Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 25, 2021
Our wonderful miracle story in Acts continues this week. Peter is being challenged as to the source of the power which enabled him to heal the lame man at the Temple. Peter is unequivocal: the source of this power is the name of Jesus. Jesus is the source of all healing, all strength, and all power. Following this miraculous healing, Peter, James and John are arrested – for teaching in the name of Jesus and also for healing in that same name. They make their defense claiming that the healing was a good deed done in the name of Jesus. Such a deed brought no harm, only good. Peter then reminds those who are challenging him that they rejected this name when they rejected Jesus.
What importance does the name of Jesus hold for you? Are there times when you fail to appreciate the power of that name? For you, is that name the source of all power, strength and healing?
There is almost nothing that could be said about this Psalm because it is so familiar to us and so well loved by everyone. And yet, we are in trying, difficult times. Does this Psalm have something new to say to us in the midst of a deadly pandemic? What is it like to pray this Psalm in the midst of Covid? When people are sick, dying, isolated and afraid, what would it be like not to be in want? How can our souls be revived? What paths are right for us? Are we free of the fear of evil? Do we sense the presence of the rod and staff of the Good Shepherd which comforts us? In the presence of all that troubles us, what does God spread before us? Where do we see abundance instead of scarcity?
As you contemplate what this Psalm says to you during your experience of this pandemic, write a thank you letter to God.
1 John 3:16-24
This epistle sets forth a very strong definition of love: Love is Jesus’s laying down his life for us. If we want to manifest that love to the world, we need to lay down our lives for others. Throughout the Epistle of John, the author speaks of God abiding in us and of us abiding in God. The author then goes on to describe when one is not abiding in God: the “un-abiding in God” is characterized by possession of worldly goods along with a simultaneous ignorance of a brother or sister in need. In other words, if you have everything you need, and you see someone else who does not and do not share what you have, then you are not abiding in God and God is not abiding in you. Love, John goes on to say, is not a matter of words or speech, but is truth and action. Action is following God’s commandment to believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and to love one another.
God’s love does not abide in the one who has the world’s goods, sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help. What does it look like to refuse help? Are there areas in our own lives where we could be guilty of refusing to help someone in need? What does it look like to love in truth and action? Who is the “one another” that we are called to love?
In the epistle of John which we just looked at, we learned that the mark of love is the laying down of one’s life for another. In this Gospel reading, the Good Shepherd is the one who lays down his life for the sake of the sheep. This laying down of his life is the mark of someone who owns for the sheep, not someone who is simply paid to care for the sheep. When sheep belong to the shepherd, the shepherd is motivated to protect his assets from threat. When belonging is part of the equation, there is reciprocity. When we belong to someone, we know that person and that person’s voice. The shepherd tells us that there are other sheep that belong to the same fold in which we find ourselves. They belong too and the Shepherd knows them. They too will know the voice of the Shepherd and will also belong, just as we do. This is the belonging that Jesus purchased for us with his life – and such a purchase was the choice of Jesus. He was not forced into this.
How do you know the voice of Christ? Do you hear it in worship? Through prayer? In the voice of others? Since you belong to Christ, how does He protect and guard you? Who are the other sheep in the fold with you? How do you perceive/receive the ones that you do not know but that Jesus knows? In your eyes, do they belong? How can we be quiet enough so that all can hear the voice of the Shepherd?
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God for ever and ever. Amen.