Easter 6A

220: May 21, 2017

64: May 25, 2014

  1. 5:26-1 Peter 3:13-22 with Casey Fitzgerald

  2. 18:49-John 14:15-21 The Spirit of Truth

  3. 36:21-Psalm 66:8-20

  4. 45:41-Acts 17:22-31 Paul on Mars Hill

Psalm 66:8-20 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Voice in the Wilderness - 1 Peter 3:13-22 with Casey Fitzgerald.

Featured Musician - The Steel Wheels, “Riverside” from from their album Live at Goose Creek

Exegetical Notes

John 14:15-21 The Spirit of Truth

Initial Thoughts

  • Continuation from last week

Bible Study

  • Love of Jesus = Keeping his commandments

  • Keeping Commandments = love one another John 13:34 (even unto death, 15:13)

    • This passage bookended by “Keep my commandments”

    • This is not a stern, finger-wagging sort of “Do as I say.”  It is, in fact, the opposite of “Do as I say, not as I do,” which plagues so much parenting and preaching.

      • What Jesus said and what Jesus were enmeshed.  This is part of the meaning of the “Word made flesh.”

    • “To love Jesus is to keep his commandments; to keep Jesus’ commandments is to love him.” (Gail O’Day, New Interpreter’s Dictionary, v. IX. p. 747)

    • Recall prologue - “In the beginning was the Word (logos)... And the logos was made flesh”  -- Jesus and the Word are inseparable

  • Presence of God after Jesus’ death

    • Paraclete has many translations

      • NRSV = Advocate (or Helper)

      • NIV = Counselor

      • CEB = Companion

  • Spirit and Jesus comparisons

    • “Both Jesus and the Paraclete are sent from God (14:16; cf. 3:17, 34; 14:26; 15:26), are rejected by the world (14:17; cf. 1:10; 7:7; 15:18), are known by Jesus' followers (14:17; cf. 10:14), and represent "the truth" (14:17; cf. 1:14, 17; 8:45; 14:6).” Richard Manly Adams Jr. , Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.

    • The reception of the Spirit is contingent on loving Jesus which is evidenced by keeping Jesus’ commandments. If we do not love Jesus, if we do not keep Jesus’ commandments- can we truly receive the Spirit?

  • Spirit of Truth - “The work of the Paraclete is thus to keep the truth of Jesus present to the world after Jesus’ departure.” (O’Day, p. 747)

    • The answer to Pilate’s later question - Jesus is the truth, the Spirit is the truth

  • 14:18  “I will not leave you orphaned”

    • Disciples without masters were often called “orphans” (O’ Day)

    • “His promise to return thus immediately counters any possible perception of Jesus’ death as his abandonment of his own.” (O’ Day, p. 748)

    • Abandoned disciples would find another master.  Disciples of a master that was crucified would be shamed, and eager to find another master.

    • The Spirit though, is not replacing Jesus as the master.  Instead,  “The Spirit will disclose the truth about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, but will not replicate these events. After Jesus' return to the Father, the Spirit remains with the disciples; but this does not mean the Spirit replaces Jesus. Rather, the Spirit discloses the presence of the risen Jesus and his Father to the community of faith.” (Craig Koester in Working Preacher)

  • Unity through love:

    • Jesus lives  - we live

    • God is in Jesus who is in us

    • Those who keep Jesus’ commandments love Jesus

    • Love of Jesus = Love of God = Love of Jesus

    • Jesus is revealed in love

  • Paraclete is the embodiment of divine love which is the true foundation of being and reveals Jesus and God

    • What does it mean that love swept over the chaos to create light, life and goodness (Genesis 1:2)?

    • What does it mean that love filled humanity to give us life (Gen. 2:7, cf. Ezekiel 37:9-10)

    • Is it any surprise that in order to fully live we must love? (Mark 12:28-31)

  • More double talk

    • As always in John, seeing and knowing have double meaning.  

    • Those that “see” are the ones that obey.

    • “In a little while” can refer to both coming time between death and resurrection as well as time between resurrection and second coming.

Preaching Thoughts

  • “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.  

  • What are the ways an Advocate can still function in society? Court of law, healthcare, human resources, social worker.  Always, the advocate is working on behalf of the one in need.  How is the Holy Spirit like an Advocate?  How is that troubling to people who think they “have it all together,” or in a culture that values self-sufficiency above all?

  • The Message puts it: “In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you're going to see me because I am alive and you're about to come alive."

    • What does it feel like to know you’re “about to come alive.”  What kind of anticipation does that create?  What could it mean to the church to know that we “are about to come alive”

Acts 17:22-31 Paul on Mars Hill

Initial Thoughts

  • Obviously, some important parts about Saul have been skipped. Last week he holding coats while people stoned Stephen. Can’t assume people know that this is the same guy. Maybe it’s not important, but if you preached last week on Acts, it should probably be mentioned.

  • Driven out of Thessalonica, Philippi and Beroea
  • Acts 17:21 (NRSV)21  Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.”

  • Areopagus = Mars’ Hill

  • Calls back to last week- what do you hang your heart on

    • We are desperately searching for something to believe in: patriotism, consumerism, conservatism, liberalism, sex, power, technology, fashion, etc

    • How is that working out for you?

  • Argument against religious relativism?

  • Is Yahweh the “unknown God”?

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • Begin the study no later than 17:1. Read of Paul’s exploits and method in Thessalonica and Berrea.

      • Driven out of Thessalonica, then they follow him and get him out of Beroea

    • Acts 17:21 (CEB)  “All the Athenians as well as the foreigners who live in Athens used to spend their time doing nothing but talking about or listening to the newest thing.)

    • Consider extending the reading to include the reaction, to verse 34

    • Quick Philosophy Review

      • Epicurean - Happiness is the primary aim of life. This occurs through the two-fold path of pleasures in moderation and the avoidance of pain.

      • Stoic - teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions in order to develop clear judgment and inner calm and the ultimate goal of freedom from suffering

    • Athens is the heart of intellectualism.

  • Paul’s Appeal

    • Starts with the positive - to relate to audience

      • To the “very religious.’ In other words, they have many gods, many temples, many rituals. They are the opposite of today’s ‘Spiritual, but not religious,’ and yet at the same time in the same family. They partake of the spiritual flavor of the culture, but are not interested/able to name a core belief beyond ‘The Unknown God.’

      • The Unknown God is a catch-all, or spiritual insurance policy, leaving open the possibility that there are gods that they have not yet named.

      • Truthfully, philosophers paid little attention to the gods. “The reality, of course, was that , although few Greek thinkers - including the Stoics - actually denied the traditional objects of religious devotion, these deities were often relegated to the sidelines of philosophical inquiry as being all but irrelevant… One thinks of our own society, in which belief in God always ranks high in the polls, but appears to be less important in the living of daily life” (unknown, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 302)

    • Moves to what is held in common

      • “Creator”

        • Does not appeal to Scripture (it would be meaningless to a people who does not know Scripture)

        • The natural world is one in which we all live, and can hold in common

      • The nature of God

        • Holy - separate - “not served by human hands”

        • Life giver

        • Relationship started - God calls us into relationship with one another (nations) and with God (search for God).

        • Search for God is the reason for the appeal to the “Unknown God”

      • Appeals to their own culture, and quotes the poet “We are his offspring.”

        • This is a similar tack that has been taken with Judaism. Jews were the offspring of Abraham, and thus a chosen people.

        • Moves from this to the condemnation of idols, which foolishly try to contain the God that is in all of Creation.

        • Commonality of all humanity/siblinghood of people.

    • Makes the leap to Resurrection

      • Resurrection of Jesus is the sign that what he said matters.

      • Judgement of Jesus is the final movement, and the reason people should “change their hearts and minds.”

      • Jesus is the culmination of all philosophies because of the Resurrection.

      • “In mentioning the resurrection, Paul risks rejection by his audience. They may agree to a created world and to our common humanity, but there is no possible ‘natural theology’ evidence for an assertion of the resurrection. Appeals to reason and to observation of the national world can only be taken so far in the proclamation of the gospel. Eventually revelation must be invoked and the scandal of faith to reason and experience must be made plain” (Will Willimon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching: Acts, p. 144)

      • This is where he loses many, some want to discuss it more, and some believe.

      • These are the expected results even today.

        • Ridicule

        • Discuss more

        • Believe

      • “Christian proclamation is not to be judged merely by its success in winning an approving response. Where the Word is faithfully preached, some believe, some mock.” (Willimon, p. 144)

        • Should churches be judged merely by their success in winning an approving response?

        • I (Robb) am deeply suspicious of two things;

          • Attempts to “prove” Christianity (The Case for Christ)

          • When Christianity becomes popular.

  • Who is God?

    • Creator

    • Holy - separate - “not served by human hands”

    • Life giver

    • Relationship started - God calls us into relationship with one another (nations) and with God (search for God)

    • Judge? vv 30-31

    • “In him we love and move and have our being”

  • Jesus

    • What definitive claim can we make on Christianity?

      • Can we proclaim Jesus as savior without being exclusive? Yes.

      • can there be salvation in some way other than Jesus? Yes there can, but I follow the way of Jesus and I know in that way lies salvation.

    • Called to judge- NOT us.

Preaching Thoughts

  • What are the dominant philosophies of today? Conservative Christianity, Secular humanism, Spiritual but not religious, Neo-Nationalism. In the marketplace of ideas, where does Jesus crucified and resurrected fit? What is the nature of the repentance that the Resurrected Christ calls us to?

    • “The God whom Paul proclaims is not just another option for human devotion, not an accommodating God content to be one of many. The God who sent the Christ is still the Holy One of Israel, a jealous deity without rivals, an exclusive lover who tolerates no competition - money, sex, philosophical ideals, institutions - who fiercely judges all idols made by hands or minds of men.” (Willimon, p. 144-45)

  • Paul was a master of tailoring his argument to his audience. He did this through getting to know his audience. He leveraged something of his identity - Learned Jew, Roman citizen - and used it to engage an audience. He also took time in places to learn them. He engaged them for some period of time, and spoke to people in the marketplace before making this speech. In this speech, he never uses the word “Jesus.” He doesn’t use jargon like prophets, sin, Christ, or crucified. He speaks to them in their language, but at the same time does not shy away from the true scandal - or place of power - Resurrection. How do our testimonies reflect this

  • Is our reliance on Scripture dooming the Church to irrelevance? For a people that does not hold onto the authority of Scripture, appealing to the authority of Scripture seems wasteful. Instead of relying on the authority of Scripture, the preacher’s first task may be to convince people of the need for Scripture in the first place.

    • A teen once asked me, during Bible study, “Why do we even bother with the Bible?”

    • I was not ready for a good response because I was acting under the assumption that the Bible mattered - one that this teen did not hold.

  • Do we, in the church, continue to seek out God or are we convinced at we have found God?

  • Are our churches shrines to the God we created in our own image? Do they keep us from going out and seeking God who first seeks us?


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”"Real Ride" and “Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).