5th Sunday of Easter – “I am with you only a little longer”

This Sunday we celebrated the 186th anniversary of St. Peter’s.

We have high standards to meet. From one of our former ministers.
“Lovely people, lovely music, lovely building, lovely connections in the community. What a treasure. Anna and I have many fond memories of our all too few years among the people of St. Peter’s. May God continue to bless you all.

The Rev. Phillip Haug,
Rector, 1990-94

We had 26 inhouse and another 5 on zoom which was a good turnout.
The rain from the last two days to a moderately sunny day.

We began the UTO campaign which will last until May 29. We celebrated Michael’s 16h birthday

The Sacred Ground group will present two scholarships to deserving students on Monday night at Caroline high school

Tom Hughes provided the sermon. He started out talking about the investment issues particularly the problems of bitcoin which to him really doesn’t have a value. There is nothing behind it. It’s the lack of a currency. He contrasted this with God’s currency

God has a currency too and it is the Gospel of Love
He provided 6 points from the readings:

1. Behold I am doing a new thing.
2. The dwelling place of God is with God’s people.
3. God will dwell with us in a new and complete way.
4. God takes care of it from beginning to end.
5. Are you thirsty ? Drink this
6. Holy spirit is for everyone. The problem is egotism which gets in the way.

Today’s readings picture the love and encouragement to be found in Christian community. In Acts, Gentiles receive God’s word and the Holy Spirit just as the Jews do. John, in his Revelation, celebrates God’s final descent into our world to bring salvation and a restored world order. In the gospel, Jesus gives us a new command—love one another; by obeying Jesus, we show our discipleship.

Acts 11:1-18 

Peter is such a reassuring figure to those of us who know only too well how flawed we are. Sometimes he’s a bit slow on the uptake. Sometimes he puts his foot in it. But there are times when he so wonderfully and courageously gets things right. The  latter is on eof those times 

As the story unfolds, Peter reveals that it took him three attempts to ‘get’ what God was trying to tell him and he recounts how it was through promptings from heaven (v.5) through the Spirit (v.12) and an angel (v.13) that he eventually understood what God was saying. And Peter compared that moment to the one he and the other disciples had experienced on the day of Pentecost when, gathered in that upstairs room, they found all they had known being completely shaken up, stirred and turned upside down, by the Spirit of God who was and is and is to come. Here Peter’s courage, as he speaks to these early Christians, is mind-blowing. But it is not Peter who is the hero of what happens this day. God is. God is the one who takes away all the prejudices and barriers that try to divide people into those who ‘belong’ and those who are ‘outsiders’.

Peter defends his unprecedented decision to baptize the Gentile Cornelius to critics who reflected the early Christian opinion that Jesus was for the Jews alone, and that faith must be accompanied by a strict adherence to the Jewish law.

Peter explains the baptism as a God-inspired act. God led Peter to recognize that the believing Gentiles’ were included in the kingdom because God granted them the same gifts of the Spirit that the Jewish believers had received (2:1-11). To withhold baptism would have been to oppose God. With this bold act, the Church understood that God’s impartiality demands the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the life of Christ.

Psalm 148

Psalm 148 summons all creation to praise God. First from the heavens–by angels, sun, moon, stars and celestial waters—and then from the earth—by sea monsters, seas, weather, rocks, trees, animals and people–the praises of God resound.

This final section of the book of the Psalms (146-150) sees those Psalms linked to each other by three words: ‘Praise the Lord’. Psalm 148 calls for that praise to be given to God from the heavenly realm (vs.1-6) and then from the earthly (vs.7-8). Even inanimate objects are to join in God’s praise and within that whole, humanity is included. We are no different from the rest of God’s creation. We too are a part of it and our voice is to be found in tandem with all God has made. It is alongside the whole of God’s creation, that God is to be praised for God’s work in c

Revelation 21:1-6

Once the first creation has disappeared and the wicked have been driven off to punishment, all that remains is to wonder at God’s eternal magnificence, reflected in the new creation. Because of its association with brutal storms, raging waters and myths of primeval chaos, the sea no longer exists. Such violence is not compatible with the peace of the world to come.

God then provides a new Jerusalem—a holy city because God dwells in it–that suggests the intimate union of God with the chosen people. “The home of God among mortals” fulfills God’s promise to “be with us” (Exodus 3:12) and Jesus’ assurance that “I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

It is a city that descends from God: a city where a myriad of God’s people dwell as God’s people. Think… relationships. Of Community. It is also worth bearing in mind that while the talk has tended to be of being taken up into heaven at the final call, here we find God coming to the people yet again – and it’s in the coming that salvation lies. It’s not the city that saves: it’s God and the tears God wipes from every eye are all the tears that have ever been shed. We carry tiny glimpses of that new Jerusalem within us when we live out the costly, selfless kind of love we hear Jesus calling us to, in the next portion of Scripture; in John 13

John 13:31-35

For John, “glory” means a visible revelation of God’s presence and holiness. Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection manifests God’s glory in the fullest sense. The cross is not a humiliation but a glorification and the revelation of God’s plan for salvation. 

The love commandment is new, not as a commandment, but in that Jesus’ love becomes the model for all love and the basic obligation of the new covenant. God’s unconditional love has been revealed in a new way in Jesus. Jesus is more than the standard for Christian love; he is its source. His love is both affective and effective, bonding the Christian community and bringing salvation.

Love is not a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s what you do. Right after Judas has left the room to betray his Lord, Jesus turns to those around Him, to tell them what love is – and love He tells them, is about doing mundane tasks for another and it is also about taking the risk to do something utterly unselfish and heroic for the other. When Jesus could have been forgiven for being a just a little preoccupied with what was about to happen, He chooses to tell the disciples of His love for them. It is a love Jesus will show them when it pins Him to a cross and then refuses to let death have the last word.

“I am with you only a little longer.” Jesus breaks this hard news to his friends at the Last Supper. When we love someone deeply, words such as this come with heartbreaking poignancy. “No!” we want to shout in reply. “Don’t go!” It was clearly too soon for him to leave.

But such an argument mistakes the end of a scene for the conclusion of the play. Jesus opens a new scene as he continues, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Just as we cherish a picture of someone dear who has died, so we reverence this teaching. If Jesus’ presence is to lighten this crazy, chaotic, death-filled world, it’s up to us.