Lectionary - Easter 6 Year A

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Acts 17:22-31 Paul speaks in Athens on "the unknown God"
Psalm 66:8-20 Bless our God, O peoples
1 Peter 3:13-22 He was put to death in the flesh, made alive in the Spirit
John 14:15-21 If you love me you will keep my commandments

Possible Hymns
(Numbers refer to The Australian Hymn Book)
64 The Lord is King, lift up thy voice
68 Praise, my soul, the king of heaven
112 God, who stretched the spangled heavens
148 Love divine, all loves excelling
150 Jesus! the name high over all
311 Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly dove
315 O come and dwell in us
318 O Spirit of the living God
327 Holy Spirit, come confirm us
332 Spirit of truth, essential God
339 Thanks to God whose Word was spoken
401 This is my will \ my one command [John 15:12-17]
454 I bind unto my self today
476 O for a heart to praise my God
532 Where cross the crowded ways of life
554 The law of Christ alone can make us free

Sermon summary To see complete sermon click here.

The unknown God

We live in a time of spiritual exploration, in many respects not unlike that in the pagan world of the Greeks when Paul went to Athens. They had a great attraction to novelty, (Acts 17:21), and their city was full of idols to many gods, so Paul entered into debate with them about Jesus and they invited him to their main debating centre (Acts 17:17-19). His approach in this serious encounter with leading thinkers and rulers is interesting. On the one hand he started with their present understanding, referring to their religious practices (the alter to an unknown god, Acts 17:23) and their philosophers (your own poets, Acts 17:28) thus showing respect for their culture and traditions, while on the other hand he presented the message about Christ in an uncompromising manner. From "an unknown god", towards whom they had been groping, Paul would lead them to "the unknown God" whose name and nature was now revealed.

God the Father, Creator

Many different peoples in all sorts of different cultures, living at very different times, and having a variety of religious beliefs and practices know something of God in the wonders of creation, but he does in live in shrines made by human hands (Acts 17:24-25; Romans 1:19-20), but is known from all his works and revealed in Jesus Christ.

Christ the way

If God the Father can be known from Creation, even if imperfectly, what about Christ? Can he, the one true way to God (John 14:6) be known also from creation, like the wisdom of the Greeks with whom Paul debated? As John wrote, he was in the world ... he came to what was his own ... -- John 1:2-4. Word of God which had been expressed in many and various ways visible to all sorts of people, if they had eyes to see it, was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him (John 1:10, Hebrews 1:3). It was necessary for him to come in person because of human rebellion. So Paul spoke of him.

Is the teaching of Jesus enough?

Paul needed to tell the Athenians of Jesus in order for them to have access through faith in him to the perfect revelation of God for their good. They needed the Gospel because their eyes, like ours tend to be, were clouded from the vision of God in creation. But the good news of Jesus was not just the teaching of Jesus.

There are people who like to bracket Jesus with the wise men of old, like Socrates or Confucius; and why not, you might say. His teaching was as wise as any. But Jesus chose to die rather than go and debate with the Athenians because his death and resurrection, rather than his teaching, was like sowing a seed (John 12:20-23). So the word Paul shared with the Athenians did not rest on a compromise with the wisdom of their philosophers, or in adding the sayings of Jesus to its partial truth, but it was a message which pointed to the person of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, the one raised from the dead. Some scoffed, some said they would hear more of it, and others believed. What do you think? Is he the unknown God?

When this Sunday is also Mother Day, an alternative sermon might be considered:-

Should we celebrate Mothers' Day?

Jesus promised his followers that the Holy Spirit would come to them [John 14:15-21], and he would lead people who keep a close relationship with him to discover the way that God was leading them as things changed in the future. Today we look for guidance on the way things are changing in regard to mothers.

Beware of tribal religion
It is not unusual for loyalty to family, home, community and nation to be combined with religious commitment and it can result in the most terrible sectarian or communal violence as we have seen in recent times in Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia, for example. Jesus had no time for that kind of loyalty which failed to put God first and to accept all people as one human family. [Mark 3:31-35; Matthew 10:37; Matthew 10:36-39; Luke 14:26; cf. John 12:25].

When social pressure has the opposite influence
We have a difficulty of another kind. People are being exploited today by being cut off from their roots, so that in the absence of family and other traditions they are more easily manipulated. This makes the role of mothers in direct teaching of the faith most important.

Mothers should be honoured
As long as we avoid the traps of commercial and nationalistic exploitation and put God first, it is good to celebrate motherhood. Jesus quoted with approval the old Jewish law [Matthew 15:4; and see Exodus 20:12], and took care to provide for his mother [John 19:25-27]. Mothers also embody important attributes of God. We speak of God as Father, saying he is our creator. [Acts 17:24-25 and in the Apostles Creed]. To create means "to bring forth" in much the same way as giving birth, and both men and women are made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]. He is both Father and Mother. A mother's love lays the foundation of trust on which all future relationships with other people and with God are built. Today public policy needs to be changed to strengthen the role of mothers and families in our economic system, not by going back to old ways but by discovering new ways to value what is important.

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Order of Service - Easter 6 Year A

The Gathering of the People of God

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
Amen. -- Psalms 66:8

HYMNPraise, my soul, the king of heaven TIS 134 AHB 68

Loving God, Lord of the Church, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed: we have not loved you with all our heart or served you with all our strength; we have been blind to the vision of a renewed world and deaf to your call to costly discipleship; we have been indifferent to the suffering of others and unwilling to forgive one another. In your mercy, Lord, pardon and restore us, that together in the ministry of Christ we may serve you with joy all the days of our life. Amen.

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them...." -- John 20:21-23
By the authority of Jesus Christ I declare that God has mercy on you, pardons you and sets you free. Know that your sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ our Saviour. God strengthen you in all goodness and keep you in eternal life.
Thanks be to God.

DOXOLOGY: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.


Service of the Word

INTRODUCTION OF THEME: The promise of the Holy Spirit; and mothers.
FIRST READING Acts 17:22-31 Paul speaks in Athens on "the unknown God"
[PSALM 66:8-20 Bless our God, O peoples]
[EPISTLE 1 Peter 3:13-22 He was put to death in the flesh, alive in the Spirit]
GOSPEL John 14:15-21 If you love me you will keep my commandments

HYMN Holy Spirit, come confirm us TIS 413 AHB 327


HYMN Thanks to God whose Word was spoken TIS 431 AHB 339

SHARING TIME [Notices, celebrations, requests for intercessions]
A prayer for families (Adapted from Uniting in Worship)
God, our Father, whose motherly care surrounds us,
whose Son Jesus Christ shared at Nazareth the life of an earthly home:
bless our homes, we pray.
Help parents to impart the knowledge of you and your love;
and children to respond with love and obedience.
May our homes be blessed with peace and joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ANTHEM Choir: Lord of life and Lord of nations [SA 63]

THE LORD'S PRAYER [Front of the Hymn Book]

The Sending Forth of the People of God

HYMN Where cross the crowded ways of life TIS 608 AHB 532

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:
In the name of Christ. Amen.

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