As we approach the end of the Easter season, the Revised Common Lectionary brings us to John 14. Whether it’s irony or the work of the Spirit, these verses are some of the most popular funeral texts. That was perhaps more true for last Sunday’s reading, but this week’s is part of the same passage and teaching by Jesus. If you didn’t preach on John last week, you might consider including the entire passage, v. 1-21, in worship or at least in your sermon prep for this week.
One of the main points of the Gospel reading for this week is the promise that Jesus will send the Spirit, otherwise known as the Advocate or Comforter or Companion or Helper, depending on the translation you’re using. This is a good connection to Pentecost, but don’t rush to get there too quickly! Today, the purpose of Jesus’ promise is to assure the disciples that they will not be left alone. In some ways, this is the piece of John 14 that most resonates with the experiences of loss of many folks today. When someone we love is dying, it is comforting to know that their spirit will remain with us even when their life has gone. This is the promise that Jesus gives the disciples before he leaves them.
The reading from Acts is powerful in its description of the altar to an unknown god. This story can be a rallying point for Christian unity or interfaith relationships. Where are the holy places in your community? Not the churches, but the places where people encounter God even when they are not expecting to?
1 Peter basically tells us today that it is good to do what’s right, even if we end up suffering because of it. In this way, we imitate Christ (and Noah, for what it’s worth). Depending on what’s going on in your community, this could be a life-giving or a convicting word for your congregation. Psalm 66 praises God, even in the midst of suffering, because God hears our prayer.
Which of the RCL readings speaks to you this week? Will you use one or several as the focus for your preaching? What themes are relevant for your particular context? Many blessings to you as you prepare to preach and lead worship this week. Please share your questions and ruminations below. Happy preaching!
Katya Ouchakof is an ELCA pastor in Madison, WI, and a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She is grateful that the Easter season is 50 days long, since she still needs to give her godchildren their Easter baskets…
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