5th Sunday of Easter

2nd May 2021

5th Sunday of Easter

Year B

 

Collect

Almighty God,
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that, as by your grace going before us
                   you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

 

Acts 8.26-40

An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:

     “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
         and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
         so he did not open his mouth.
     In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
         Who can speak of his descendants?
         For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptised?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptised him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

 

1 John 4.7-21

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No-one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

John 15.1-8

Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Reflection by Revd Sandie

Reflection  for John 15:1-8

Some branches produce fruit and are pruned, cared for and nurtured. Some branches do not produce fruit and are removed, thrown away and burned.

We are a people of productivity. It is, for the most part, the standard by how we live and the measure of our success. It is built into our lives everywhere. Productivity is the basis of our economic system. Those who produce are rewarded and get more. Those who do not produce are thrown out. Within our educational system the students who do well and produce are recognized and supported while those who do not produce get lost in the system. Careers and promotions are based on productivity. Productivity at some level is at the core of the debates around poverty, welfare, healthcare, and the elderly. “They” do not produce and our care of and for them often reflects what we think of that.

We have been convinced that productivity is the goal and only the fittest survive. I wonder if that isn’t how many of us live our spiritual lives. How many of us have been told, in some form or fashion, or come to believe that pruned branches go to heaven and removed branches go to hell? Pruned branches produced so they are rewarded while non-productive branches are punished.

In that (mis)understanding fruit is God’s demand upon our life and the means by which we appease God. If we are not careful we’ll get stuck categorizing ourselves and one another into fruit bearing or non-fruit bearing branches. There is, however, a deeper issue than the production of fruit. Productivity does not usually create deep abiding and intimate relationships. It creates transactions. Jesus is not talking about or demanding productivity. He wants and offers connectivity, relationship, and intimacy.

Fruit or the lack thereof is a manifestation of our interior life and health. It describes and reveals whether we are living connected or disconnected lives. Fruit production is the natural consequence of staying connected. You can see that in long-term friendships, marriages, community loyalty. We do not choose whether or not we produce fruit. We do, however, choose where we abide and how we stay connected.

You know how that is. Sometimes we lose touch with a particular person. We no longer know where he or she is, what she is doing, or what is happening in her life. One day we run into him or her. It’s a bit awkward. No one is sure what to say. There’s not much to talk about. There was no deep abiding presence, the connection is lost, and it seems as if what was has been thrown away. Other people we run into after five or ten years and the conversation immediately picks up where we left off those many years ago. Even though we were apart we never left each other. There was and remains a connection and mutual abiding that time, distance, and the circumstances of life cannot sever.

“What fruit am I producing?” “How much?” “Is it an acceptable quality?” Those are good questions if we understand and ask them diagnostically, as questions not about the quantity of our lives but the quality of our lives. That’s what Jesus is after. That is the deeper question he is asking. It is the invitation to join the conversation, jump into the game, to participate, and to live fully alive. That only happens when the life, the love, and the goodness and holiness of Christ flow in us. We become an extension of and manifest his life, love, and holiness.

It is a relationship of union even as a branch is united to the vine. We live our lives as one. This is not just about relationship with Jesus; it affects and is the basis for our relationships with one another. Love for Jesus, one another, and ourselves become one love. We soon discover we are living one life and the fruit of that life and love is abundant, overflowing, and gives praise and glory to our Father.

During this pandemic we have been so much more aware of those who are unable to produce fruit and we have been only too willing to make those connections and support them in their need. But as we slowly return to resuming work or activities with which we filled our lives before this virus struck will we maintain those connections? Those people, elderly, homeless suffering from a mental health condition living with assisted living needs unemployed will still be part of our society will still live in our communities. They deserve an abundant life overflowing with love. How will we ensure they stay connected?  Amen

Post Communion Prayer

Eternal God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

1 John 4.7-21 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Acts 8.26-40 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
John 15.1-8 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (5th of Easter) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000
Collect (5th of Easter, Short) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2005