Monday, 23 April 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 29 April 2018,
Fifth Sunday of April

The True Vine ... an icon in the parish church in Piskopianó in the mountains east of Iraklion in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Next Sunday, 29 April 2018, is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for this Sunday are: Acts 8: 26-40 or Deuteronomy 4: 32-40; Psalm 22: 25-31; I John 4: 7-21; and John 15: 1-8.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Like the theme of the Good Shepherd the previous Sunday [Easter IV, 22 April 2018], the theme in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Christ as the True Vine, may be so familiar to many of us and to many people in church, that it may be difficult to find an original and challenging approach to this Gospel reading.

This posting looks at the Gospel reading for next Sunday, with reflections too on the other readings that provide context for the Gospel reading and alternative ideas for sermons.

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower’ (John 15: 1) ... a small vineyard in Platanes, near Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 1-8

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’

A Chinese Bible open at the beginning of John 15 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Introduction:

The Gospel story talks about Christ as the true vine, and invites us to abide in him as he abides in us. The Prayer of Humble Access prays ‘that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.’

Communities of faith have often excluded people who are then excluded from worshipping God. The Ethiopian eunuch in the first reading (Acts 8: 26-40) is excluded as a eunuch, but perhaps also because he was black, or a foreigner, or a court official. He can have no heirs, yet he becomes an heir to the kingdom.

The Psalmist (Psalm 22: 25-31) is reminded that no matter how rejected he feels, that the poor shall eat and be satisfied, and all posterity, even those not yet born, will serve God.

In our Epistle reading (I John 4: 7-21), we are reminded that God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God.

The Prayer of Humble Access prays ‘that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us’

Acts 8: 26-40:

As we continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles, we have moved to that part where Saint Luke recounts the spread of the Good News to non-Jews in the Middle East. He has just recalled how the Gospel was brought to the Samaritans, who were rejected because they had a different principal place of worship, scriptural tradition, and a questionable ethnic background (see John 4: 1-42).

This morning, we hear how the Good News is brought to another outcast, a eunuch from Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was then regarded as at being at the extreme limits of the known world. But ‘an angel of the Lord,’ or an agent of God, tells Philip to seek out the eunuch in Gaza, at the edges of the Sinai Peninsula.

Saint Philip has already between an intermediary when some Greeks wish to see Jesus on Palm Sunday, but feel they have been pushed to the margins and excluded by the crowd (see John 12: 20-22).

The eunuch is the trusted court official of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia, and her finance minister, and now he is on his way home. Like the Greeks who were in Jerusalem for the Festival and who wanted to see Jesus, this Ethiopian has been in Jerusalem to worship. He is probably an admirer of Judaism, perhaps he was even born a Jew or has a Jewish background.

But his physical condition might raise questions about how he managed even to enter the Court of the Gentiles in Jerusalem. Eunuchs could have no heirs and therefore had no loyalties. Because of this, they made good servants, slaves, and advisers. But they were not welcome in the kingdom, even if they worshipped God: ‘No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord’ (Deuteronomy 23: 1). Like the Greeks Philip has met, was he too excluded and pushed to the margins at the Festival?

In the ancient world, people always read aloud, so Philip hears the Ethiopian courtier reading part of the Servant Song in Isaiah 53: 7-8, about the Suffering Servant and how the sheep will take on the suffering without a word:

‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.’

Philip rushes up and asks the Ethiopian whether he understands what he is reading. Philip proclaims the Good News to the eunuch by showing how the prophecies in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ.

The translation of this passage in the New International Version (NIV) translation infers Isaiah 53 speaks of the suffering one whose unjust death means they leave no descendants. But there is another, later, passage where Isaiah says:

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’;
and do not let no eunuch say,
‘I am just a dry tree.’
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 56: 3-5).

Isaiah’s vision is radical. He says that those people who are not seen as part of the kingdom are counted in when God brings in new kingdom. Creation will be reformed and this reign of God will be universal. All people will worship God, his kingdom will embrace the whole of the cosmos – and even eunuchs, those without heirs, will become heirs of the kingdom themselves.

In this mission story, Saint Philip is sent out and goes where God sends him. Mission involves going outside the Church, to the boundaries of religious norms and conventions. Saint Philip heads out beyond Jerusalem, out into the wilderness. The conversation between Philip and the Ethiopian is between two people on an equal footing, going together in the same direction.

Saint Philip baptises the man, but Saint Luke does not mention the coming of the Holy Spirit on him. For Saint Luke, the Spirit comes in the context of the community, the Church. This is the first individual baptism described after the first Easter, and it is interesting that this reading makes no mention of baptism being an entrance into any community. Rather, it is a pure acceptance of God’s gift through the crucifixion and a part of being sent out to share the good news.

Saint Philip is then spirited away, as was Elijah (see II Kings 2). Philip and the eunuch did not each other again, as far as we know. Philip next finds himself in Azotus or Ashdod, a port and entry point to the wider Roman world. There he proclaims the good news throughout the region, a Greek-speaking Gentile area, until he arrives home in Caesarea.

Psalm 22: 23-31

Psalm 22, as a whole, is a prayer for deliverance from illness. The psalmist, who is gravely ill, feels that God has forsaken him. In the past, God has helped his people (verses 4-5), and now he asks God to help him. He goes on to say that he will offer thanksgiving in assembly of the community, in the Temple (verse 22).

Now God hears the cry of the poor and the afflicted (verse 26). He provides perpetual life for the poor those who live in awe of him. May all people everywhere turn to God and worship him (verse 27). God is Lord of all (verse 28). All mortals, all who die or go down to the dust (verse 29), worship God. The psalmist says he will live following God’s ways, and so will his offspring. They will be God’s for ever, and will tell future generations about God’s saving deeds.

Love is … more than a box of chocolates (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

I John 4: 7-21

God is love, and this is seen in God sending his Son.

Romantic art and literature from the 19th century on, has conditioned us to think of love as a feeling, a heart-felt feeling associated with desire and intimacy. But this is often self-centred, and effectively selfish: what do I want? Who do I want to be with? Who can meet my needs and desires and support my ambitions?

Saint John is talking here about a more profound type of love – a love that is not expressed in Valentine’s cards or in romantic rhymes and songs, in a box of heart-shaped chocolates, a love that is not a mere inner disposition of emotions, but love that is expressed in choice and action, love that is total self-giving. In the incarnation we see God’s total self-giving and self-emptying.

Self-giving love means identifying with people. There is a well-known joke that an Irish way of proposing is to ask: Would you like to be buried with my people? But behind the humour is the truth that love involves complete identification of the lover with the loved. God totally identifies with us to the point that Christ is born among us, lives and dies among us, is buried with us ... and then the triumph of his love is found in the Resurrection.

God totally identifies with us in the incarnation. And the response we are asked to make to the giving of God’s love is love others.

The author of I John vigorously defends the claims of the incarnation against the gnostic teachings of the separatists in Ephesus. Christ is neither an illusion, an appearance or a manifestation, nor is he a great teacher or prophet, but he is the incarnate, only-begotten Son of God. But, by obeying Christ’s command to love one another, we too become the adopted children of God.

The only way anyone can see that we know God is when they see how we love. Our love for others is as close as we can come on earth to union with the God we cannot see.

The group who had broken away from the Johannine community in Ephesus claimed special knowledge (gnosis) and visions of God, and their failure to love the other members of the community showed that they did not love God.

The Holy Spirit testifies that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has revealed his Father as love. When his love is perfected or matured in us, there is no need for fear any more, and all fear is dismissed and cast aside. The gift of the Holy Spirit is our pledge of union with God.

Returning to the supreme example of love, the author of I John testifies to the reality of the sending of the Son as Saviour.

Love originates in God. A failure to love is the visible evidence of a breach with the unseen God, and a violation of his commandments.

Verse 21, which concludes this section, repeats once again the very foundation of the Christian emphasis on the role of love in the spiritual life: if we love God then we must love one another.

‘Fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink’ … grapes ripening on a vine in Platanes, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 1-8

The use of the phrase ‘I AM’ (ἐγώ εἰμι, ego eimi) is distinctive to the Fourth Gospel. It is significant within Jewish theology, for it is the name by which the God of the Exodus reveals himself to Moses as he commissions Moses to set the Exodus events in motion (see Exodus 36).

Ego eimi
(ἐγώ εἰμί), ‘I AM,’ or ‘I exist,’ is the first person singular present tense of the verb ‘to be’ in ancient Greek, and its use of this phrase in some parts of Saint John’s Gospel is rich with theological significance.

When used as a copula, with a predicate, for example ‘I am Patrick,’ then the usage is equivalent to English. When used alone, without a predicate, as in ‘I am,’ ‘he is,’ ‘they are,’ then the usage typically means ‘I exist’ and so on.

In Saint John’s Gospel, Christ says ‘I am’ (eimi) 45 times, including those occasions when other people quote Christ’s words. On 24 occasions, these are emphatic, explicitly including the pronoun ‘I’ (ego eimi), which is not necessary in Greek grammar. These emphatic references can be sub-divided into ‘Absolute’ or ‘Predicate’ statements.

Ego eimi is used with a nominative predicate seven times in the Gospel:

● I am the bread of life (John 6: 35).
● I am the light of the world (John 8:12).
● I am the gate for the sheep (John 10: 7).
● I am the good shepherd (John 10: 11).
● I am the resurrection and the life (John 11: 25).
● I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14: 6).
● I am the true vine (John 15: 1).

The number of ‘I AM’ sayings is a literary device, for the number seven was regarded as the perfect number, and so indicates that Christ is the perfect revelation. In a similar way, there are also ‘seven signs’ in this Gospel.

Most of the images in the ‘I AM’ sayings have their roots in the Hebrew Bible, where they are used primarily for God:

The bread of life or bread from heaven (see Exodus 16; Numbers 11: 6-9; Psalm 78: 24; Isaiah 55: 1-3; Nehemiah 9: 15; II Maccabees 2: 5-8).

The light of the world (see Exodus 13: 21-22; Isaiah 42: 6-7; Psalm 97:4).

The good shepherd (see Ezekiel 34: 1-41; Genesis 48: 15; Genesis 49: 24; Psalm 23: 1-4; Psalm 80: 1; Psalm 100: 3-4; Micah 7: 14).

The resurrection and the life (see Daniel 12: 2; Psalm 56: 13; II Maccabees 7: 1-38).

The way (see Exodus 33: 13; Psalm 25: 4; Psalm 27: 11; Psalm 86: 11; Psalm 119: 59; Isaiah 40: 3; 62: 10).

The truth (see I Kings 17: 4; Psalm 25: 5; Psalm 43: 3; Psalm 86: 11; Psalm 119: 160; Isaiah 45: 19).

The vine (see Isaiah 5: 1-7; Psalm 80: 9-17; Jeremiah 2: 21; Ezekiel 17: 5-10).

Poetically, the bread and the vine open and close these seven ‘I AM’ sayings.

In the Cathedral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in some of the Eucharistic texts in the Church of England, and in other liturgical traditions, there is an adaptation of traditional Jewish table-blessings, drawn in turn from the Bible, that is said at the Taking of the Bread and Wine:

Priest: Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation:
through your goodness we have this bread to offer,
which earth has given and human hands have made (Ecclesiastes 3: 13-14).
It will become for us the bread of life (John 6: 35).
All: Blessed be God forever (Psalm 68: 36).

Priest: Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation:
through your goodness we have this wine to offer,
fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
It will become our spiritual drink (Luke 22: 17-18).

All: Blessed be God forever (Psalm 68: 36).

[See also Common Worship (Church of England), p 291.]

Our openness to Christ present in the bread and the wine of the Eucharist is at the beginning and the end of our acceptance of who Christ is for us.

On the Sunday passed, we have read about Christ as the Good Shepherd. Next Sunday, we hear a theological reflection on God as vine grower.

God in Christ Jesus is the source of living water, he is the bread of heaven that gives life, and he is also the vine and we are his branches.

This passage comes after Christ speaks of his suffering, death and resurrection and promises to return and to not leave his followers alone. This passage, like the good shepherd passage, is a teaching about life in God and in Christ.

The image is of God the vine grower and the gardener. Christ is the vine and we are branches bearing fruit. The vine is trimmed and this has eschatological implications. But this is not the of the teaching here. Instead, the image offered here is one of abiding and remaining. The image of vine grower, the vineyard, the vine and the branches is one about the living Word existing as the life blood of those who belong to Christ.

The Johannine scholar Raymond Brown says this passage is about the disciples remaining in Christ. Many people in the Church talk about following Jesus and leading a virtuous life. However, in Saint John’s Gospel and in Christ words, there is no concept of a personal relationship with Christ that brings about a virtuous life. Instead, the image of abiding is about being, not about becoming. If we are abiding in Christ, then God is central, not the desires of our egos.

’I am the vine, you are the branches’ … late autumn grapes and branches clinging to vines in November at the Hedgehog on the northern edge of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter V):

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
Grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
in word and sacrament
we proclaim your truth in Jesus Christ and share his life.
In his strength may we ever walk in his way,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

‘I am the true vine, and my father is the vine-grower (John 15: 1) ... vineyards on the slopes of the hills in Tuscany (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested Hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B), in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Acts 8: 26-40:

390, Baptised into your name, most holy
273, Led like a lamb to the slaughter
435, O God, unseen yet ever near
591, O happy day that fixed my choice
214, O Love, how deep, how broad, how high
306, O Spirit of the living God
239, See, Christ was wounded for our sake

Deuteronomy 4: 32-40:

51, Awake, my soul, and with the sun
325, Be still for the presence of the Lord, the holy one, is here
262, Come, ye faithful, raise the strain

Psalm 22: 25-31:

581, I, the Lord of sea and sky
8, The Lord is King! Lift up your voice
492, Ye servants of God, your master proclaim

I John 4: 7-21:

515, ‘A new commandment I give unto you’
216, Alleluia, my Father, for giving us your Son
218, And can it be that I should gain
516, Belovèd, let us love: love is of God
520, God is love, and where true love is, God himself is there
89, God is love – his the care
3, God is love: let heaven adore him
312, Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost
125, Hail to the Lord’s anointed
422, In the quiet consecration
495, Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love
525, Let there be love shared among us
634, Love divine, all loves excelling
432, Love is his word, love is his way
229, My God, I love thee; not because
102, Name of all majesty
214, O Love, how deep, how broad, how high
367, Praise him, praise him, everybody praise him
244, There is a green hill far away
315, ‘This is my will, my one command’
373, To God be the glory! Great things he has done!
530, Ubi caritas et amor
248, We sing the praise of him who died
531, Where love and loving kindness dwell

John 15: 1-8:

629, Abide among us with thy grace
39, For the fruits of his creation
311, Fruitful trees, the Spirit’s sowing
422, In the quiet consecration
524, May the grace of Christ our Saviour
451, We come as guests invited
394, We praise you Lord, for Jesus Christ

A Mediterranean village vineyard … grapes ripening in Tsesmes, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 22 April 2018,
Fourth Sunday of Easter

Christ the Good Shepherd, depicted on the reredos in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Introduction:

Sunday next, 22 April 2018, is the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for this Sunday are: Acts 4: 5-12 or Ezekiel 34; Psalm 23; I John 3: 16-24; John 10: 11-18.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

This posting looks at the Gospel reading for next Sunday, which is one that is so familiar to many of us, and to the vast majority of people who are going to be in church next Sunday that it may be difficult for us to find an original and challenging approach to this Gospel reading.

There are reflections too on the other readings that provide context for the Gospel reading and alternative ideas for sermons.

John 10: 11-18

[Jesus said:] 11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Christ the Good Shepherd … the Hewson Memorial Window in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Introducing the text:

We are still in the Easter season, as I was reminding us last week. The Easter Season is not just Easter Day and a day or two after while the bank holiday weekend lasts or the children are still out of school, or until the Easter vestry meets.

Easter is a season that lasts for a full 50 days. So, while this is not on first reading an Easter or post-Resurrection reading, we have this Gospel reading next Sunday to challenge us to think and to ask who the Risen Christ is for us.

In Saint John’s Gospel, there are seven ‘I AM’ sayings in which Christ says who he is. The Dominican author and theologian, Timothy Radcliffe, points out that that in the Bible, seven is the number of perfection. We know of the six days of creation and how God rested on the seventh. In Saint John’s Gospel, we have seven signs and seven ‘I AM’ sayings disclosing for us who Christ truly is.

The seven signs in Saint John’s Gospel are:

● Turning water into wine in Cana (John 2: 1-11);
● Healing with a word (John 4: 46-51);
● Healing a crippled man at Bethesda (John 5: 1-9);
● The feeding of 5,000 (John 6: 1-14);
● Walking on water (John 6: 16-21);
● The healing of the man born blind (John 9: 1-7); and
● The Raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11: 1-46).

The seven ‘I AM’ sayings In Saint John’s Gospel, disclosing for us who Christ truly is, are:

● I am the Bread of Life (John 6: 35, 41, 48-51);
● I am the Light of the World (John 8: 12, 9: 5);
● I am the Door of the Sheepfold (John 10: 7, 9);
● I am the Good Shepherd (John 10: 11, 14);
● I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11: 25);
● I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14: 6);
● I am the True Vine (John 15:1, 5).

In the Book of Revelation, we have the seven churches and the seven seals. And I could go on.

On Sunday next, the Gospel passage presents us with the best-known and best-loved ‘I AM’ sayings, which is repeated twice in this passage: ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ (John 10: 11, 14).

This is such a popular image – one that has been with many of us since our Sunday School and childhood days. I think, perhaps, that the image of the Good Shepherd is one of the most popular images to fill stained-glass windows in our church buildings, surpassed in popularity only by windows showing the Crucifixion or the Last Supper.

But sometimes I have problems with our cosy, comfortable image of the Good Shepherd. Christ is so often portrayed in clean, spick-and-span, neatly tailored, nicely dry-cleaned, red and white robes, complete with a golden clasp to hold all those robes together.

And the lost sheep is a huggable, lovable, white fluffy Little Lamb, a little pet, no different from the Little Lamb that Mary had in the nursery rhyme and that followed her to school.

But shepherds and sheep, in real life, are not like that.

I remember once, on Achill Island, hearing about a shepherd who went down a rock-face looking for a lost sheep, and who lost his life. Local people were shocked – lambs don’t fetch a price in the mart that makes them worth losing your life for.

The sheep survived. But as you can imagine, in the process of being lost, it had been torn by brambles, had lost a lot of its wool, was bleeding and messy. Any shepherd going down after a lost sheep will get torn by brambles too, covered in sheep droppings, slip on the rocks, risk his life. And all for what?

And yet Christ says he is the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep, in the face of great risks from wolves and from the terrain, and against all common wisdom, as the hired hands would know.

Christ, against all the prevailing wisdom, identifies with those who are lost, those who are socially on the margins, who are smelly and dirty, injured and broken, regarded by everyone else as worthless, as simply not worth the bother.

God sees us – all of us – in our human condition, with all our collective and individual faults and failings, and in Christ totally identifies with us.

Looking at the text:

Christ has already told those who are listening: ‘I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved ... and find pasture ... the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have [spiritual] life, and have it abundantly’ (verse 9-10). Now, when he speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd, the image is one that is familiar to those who hear him. True followers, he tells them, recognise the Good Shepherd.

Perhaps they are prompted to recall that David too had been a good shepherd (I Samuel 17: 34-35), but this was when he lived on the margins, and before he became king. Would they recall the many Old Testament promises that God would come to shepherd his people (Isaiah 40: 11; Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Ezekiel 34: 11)?

When Moses, Aaron and Miriam led the ex-slaves out of Egypt and into freedom, the people learned as they went to appreciate the value of a nomadic life.

They learned, first, that everything is a gift from God, symbolised by the manna, the first Bread of Life. And they learned, too, that worship need not be centred in one place. They came to value Tent over Temple and sheep over settled land. To be a shepherd was a noble occupation – a continuing theme in Jewish history.

Entering the Promised Land, these nomads found themselves surrounded by nations whose powerful elites ruled by subjugating the poor and weak. Yet this new community understood themselves to be completely differently. They were equal partners with each other. And they were equal partners because – as they learned in their wilderness – they were partners with God, the true owner of the land, with God who, as with the manna in the wilderness, called them to share in common all they had.

They had come to value equality and mutual respect. From the beginning, these ex-slaves understood themselves as one people, who lived in an equal partnership with each other and with God by holding fast to the values of the Exodus, when they shared the manna in the wilderness.

But by the time of Christ, however, all this had changed. With the development of a royal aristocracy and the adoption of Temple worship under King Solomon, nomadic values faded and social divisions appeared.

Social strife and class warfare appeared, and any understanding of the land as an equally shared resource belonging to God disappeared.

The kingdom then split into two nations, Israel and Judah, and Judaism split into rival branches. Some were centred on the Temple in Jerusalem, while Samaritan Judaism had its own rival temple on Mount Gerizim. Two kingdoms, two Temples, fear and hatred, injustice and inequality, were in sharp contrast to Christ’s message of radical inclusion, symbolised in Saint Luke’s image of the Good Samaritan and Saint John’s image of the Good Shepherd.

In Christ’s time, shepherds are the dispossessed, the lowest rung of society. They no longer own their own land. And when they longer owned their own sheep they often ended up as the hired hands of the wealthy urban dwellers, the absentee landlords who feature in so many of the Gospel parables.

These hired shepherd-servants depend for their livelihood on work that requires them to be out in the fields and away from their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, the family members any honourable man would have stayed home to protect. As a result, shepherds were considered to be men without honour. At best, they were unreliable; at worst they were borderline bandits. Shepherds are despised as much as Samaritans. In this context, a good shepherd, like a good Samaritan, is a contradiction in terms.

As with Saint Luke’s story of the Good Samaritan, Christ uses the image of the Good Shepherd, a despised external ‘other,’ to challenge our preconceptions about others. The invitation is to think about what is really important in human relationships. And Christ’s answer is always the same: compassion, individual moral character, and generous, inclusive action. We are not to condemn by assigning human beings to hated categories.

Christ constantly challenges his followers to live out the Gospel on the margins as he consistently placed himself among those who society had rejected: tax collectors, sinners, Samaritans, shepherds …

Verse 11:

Now he says that he is the ‘good,’ the real or proper ‘shepherd,’ the one who dies for his ‘sheep,’ his flock (verse 11).

Verse 12:

But the ‘hired hand’ (verse 12) does not care enough to save the sheep from the ‘wolf.’ Old Testament prophets spoke of leaders of Israel in these terms, so Jesus probably speaks of them here – shepherds who are not worthy of the name.

Verse 15:

Christ’s relationship to people is like the Father’s relationship with him (verse 15).

Verse 16:

Who are the ‘other sheep’ in verse 16? Are they the Samaritans? Are they non-Jews, the gentiles, the nations? They will have equal status with those who already follow Christ, as part of one Church.

Verse 18:

Christ has been given the authority to choose to die and the power to rise again from the dead. He is in control of his own death and resurrection.

A truly Easter theme for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

The context of the other Sunday readings:

And how should we respond to that?

The answer to that is provided by the context in which people are going to hear this Gospel reading tomorrow week: the context of the other readings.

Christ as the Good Shepherd … a mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 23:

The most obvious and most likely connections to be made between the readings tomorrow week is that between the Gospel reading and the Psalm (Psalm 23).

In the ancient Near East, the king was seen as shepherd (verse 1-4) and as host (verses 5-6). God faithfully provides for, and constantly cares for, his sheep. He revives our very lives, the ‘soul’ (verse 3), and guides us in godly ways or ‘right paths.’

Even when we are beset by evil or find ourselves in the ‘darkest valley’ (verse 4), we have nothing to fear. God’s ‘rod,’ the shepherd’s defence against wolves and lions, protects us. His ‘staff’ (verse 4), used for rescuing sheep from thickets, guides us.

The feast (verse 5) is even more impressive, for it is laid out for us, the table is set for us, in the presence of his foes. Kings were plenteously anointed with oil, a symbol of power and dedication to a holy purpose.

The psalmist trusts that God’s ‘goodness and mercy’ and God’s steadfast love (verse 6) will follow or pursue him, as do his enemies, throughout his life. He will continue to worship in the Temple or ‘dwell in the house of the Lord,’ as long as he lives.

Acts 4: 5-12

The Revised Common Lectionary provides for either an Old Testament reading or a reading from the Acts of the Apostles as the first reading: either Acts 4: 5-12 or Ezekiel 34; Psalm 23; I John 3: 16-24. And the intention is that you should prefer to opt for the reading from Acts rather than Ezekiel for the first readings.

In the previous Sunday’s reading (Acts 3: 12-19; the Third Sunday of Easter), we hear how Peter and John go to the Temple to pray, how Peter heals a crippled man, who then walks and leaps and praises God (Acts 3: 8), and he enters the Temple with them. Peter then calls on the people to repent of their waywardness and to ‘turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord ...’ (Acts 3: 19-20). While Peter and John are speaking (Acts 4: 1), they are arrested for ‘proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead’ (verse 2).

Now, this coming Sunday, we hear how the Sanhedrin meets the next day (4: 5). The elders were religious and local judges; the ‘scribes,’ mostly Sadducees who did not believe in an afterlife, were experts in the Mosaic law and its interpretation.

Among them (in verse 6) we find Annas, a former high priest who is the power behind the throne – five of his sons became high priests. Caiaphas, the high priest 18-36 AD, is his son-in-law. John may be Jonathan, Caiaphas’ successor. We do not know who Alexander is.

John and Peter are asked to explain who gave them power or authority to cure the lame beggar (verse 7).

It is interesting that the power and authority that challenges and perplexes the ruling hierarchy in Jerusalem is not a challenge to their right to monopolise the office of High Priest, but their work with someone who, because he is both disabled and poor must sit outside the Temple gates, has been excluded from full religious rights, is not accepted as a member of the religious community, is one of the lost sheep.

‘Little Children, love one another’ … the Basilica of Saint John on the hill of Ayasoluk, overlooking Ephesus (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I John 3:16-24

In the Epistle reading, Saint John the Divine, Saint John the Evangelist, tells us that our response to this outpouring of love from God, an outpouring that is risky and beyond all human understanding of generosity, is to love. To love not just those who are easy to love, but to love those who are difficult to love too. And to love beyond words.

He says: ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.’

Jerome, in his commentary on Chapter 6 of the Epistle to the Galatians 6 (Jerome, Comm. in ep. ad. Gal., 6, 10), tells the well-loved story that John the Evangelist continued preaching even when he was in his 90s.

Saint John was so enfeebled with old age that the people had to carry him into the Church in Ephesus on a stretcher.

And when he was no longer able to preach or deliver a long discourse, his custom was to lean up on one elbow on every occasion and say simply: ‘Little children, love one another.’

This continued on, even when the ageing John was on his deathbed.

Then he would lie back down and his friends would carry him back out.

Every week, the same thing happened, again and again. And every week it was the same short sermon, exactly the same message: ‘Little children, love one another.’

One day, the story goes, someone asked him about it: ‘John, why is it that every week you say exactly the same thing, ‘little children, love one another’?’

And John replied: ‘Because it is enough.’

If you want to know the basics of living as a Christian, there it is in a nutshell. All you need to know is. ‘Little children, love one another.’

If you want to know the rules, there they are. And there’s only one. ‘Little children, love one another.’

As far as John is concerned, if you have put your trust in Christ, then there is only one other thing you need to know. So week after week, he would remind them, over and over again: ‘Little children, love one another.’

That is all he preached in Ephesus, week after week, and that is precisely the message he keeps on repeating in his first letter (I John), over and over again: ‘Little children, love one another.’

Love one another. God loves us. We ought to – no, we must – love one another.

That’s what it’s all about.

All of our concerns – which may include global warming, the causes and effects of poverty, the AIDS crisis, healing and wholeness, how we cope with new life and with death in our parishes – come back to that core question: how do we love another?

‘Little children, love one another … because it truly is enough.’

‘He shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom’ (Isaiah 40: 11) … a stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical resources:

Liturgical Colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter IV):

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
Raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful Father,
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again.
Keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Christ the Good Shepherd … a window in Christ Church, Leamonsley, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested Hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year B), in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Acts 4: 5-12:

326, Blessèd city, heavenly Salem (Christ is made the sure foundation)
327, Christ is our corner–stone
87, Christ is the world’s light, he and none other
211, Immortal love, for ever full
98, Jesus! Name of wondrous love!
99, Jesus, the name high over all
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing
340, Sing and be glad, for this is God’s house!
117, To the name of our salvation
493, Ye that know the Lord is gracious

Ezekiel 34: 1-10:

589, Lord, speak to me that I may speak
438, O thou, who at thy eucharist didst pray
526, Risen Lord, whose name we cherish
20, The King of love my shepherd is
9, There’s a wideness in God’s mercy

Psalm 23:

644, Faithful Shepherd, feed me
645, Father, hear the prayer we offer
466, Here from all nations, all tongues, and all peoples
467, How bright those glorious spirits shine
655, Loving Shepherd of your sheep
433, My God, your table here is spread
235, O sacred head, sore wounded
365, Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the King of creation
20, The King of love my shepherd is
21, The Lord’s my shepherd; I’ll not want
448, The trumpets sound, the angels sing

I John 3: 16-24:

92, How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
655, Loving Shepherd of your sheep
442, Praise the Lord, rise up rejoicing
509, Your kingdom come, O God

The Good Shepherd ... a stained glass window in Saint Mary’s Church, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 15 April 2018,
Third Sunday of Easter

Christ appearing to his disciples at the table, Duccio, ca 1308-1311

Patrick Comerford

Sunday next, 15 April 2018, is the Third Sunday of Easter. The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are: Acts 3: 12-19, or Micah 4: 1-5; Psalm 4; I John 3: 1-7; Luke 24: 36b-48.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Introduction:

If you were not a regular church-goer but went along on Easter morning and paid close attention, you may have gone home with two clear impressions:

● Easter is all about chocolate and fluffy little bunnies

● Easter is over once Easter Day is over.

In conversations over the past week, it appears that Easter is over for many of our priests, parishioners and parishes. Not because the children are back at school and most Easter Vestries have met. But the special Easter greetings, preface, blessings and dismissals are gone, we have stopped singing the Easter Anthems and Easter hymns, and the readings from the Acts of the Apostles have been forgotten.

Many of our clergy seem to have forgotten – and so people in our parishes so often are not taught – that Easter is not just for Easter Day. The Risen Christ is not placed back into the tomb nor is the stone rolled back across it after Easter Day is over.

This season is a celebration of our new creation in the Risen Christ, and is a full season of 50 days. The whole season is Easter, just as the twelve days of Christmas are Christmas. Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost do not form three seasons. This Easter Season celebrates the three dimensions of the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the sending of the Spirit.

These 50 days amount to one-seventh of the year, and they form our great ‘Sunday’ of the year. Just as Sunday is the first and the eighth day, so the ‘great Sunday’ of the 50 days of Easter begins with the day of the Resurrection and continues through eight Sundays, or an octave of Sundays, a ‘week of weeks.’

The readings and the collect of the day (the Third Sunday of Easter) are reminders that we are still in the Easter Season, that we ought still to be rejoicing that Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

This posting looks in particular at the reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel reading.

‘Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate’ (Acts 3: 13) … Christ stands condemned before Pilate, a scene on Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The First Reading (Acts 3: 12-19):

12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

17 ‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

This year [2018], the Easter season continues until 20 May, the Day of Pentecost. But to walk in the light of the Risen Christ is a call to us not just on Easter Day, not just on Sundays, but every day, for ever and ever. And this reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 3: 12-19) shows how the Apostles lived out that life in the Risen Christ even after the Day of Pentecost.

Peter and John are on their way to the Temple when, at the gate to the Temple courtyard, they meet a man who has been lame from birth. This man, like Lazarus outside the gates of Dives (Luke 16: 19-31), or the blind man outside the gates of Jericho (Luke 18: 35-43), is forced outside the gates, outside the community, outside the social and religious community, because of his disability, marginalised and forced to beg to survive.

But Peter challenges custom and convention, and commands him ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk’ (Acts 3: 6). The man jumps to his feet like a child filled with joy, walks into the Temple precincts with Peter and John, ‘leaping and praising God’ to the astonishment of all the people.

And this is where our story picks up this morning, with Peter preaching to the crowd, telling them it is not by the power of Peter and John that this man has jumped up and walked, but rather by God’s power, through Christ.

The titles of God that Peter uses (verse 13) are the same titles God identifies himself with to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3: 6). And this is the God who has ‘glorified’ or lifted up Christ. Peter says that only recently, at the crucifixion, people ‘acted in ignorance,’ yet God’s plan is accomplished, and there is a second chance.

The Resurrection is a second chance. And that is how it is also presented in the reading for Sunday morning.

‘They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence’ (Luke 24: 42-43) … fish on sale on a stall in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 24: 36b-48:

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

The fish provide a literary devise for Saint Luke, marking beginnings and endings … fish on sale in a market in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Looking at the Gospel reading

You will recall how Christ calms the storm on the sea and the fear of the disciples earlier in this Gospel (Luke 8: 22-26). And the bread at Emmaus and the fish in the Upper Room recall the five loaves and the two fish that Christ feeds the multitude with in this Gospel (Luke 9: 12-19).

So, Saint Luke is using the beautiful literary form of enclosure in his Gospel. He is linking the incarnation with the resurrection, weaving them together in so many ways. God becomes human in Christ and identifies with us. Now God in Christ is inviting us to be like him, not just in some abstract, philosophical way, but in a real, incarnate way.

In my beginning is my end …
… In my end is my beginning. (TS Eliot, East Coker)

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from … (TS Eliot, Little Gidding)

The Risen Christ has appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and has shared bread with them (Luke 24: 13-32). Instead of staying on in Emmaus, these two return to Jerusalem, and they hear from ‘the eleven and their companions’ (verse 33) that Christ has also appeared to Peter. As they are talking, the Risen Christ comes and stands among them, and declares: ‘Peace be with you’ (verse 36).

The peace he proclaims is the peace the angels proclaim at the birth of Christ (Luke 2: 14). Luke begins and closes his Gospel with similar promises. The appearance of the incarnate Christ at the first Christmas and the appearance of the Risen Christ at the first Easter are heralded by angels proclaiming peace (Luke 2: 9-15; 24: 4-7).

And as the shepherds, once counted out, once left in the dark and in danger, outside the city and outside the community, socially and religiously, make haste and give praise to God for what they have heard, so too in our reading in Acts the man left in physical darkness and forced into the role of an outsider is soon ‘walking and leaping and praising God’ (Acts 3: 10).

The initial response to the incarnation was one of terror and fear (Luke 2: 9-10). The initial responses to the Resurrection are ones of fear and terror too, on the part of the women at the grave and on the part of the eleven hiding in the Upper Room (Luke 24: 5, 37).

With the horrors of Calvary still in their minds, it is no wonder the presence of the Risen Christ is too much to comprehend. Resurrection is not easy to grasp, and so there is this story is filled with a mixture of too much fear and too much joy for belief. Saint Luke gives us a powerful description of the disciples disbelieving for joy – ‘while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering’ (Luke 24: 41).

But the Risen Christ calms both their fears and their disbelief by eating fish – the fact that it is broiled fish provides an earthy detail in an event beyond belief – and he begins to interpret, as he had earlier in the day on the road to Emmaus, all that is written about him in Scripture.

The incarnate Christ is the Risen Christ in flesh. Touch me and see (verse 39). Just as he takes the fish in his hands, we are invited to take hold of the Body of Christ. It is no accident that the Greek word here for fish, ἰχθύς (ichthus) is a common acronym in the Early Church for ησοῦς Χρειστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.’

Christ feeds us spiritually and physically, and he comes to dine with us, not just in the past, not just on one Easter Day, but now, on this coming Sunday morning. And we are to be his witnesses, proclaiming his name to all nations, all ethnicities, all languages, across all divisions.

There is no room for division in the Body of Christ. Instead, there is ‘repentance and forgiveness’ (verse 47).

With a play on words in Latin, Tertullian, one of the patristic writers, wrote: Caro cardo salutis, the flesh is the hinge of salvation (Tertullian, De resurrectione mortuorum VIII, 6-7). The Paschal Mystery, the mystery of life, and our personal and collective participation in those mysteries, ‘hinges’ on the flesh. ‘Handle me,’ says the Risen Christ to the startled disciples. ‘See my hands and feet, that it is I myself.’ If touching him does not convince them, his asking for food does. He eats, this friend who came among them eating and drinking, ‘a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ (Matthew 11: 19), who changed in his body this innermost reality of our flesh.

On the great day of the Resurrection, Saint Luke portrays the Risen Christ doing precisely what Christ does before the Crucifixion: he eats with us, he dispels fear, he proclaims peace, especially to those caught up in spirals of violence from which they cannot escape, he opens the meaning of the Scriptures to those who listen – just as he does at the very beginning of his public ministry when he opens the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah in the in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4: 16-19).

It is he who tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, attend to the stranger, uncover the structures that mask injustice and challenge the institutions that perpetuate suffering. Now, on the Easter morn, he commissions us to be his witnesses (Luke 24: 47-48). We are to do the same.

Today the scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing, every time we eat with him, proclaim his word and invite the world into the kingdom.

Today is the day to do that. Today is the day of salvation, the glorious day of the Lord, the day of Resurrection, the day of the coming of God’s kingdom.

Today is the day of resurrection, of the in-breaking of God’s kingdom, and no regrets of yesterday or anxieties about tomorrow should keep us from it. Christ is Risen!

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical Colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter III):

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread.
Open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Christ is Risen ... a Resurrection scene in a stained-glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested Hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Third Sunday of Easter (Year B), in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Acts 3: 12-19:

381, God has spoken – by his prophets
551, How can we sing with joy to God
99, Jesus, the name high over all
231, My song is love unknown
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing
234, O Love divine, what hast thou done?
288, Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son
117, To the name of our salvation

Micah 4: 1-5 [6-9]:

118, Behold the mountain of the Lord
501, Christ is the world’s true light
263, Crown him with many crowns

Psalm 4:

63, All praise to thee, my God, this night
652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
620, O Lord, hear my prayer

I John 3: 1-7:

516, Belovèd, let us love: love is of God
92, How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
226, It is a thing most wonderful
7, My God, how wonderful thou art
214, O Love, how deep, how broad, how high

Luke 24: 36b-48:

256, Christ is risen as he said
263, Crown him with many crowns
264, Finished the strife of battle now
219, From heav’n you came, helpless babe
338, Jesus, stand among us
424, Jesus, stand among us at the meeting of our lives
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing
306, O Spirit of the living God
505, Peace be to this congregation
286, The strife is o’er, the battle done

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.