The Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 17, 2020
A printable PDF is HERE.
In a recent report, a member of Christ Church indicated how shocked he was to see many people walking in and out of a large and crowded grocery story without masks and gloves, all the while failing to keep anything close to physical distancing. “Do they not recognize the incredible danger of this pandemic or the need to protect others from harm?” he asked. “The infection rate continues to grow and people continue to die.” In this time of clear and present danger, it would seem that a good many people find it an enormous challenge to maintain the restrictions that will, indeed, lower the rates of infection and death.
When one hears of Christian leaders eager to open up churches as soon as possible, flaunting restrictions that can save lives “because Jesus will protect us,” one begins to wonder if hundreds of sermons, hymns, Bible studies, and two thousand years of thoughtful reflection on the second half of the Great Commandment actually inform the way people think and live: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). Magical thinking – “Jesus will protect us” – and cutting corners around restrictions because “freedom means I can do anything I darn well please” have no room in a community that takes seriously the mandate to love one’s neighbor as oneself. For such an invitation asks people of faith not only to care for themselves but also for the neighbor, the stranger, the unemployed, the isolated, and especially those who are most vulnerable to infection.
I will not leave you orphaned
In the midst of this global and local trial, the gospel reading for this Sixth Sunday of Easter offers good news and a challenge. The good news is this: We are not alone in this mess of a pandemic.
Our faith enables us to recognize the Spirit is with us, surrounding us and all earth’s creatures – the Spirit who animates our prayer in the household, who enlivens the musicians we hear in recordings, who will strengthen our resolve if we but ask for it in prayer and petition, who encourages physicians, nurses, paramedics, hospital assistants, funeral workers, social workers, public health officials, and scientists who serve the common good, the health and wellbeing of all – many of them serving at risk to their own lives. The Spirit is committed to life.
And from that life-giving Presence flows a challenge or better yet, an invitation: to act with love for the good of others. Keep in mind that of the many words for “love” in Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word used in this reading is agapate: “you all act with love” – not love as a feeling, not love as friendship, but love as an action that benefits the wellbeing of another. There is, as it were, mutual love in the community of the Holy Trinity that cannot be contained but flows into the whole creation. The only question is: will we be agents of this overflowing love – love as an ethic of care for others?
In time, this pandemic will come to an end. What do we want to remember and be remembered for: irresponsible “freedom” or gestures and acts of love?
We have entered into the Great Fifty Days of Easter that will soon bring us to Pentecost. While some Christian communities keep only Easter Sunday and then return to “things normal,” it is not so for the majority of Christians throughout the world. We keep seven weeks of “walking in newness of life,” to quote St. Paul. Worship in the household can take place anywhere but it is most appropriate at table. After all, the risen Christ frequently reveals himself during meals: at Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35); in a Jerusalem apartment (Luke 24:36-43); by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-14). The color appointed for the Easter season is white, the color that reflects and scatters all visible wavelengths of light. Do you have a white tablecloth to dress your table? And speaking of light, it is most appropriate to a light a new white candle for household prayer in Easter, a reflection of the Paschal candle that will adorn the church space once we return to worship together. Anglican spirituality holds that all the senses reveal God’s presence – not just texts for speaking or singing. Budding branches, flowers and incense mark festive holy days among us and are rightly incorporated in household worship. Should you have a crucifix, a cross, or an image of the risen Christ, let this holy artifact be present to focus your prayer.
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Make the sign of the cross and say
Alleluia. (+) Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Sing this hymn with the Christ Church Choir, “Come down, O Love Divine,” The Hymnal 1982 #516
Come down, O Love divine, seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn, till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace, till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.
Pray this prayer
You have prepared for those who love you
such good things as surpass our understanding:
Pour into our hearts such love towards you,
that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
The Word of God for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
The Gospel is the primary reading of the day and should always be read. It follows after a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, a Psalm, and a reading from the early church. The first three scripture texts can be found here:
Read the gospel aloud, slowly, meditatively.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Glory to you, Lord Christ.
Jesus said, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.
On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.
The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Christ.
Listen to the Christ Church Choir, under the direction of Meg Mansfield, sing the Philip Wilby motet, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” at
A reflection by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB
Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, is a leader in promoting Benedictine spirituality, the Monastery of the Heart, among North American Christians. She has served as prioress of her Benedictine community in Erie, Pennsylvania, and co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women. She is a Fellow of St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, England.
Do I believe in the Holy Spirit? You bet I do. Nothing else makes sense. Either the Spirit of God who created us is with us still, either the presence of Christ, who is the Way, abides in us in spirit – or – the God of Creation and the Redeemer of Souls has never been with us at all. God’s Spirit does not abandon us.
If we are to understand emerging consciousness as a manifestation of the Spirit of God alive in the land, then never has an age seen revelation, consciousness, and wisdom working more clearly than in this one. The signs of new awareness of the human relationship to God are everywhere, in all nations, in all peoples. The Holy Spirit has spoken through married couples and professional personnel. The Holy Spirit has spoken through women—and other eminent theologians, theological societies and male scripture scholars as well.
God the Creator and Jesus the Way would move humanity, the early Church was sure, by means of the promptings and presence of the Spirit of God who created us and who lives among us and is in us still. The Holy Spirit is not a disembodied ghost, not an immaterial being. On the contrary: the Spirit embodies the life force of the universe, the power of God, the animating energy present in all things and captured by none. Because of the Spirit, Jesus was not gone and God was not distant, and the life force around us bears it proof.
The static dies under the impulse of the Spirit of a creating God. We do not live in the past. We are not blind beggars on a dark road groping our separate ways toward God. There is a magnet in each of us, a gift for God that repels deceit and impels us toward good. The gifts are mutual, mitered to fit into one another for strength and surety.
We are, in other words, in the most refreshingly trite, most obviously astounding way, all in this together – equally adult, equally full members, equally responsible for the church. The Spirit of God is a wild thing, breathing where it will, moving as it pleases, settling on women and men alike.
Prayers for the church, the world, and all who are in need
These intercessions may be used, adding others in each household
For the peace from above, for the loving-kindness of God, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the peace of the world, for the welfare of the holy Church of God, and for the unity of all peoples, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy
For our bishop, clergy, ministers, and all the people of God, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For our nation, the leaders of nations, and all in authority, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For this city, for all towns, and rural communities, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For the good earth that God has given into our care, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who suffer with illness, those infected by the coronavirus, and for all who serve them at risk to their own lives, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For those who are challenged by isolation, loss of employment, food insecurity, lack of healthcare, and homelessness, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For deliverance from global pandemic, from all danger, violence, oppression, and degradation, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
For all who have (+) died in the hope of the resurrection, and for all the departed, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.
In the communion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Philip and all the saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life, to Christ our God.
To you, O Lord our God.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
O Saving Christ,
guide us in the path of discipleship,
so that, as you have blessed us,
we may be a blessing for others,
bringing the promise of the kingdom near
by our words and deeds. Amen.
Make the sign of the cross as you say
The God of peace, who brought again from the dead
our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
make us perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in us that which is well pleasing in his sight;
And the blessing of God Almighty, (+) the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us, and remain with us always. Amen.
Giving thanks at table
Use this thanksgiving whenever you are at table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Blessed are you, LORD our God, Ruler of the universe,
you nourish the entire world
with goodness, tender love, and mercy.
Blessed are you, O LORD, you nourish the entire world.
We bless you, O Holy Three,
for you provide food and drink to earth’s people,
gifts of field and vine, the work of human hands.
Turn our hearts and hands toward those who have no cup, no bread,
and strengthen us to serve each other in the bonds of friendship.
Blessed are you, O Holy and Life-Giving Three,
you are blessed in your care for all who pray for daily bread.
Introduction: “Irresponsible Freedom,” Fr. Samuel Torvend
Image 1: Hildegard of Bingen, “The World is Surrounded by the Spirit’s Fire,” 1140-1150
Opening acclamation: The Book of Common Prayer 1979
Hymn: “Come down, O Love Divine,” Bianco da Siena c.1350-1434
Collect: The Book of Common Prayer 1979
Biblical readings: The New Revised Common Lectionary adapted for Episcopal Use,2006
Gospel reading: New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible, Washington, DC: The National Council of Churches, 1989
Motet: Philip Wilby, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” 1992
Image 2: Mary Southard, CSJ, “Inner Fire,” n.d.; for more on the work of Mary Southard: https://www.marysouthardart.org/
Reflection on the Gospel: Joan Chittister, OSB, “The Spirit is a Wild Thing,” in In Search of Belief, Ligouri Publications, 2006
Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer, 1979
Lord’s Prayer: The Book of Common Prayer, 1979
Concluding Prayer: with revisions, Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, Nashville: Consultation on Common Texts, 2002; administered by Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Image 3: Louis Delsarte, “The Spirit of Harlem,” 2005; for more on the work of Louis Delsarte: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Delsarte
Blessing: Adapted Birkat ha-mazon from Lucien Deiss, Springtime of the Liturgy, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1979
Image 4: Tuuli Levit, “Another Shabbat,” n.d.