures lesson. Philip, one of the disciples, was told by an angel to go south of Jerusalem. On the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, he met a court official of the queen of Ethiopia, who was a eunuch. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home, reading from the prophet Isaiah. There were non-Jews who believed there was one God, and who read and studied the scriptures. Non-Jews were allowed to worship in the outer court of the temple, but not all were able to convert. A eunuch would have been prevented by tradition. Instead, Philip explained the passage of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:7-8 and interpreted it through the lens of Jesus. When they found water near the road, the eunuch asked Philip what was preventing him from being baptized, and Philip baptized him. The eunuch was one of the first converts, and church tradition holds he was the first missionary to Africa.

(We must understand that Jewish tradition has long interpreted the Suffering Servant passages of Isaiah as referring to the people of Israel and their suffering in exile. Early Christians, who were Jewish, resonated with those passages because of what they had witnessed Jesus experience in his death on the cross. We can hold both interpretations as Christians, in our struggle to understand Jesus’ suffering, as the people of Israel were challenged to find meaning in their suffering, as long as we do not erase the experience of the Jewish people.)

The end portion of Psalm 22, a prayer for help, turns to praise in verses 25-31. God has remained faithful despite the hardships the psalmist has faced, and the psalmist calls upon the people to praise God, vowing to declare God’s goodness before the congregation. God is the one who has dominion over all the nations, over the earth. Even the dead are part of God’s congregation of praise, and those living shall live for God, even the generations yet to come.

The writer of 1 John declares that God is love in 1 John 4:7-21. If you know love, you know God, and if you do not love, you do not know God. God’s love was revealed through God’s Son, and he has called us to love one another. No one has seen God, but we know God through the love we have for one another—that is how God is made known to us. We love because God first loved us. “Fear has to do with punishment” the writer declares, but love casts away fear. There is no fear in love. Note that this is not the same use of “fear” as often in used in the term “fear of God,” for that word fear in the Hebrew scriptures might be better translated as “trembling awe.” Perfect love from God as known through Jesus is not about a fear of hell or punishment, but instead mirroring the image of God’s love in us. If we do not love our neighbors, we do not love God, for this is God’s commandment through Christ. If we cannot love those we have seen (or known by other senses), we cannot love God whom we have never seen.

Jesus uses the example of being a vine and we are the vine branches in John 15:1-8. God is the vine-grower, and through Christ we are called to bear fruit. We cannot bear fruit if we do not abide in the true vine, which is Jesus. Branches that do not bear fruit are useless. We must live out our faith, otherwise, we are useless branches.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the church in Corinth. In Luke’s account in Acts 18:1-4, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish exiles from Rome, and he stayed with them. The three of them, by trade, were tentmakers. While Paul stayed with them, he would argue in the synagogue, testifying before Jews and Greeks.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he addresses the conflict that he has heard about in 1 Corinthians 10:1-18. The church has fractured, with some claiming to follow Paul, others claiming to follow Apollos, others Peter, and still others Christ. Paul stated that Christ sent him to proclaim the gospel, the message of the cross of Christ. Paul urged the church that there be no divisions among them. No one was baptized in the name of Paul, but all belong to Christ, and that is the gospel he preaches.

In the supplementary verses of Mark 9:34-35, Jesus overheard the disciples arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus declared that whoever wanted to be first must be last of all and servant of all.

How does fear hold us back? Philip could have used fear as a reason not to help the stranger he met on the road, but instead, he listened to the Holy Spirit and went to the Ethiopian Eunuch’s chariot and answered his questions. Fear could have kept the foreign traveler from asking Philip his questions, and instead, he boldly suggests he be baptized. The psalmist is not afraid to declare what God will do for “generations yet unborn,” though the singer knows not what the future holds. Fear can keep us from loving our neighbors, our siblings, but the early Christian writers knew that love is stronger than fear, greater than death. Fear can divide us into us and them, but as Jesus reminds the disciples, we are stronger together, as branches of the vine. We belong to one another.

Call to Worship (1 John 4:7-9, 13)
Beloved, let us love one another,
Because love is from God;
Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way:
God sent the only Son into the world so that we might live through Christ.
By this we know that we abide in God and God in us,
Because God has given us the Spirit.
Let us love one another and join in worship of our God,
For God is love.

Prayer of Invocation
Gardening God, cultivate in us a sprit of openness in this time of worship. Help us to till the soil of our hearts, to dig deep into Your scriptures, to nourish our bodies and spirits with song and praise. Help us to love one another more fully, and to bear spiritual fruit, for You are the vine, and we are the branches, and in You will live, grow, and have the fullness of life. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Awesome God, we confess that we have allowed fear to rule our lives. We have allowed fear to keep us from loving our neighbors who are different than us. We have allowed fear to close our doors, our hearts, our minds. But You are Perfect Love, and You cast out all fear. Help us to let go of what holds us back and to be open to Your Spirit, to love freely, and to love deeply. We know that our hearts may be broken, but help us anyway to love those most in need, the most vulnerable, and guide us into ways of love and care that help heal our brokenness. In the name of Christ, the One who laid down his life for us because he loved us so much, we pray all things. Amen.

We come together with grateful hearts, remembering all that Christ has done for us, and knowing we can never repay that kind of love, except in how we love one another. So share God’s love. Share God’s peace. Share God’s joy, and know that own love, peace, and joy in your heart. You are forgiven, loved, and restored. Amen.

Mystery of Mysteries, help us to seek Your wisdom by living into Your truth, and Your truth is found in the love we have for one another. May our love be fearless. May our love be without judgment. May our love call us into Your ways of justice, Your ways of practicing kindness, and Your ways of building peace. Mystery of Mysteries, we only know You in a glimpse; but we know You most fully in the abiding love we have for one another, a love that comes only from You, who gave Your life for us. Amen.

1 thought on “Worship Resources for April 28, 2024—Fifth Sunday of Easter

  1. Mary Shields

    I just found you this spring. Your worship resources are wonderful! I am personally sorry that you are stopping, but also happy that your powerful voice will come through in other writing. Huge blessings to you!
    And…if you can, it would be wonderful to have these resources for a longer period of time (as a small business owner as well as a minister, I know how costly keeping a website live can be, so I also understand it might not be possible).


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