GOSPEL READING: John 14:15-21
The Spirit is already present with Jesus' followers, but Jesus promises that he will ask the Father to send the Spirit to be present within them. In this way, the disciples will know that they have not been abandoned, even though Jesus will no longer be physically present. Instead, the Spirit will draw them more deeply into life with God and they will experience God present in and among them. This mysterious and mutual relationship is opened for those who obey the commandment to love.
The preacher may note that it is αγαπη (concern for the well-being of the neighbor, expressed in serving) that is being commanded, not ϵρως (passionate love) or φιλια (friendship, affection). – Aaron J. Couch
FIRST READING: Acts 17:22-31
The speech that Luke places on Paul's lips is a work of rhetorical beauty. Paul compliments the Athenians on their religious devotion and proclaims Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of their deepest religious longing. Echoing themes from the Greek philosophical tradition and from the Old Testament, Paul declares that the living God is greater than any product of human imagination or craft. This Creator God, who is also judge of all, is calling the human family to repent and live in righteousness. God has made this known by raising Jesus from the dead.
The speech invites consideration of ways in which the Spirit of God may be active in people's lives, working through feelings of spiritual hunger, to prepare them to receive the good news of Jesus. – Aaron J. Couch
EPISTLE READING: 1 Peter 3:13-22
When facing hostility and abuse from society, believers are not to be afraid or intimidated, but instead must be prepared to defend their faith. The innocent suffering of believers may be enough to shame their abusers. It is imperative that the preacher make clear that this is a case of nonviolent resistance to evil when there is no legal recourse for the abused. It is not passive submission to evil and must not be thought of as a suitable response to abuse such as domestic violence.
The author looks to Christ as an example of how innocent suffering may hold genuine redemptive potential. It is Christ, the righteous One, whose death has made it possible for the unrighteous to stand before God. This leads to one of the more interesting and mysterious passages of scripture, in which Christ is described as “making proclamation to the spirits in prison.” Although this passage has led to much imaginative speculation about the “harrowing of hell,” the author's intent is to assert the impotence of death before the life-giving power of God in Christ, as well as to indicate the limitlessness of God's mercy.
The reference to those who perished during Noah's flood leads through a rather tenuous transition to a reflection on baptism. Just as God delivered Noah and his family through the water, so the washing of baptism is also a deliverance through water. The saving effect of baptism is described as a promise, appeal or request made to God, from or for a good conscience. – Aaron J. Couch
Aaron J. Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Homily Service 41, no. 2 (2007): 155-162.