Sermon for 6th Sunday of Easter – 05-09-2021
Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1st John 5:1-6; John15:9-17
In our lesson from Acts, Peter had traveled from Joppa to Caesarea and was speaking to people gathered at Cornelius’ house, about what Jesus had instructed them to talk about. He was preaching about salvation open to all who would believe in Jesus, that His death was required for their belief and salvation. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit came even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues. Peter asked, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They had received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they ask Peter to stay with then a few days.
All believers receive the Spirit to live in and direct their lives. Cornelius and the other Gentiles received the Spirit in the same manner with the same signs as the Jewish Christians at Pentecost received him. The milestone in Christian missions so impressed Peter he reported the even enthusiastically to the Jerusalem church. The Spirit came before baptism and so cannot be connected to baptism in any casual way. Jesus’ name was pronounced over persons being baptized. This placed persons under Jesus’ power and signified Jesus was lord of their lives and hope of their resurrection.
In Psalm 98, we learn that God’s saving work is not hidden, a special secret shared only by the initiated. He acts in plain view of all people, to provide salvation and He invites all people to accept His saving acts. God’s awesome holiness does not separate Him from His people. It enables Him to bring salvation closer to us. God’s saving involvement in Israel’s national and individual lives called forth praise from His people and from the nations. It revealed God’s love was more than some abstract idea used by theologians; God’s love gain concrete expression in His historical actions. Note the close relationship between God’s love and righteousness and salvation. Letting His people see His salvation reveals to all that He is righteous. He acts to save because He loves and is faithful to His purpose and promises. It further speaks to God’s judgment, for when He judges the world rejoices that He will judge justly and fairly.
In our lesson from 1st John, the church is a community of people who believe in Jesus Christ as God’s promised Messiah and our Savior. The church gives evidence of this belief by obeying God’s commands. Such obedience overcomes the temptations thrust at us by the non-Christian world to live by its standards. We can obey only as we place faith in Christ and not in the world or our own standards. Our motivation of obedience is love of God, and nothing else. Such love extends then to all other children of God. Obedience, faith, and love thus united the church into true community. There are two major points in Jesus’ life that reveal Him as Son of God: His baptism by water (Mark 1:11), and His death, where He sacrificed His blood (Mark 15:39). Throughout His ministry Jesus remained the same person—-the Son of God come in human flesh. Jesus did not become God’s son at any point in His earthly life. He was God’s Son from eternity past and remains God’s Son to eternity future. At no point did He surrender His divine nature and become human, however, He gained insight into the human experience, so that at the appropriate time, He could Judge us with righteousness, honesty, and understanding of the lives we have lived.
In our Gospel of John, verse 9-10 opens as such: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” The profound love that God the Father has for the Son is the source, and the model, for the love that the Son has for His followers. The love that flows to believers from God the Father and from God the Son placed a heavy demand upon us: we are to obey God and love each other in he same self-sacrificial way that Jesus loves us.
The love of God comes to us, on the one hand, as a free gift. On the other hand, the love of God comes to us as an insistent demand that we live in love for each other and for God. Love is the central characteristic of God and must become the central characteristic of God’s people as well. Joy marks God’s people’s lives. Human achievements do not produce this joy. Obedience to Christ’s commands is the way to remain in Christ’s love and to experience complete joy.
This joy is like nothing we have ever experienced in our lives, but when we accept God through His Son, the joy is overflowing. God’s people should welcome new Christians with open arms, and share in their joy. Too often, this does not happen. Sometimes because we feel lonely or oppressed in some way and forget where our joy comes from. This is when our fellow Christians are to lift us up in prayer, and shower those struggling with His joy as a reminder of just how much we are loved. At the end of services I proclaim, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” You reply is, “Thanks be to God.” Remember we are to leave services to do just that in our lives and with all of the people we come into contact with! Amen.