Scripture for the sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 17.22-31; Psalm 66.7-18; 1 Peter 3.13-22; John 14.15-21
After the recent internet ransom attack that took many organisations’ computer files hostage, I heard the Rev. Lucy Winkett, rector of St James, Piccadilly, comparing our relationship to computer networks to our ancestors’ relationship to agriculture. She observed that as our predecessors made gods out of the factors affecting crops and weather, so we make gods, or at least gurus, of those who control the mystery (as it is to many) of networking.
It is in many ways reminiscent of the environment in which the Apostle Paul found himself in Athens, confronted by a society evidently seeking to express spirituality, but seeking more than finding, and following false gods, rather than (as Paul saw it) the true God to be found through Jesus. Uncharacteristically, Paul adopted a respectful approach to the faith of the Athenians, simply sharing the story of his own journey, rather than confronting and condemning false worship.
We might ponder this approach as we draw near to ten days of prayer with the theme “Let Your/Thy Kingdom Come,” aimed at praying for our neighbours to come to know Christ. Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of Paul’s book and approach our neighbours’ journeys of spirituality with respect, simply sharing our own journeys, and demonstrating through our own lives how spiritual satisfaction is to be found and expressed through following Christ.
What does Jesus suggest? He suggests keeping his commandments. He said, “If you love me, all I’m asking is that you keep my commandments.” In effect, he requests, “All I’m asking is that above all else you try to love one another, if for no other reason than because you love me.”
What about us? How do we channel the love that we are supposed to have for Christ into our lives and those around us? Where do we suppress or condemn, and where do we start a conversation? Where do we let those little false gods creep into our own lives, that get in the way?
If the kingdom is to come, it has to come to us first, and through us to others. In this, action is an important accompaniment to prayer – or we become simply a social club, and Jesus did not need to be crucified for that, nor for us to go in pursuit of false gods, like control, security, efficiency, austerity; and so on.
One way to demonstrate faith in action is to join in this Sunday’s world-wide prayer for an end to famine – and to invite God to speak to us, through prayerful listening, to guide our own part in ending hunger and famine throughout the world. Each of us might only be able to accomplish a little, but magnified through myriads of praying Christians, who knows what a cumulative difference might be made.