Monday, May 8, 2017

The Way, Truth, Life –– 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A –– 14 May 2017

Grounding these rich and varied passages in the Gospel reading may lead the preacher to focus on how the Trinity is manifest through and in the church, a fitting theme for the Easter season. John’s Jesus assures the disciples that the church is permeated by Christ’s abiding presence that nourishes a people who know God the Creator/ Father/ Source/ Love and who concern themselves with the needs of the whole world “in the name” of Jesus. Marva Dawn once described this commitment to the needs of others as  praying “in the character of Jesus.” All that we ask for from a frame of reference that is akin to Jesus’ own vision will be answered.

GOSPEL READING: John 14:1-14

The setting for this reading is Jesus' last supper with his disciples. He had washed their feet (13:5), predicted that one of them would betray him (13:21), and told Peter that he would deny him three times (13:38). There were plenty of reasons for the disciples' hearts to be troubled.

The primary source of concern, though, was that Jesus had told them he was going away (13:33). Peter had asked where Jesus was going (13:36). Chapter 14 continues with Jesus speaking words of reassurance while the disciples continue to misunderstand. In typical Johannine style, those misunderstandings permit the gospel writer to lead the reader more deeply into the wonder of Jesus' identity and work.

Three main themes emerge. In verses 1–4, Jesus assures the disciples that he is not abandoning them. . .

In verses 5–11, Thomas' question about the way and Philip's question about the Father lead Jesus to speak about his role in revealing the Father. Jesus is the only way to enter into life with God and the only truth about life with God. This is because of the mysterious and mutual relationship between Jesus and the Father. The Father is present, and has been present all along, in Jesus' person and work. For this reason, faith may perceive the Father through Jesus and his ministry.

This leads at last in verses 12–14 to Jesus' promise to do whatever believers ask in his name, so that glory may be ascribed to the Father through the Son. It is the character of Jesus' life that defines what may be asked “in Jesus' name.” Jesus promises to grant requests that are consistent with his own life and work. – Aaron J. Couch

FIRST READING: Acts 7:55-60

The lectionary selects only the verses that tell how Stephen was stoned to death. . . [which] is nearly incomprehensible without reference to the accusations of blasphemy against Stephen (6:11) and Stephen's inflammatory speech, in which he recites Israel's history of failure and accuses his antagonists of being stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears. . . When Stephen reported a vision of Jesus as exalted Son of Man, his enemies acted to silence him. The remarkable thing about Stephen's death is his imitation of Jesus, praying that God would forgive his murderers.  – Aaron J. Couch

EPISTLE READING: 1 Peter 2:2-10

The Christian community is invited to reflect on the nature of its life with a variety of images: newborn infants, spiritual house, holy priesthood, holy nation, God's own people. Although these images keep changing throughout the reading, the nature of the underlying exhortation remains constant. The people of God are called to remain connected to the life-giving power of God in Christ, experienced through active participation in the Christian fellowship.

The image of being built into a spiritual house leads to reflection on a paradoxical quality of Christ as its living cornerstone. Three Old Testament passages (Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 8:14–15) are woven together to explore how God's gift in Christ can be a source of joy for believers, yet also a stumbling block for those who do not believe. . .  Christians are invited to marvel that they have become God's people and to see that they have an important service to fulfill in declaring God's powerful works. – Aaron J. Couch

Aaron J. Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.

Homily Service 41, no. 2 (2007): 145-154.

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