The Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 23, 2020
A printable PDF is HERE.
If we were raised in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Western Europe, our view of reality, of life, has been seriously shaped by a scientific worldview in which truth is equated with scientific fact. Indeed, this is a primary lens through which many if not most American Christians view their religious texts: as factual narratives written hundreds of years ago. The problem is this: when such narratives are read through a literal or scientific lens, they are easily dismissed by those who find it a challenge to accept virgin births, resurrections from the dead, and throne rooms in outer space.
What is missed in this muddle is the simple fact that the scriptures and creeds do not present themselves as scientific accounts to be received literally. Rather, they were written largely – though not exclusively – in the language of image, parable, and metaphor that speak more than one “truth.” If 1 = 1 in the laboratory (as it should), and this is the only way one sees reality, it can be a challenge to grasp that in the world of metaphor, 1 = 2 or 1 = 3 or even more. In the world of faith, truth is not pegged solely to scientific facts. Images and parables and metaphors open up meaning – they do not close it down or reduce to it one thing we can quickly grasp and control.
While a literalist will contend that there is a kingdom of heaven “up there” and that the risen Jesus now sits “at the right hand of God,” a faithful reading of these texts will lead others to see that God who is spirit is everywhere (not simply “up there”); that the royal term “king” is a word of power that has been utterly redefined by Jesus’ crown of thorns, by his solidarity with all those who suffer innocently; and that God’s “right hand” describes God’s power and presence throughout the universe: from the tiniest hazelnut (said Julian of Norwich) to the gurgling of a newborn to the feverish work of a nurse to save the life of an infected patient.
Of course it can be a challenge to excise from one’s imagination the image of an old white man with a beard seated on a throne with a younger version of himself sitting to his right as a pure white dove hovers over the two of them. But excise that image we must.
Following a wounded ruler?
The collect or opening prayer for this Seventh Sunday of Easter can easily be interpreted in a literal manner: God is a king and we poor mortals are God’s obedient subjects – as if the God we worship were a hyped up version of George VI, the father of the current British monarch. No, say the authors of the gospels. We may call God a king only – only – if we hold the crown of thorns next to that royal word, only if we recognize that power is rightly exercised from below and shared in that community of the wounded ruler who is to be found among many suffering the injustice, violence, disease, and plain old fatigue that the world seems to throw our way. For with this wounded ruler, there is no blind submission, only mercy and more mercy than we can imagine. While hymn texts may sing of glorious triumphs from above, he is not “up there” decked out in princely robes. Rather he is here dressed in the life of a doctor, a grocery clerk, a pharmacist, a delivery driver, an unemployed worker, a child who needs food, in each of us. With this wounded ruler, there is no distance between him and his earthly companions: he is as close to us as the blood running through our veins and the sweet air we breathe after a soaking rain.
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.
Make the sign of the cross and say
Alleluia. (+) Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Join the Christ Church Assembly and Choir in singing
“Hail the day that sees him rise,” The Hymnal 1982 No. 214
Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia!
glorious to his native skies; Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
enters now the highest heaven! Alleluia!
There the glorious triumph waits; Alleluia!
lift your heads, eternal gates! Alleluia!
Wide unfold the radiant scene; Alleluia!
take the King of glory in! Alleluia!
See! he lifts his hands above; Alleluia!
See! he shows the prints of love: Alleluia!
Hark! his gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
blessings on his Church below. Alleluia!
Lord beyond our mortal sight, Alleluia!
raise our hearts to reach thy height, Alleluia!
there thy face unclouded see, Alleluia!
find our heaven of heavens in thee. Alleluia!
Pray this prayer
O God, the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph
to your kingdom in heaven:
Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us,
and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
in glory everlasting. Amen.
The Word of God for the Seventh 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:
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
Sing this metrical version of the psalm
with the Christ Church Assembly and Choir
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Read the gospel aloud, slowly, meditatively.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Glory to you, Lord Christ
Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
“I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.
“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Christ.
Listen to the Christ Church Choir sing “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord”
My soul’s been anchored in the Lord. Before I’d stay in hell one day, I’d sing an’ pray myself away. I’ll shout an’ never stop until I reach the mountaintop. My soul’s been anchored in the Lord!
With enthusiasm the music of this African American spiritual proclaims unfaltering faith, even in the face of the most dire circumstances, reflecting the admonition recorded in
I Peter 4: 8-9, “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith.”
A meditation on the Gospel reading by St. Symeon
Symeon the New Theologian (949 – 1022) was a Byzantine Christian monk and poet who was the last of three saints canonized by the Eastern Orthodox church and given the title of
“theologian” (along with John the Apostle and Gregory of Nazianzus) – three people who could speak eloquently of their experience of God. By the time he was thirty, he was elected the abbot of the Monastery of St. Mammas, a position he held for twenty-five years. He attracted many people with his teaching on the presence of the Holy Trinity within each seeking soul.
O grandeur of ineffable glory! O excess of love! The One who embraces all things makes a home within a mortal being; the One by whose indwelling power all things are governed becomes the child who rests heavy in a mortal woman. O astonishing miracle and incomprehensible deeds and mysteries of the incomprehensible God!
You, O human being, yes You! You carry God within yourself as Light. You carry within yourself the One who has brought all things into being and created them, including you who carry him now. You carry Christ within as a treasure inexpressible, unspeakable, without quality, quantity or form, immaterial, shapeless, yet with form in beauty inexplicable, altogether simple, like light – yet as the One who transcends all light.
Who can then adequately explain our joy? Will we not be more blessed and more glorious than any emperor? And, then, in what shall any of us ever be lacking? Truly, in no way shall we lack any of God’s good things.
O grandeur of ineffable glory! O excess of love! The One who embraces all things makes a home within You – within You, O mortal being.
Prayers for the church, the world, and all who are in need
These intercessions may be used, adding others in each household
Let us pray for Christ’s people throughout the world; for our presiding bishop Michael, our bishop Gregory; for all who minister in the Name of Christ; and for the whole people of God. Silence
Let us pray for enlightened leadership in this time of pandemic; for policies and practices guided by sound medical wisdom; and for the good will to persist in life-saving restrictions. Silence
Let us pray for the many who struggle with illness, poverty, unemployment, loss of home, lack of healthcare, and little food and drink; for those in any need or trouble at this time; and for the will to serve our neighbors in need. Silence
Let us pray for those who, at risk to their lives, serve the common good in ambulances, grocery stores, hospitals, medical clinics, delivery vans, and pharmacies; for fire fighters, police officers, home caregivers, and social workers. Silence
Let us pray for the faithful departed (speak their names aloud); and all who grieve the death/s of family members or friends. Silence
Let us praise God for those in every generation in whom Christ has been honored through charitable works and the ministry of social justice. Silence
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.
Receive these prayers, O God,
and transform us through them,
that we may have eyes to see and hearts to understand
not only what you do on our behalf, but what you call us to do,
so that your kingdom will come to fruition
on earth as in heaven.
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: “Avoiding Literalism,” Fr. Samuel Torvend
Image 1: Steve Penley, “Jesus Christ with Crown of Thorns,” n.d.
Opening acclamation: The Book of Common Prayer 1979
Hymn: “Hail the day that sees him rise,” The Hymnal 1982 No. 214
Collect: The Book of Common Prayer, 1979
Biblical readings: The New Revised Common Lectionary adapted for Episcopal Use, 2006
Psalm 68: Psalm text by Richard Leach, Pittsburgh: Selah Publishing Co., Inc., 2007
Gospel reading: New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible, Washington, DC: The National Council of Churches, 1989
Anthem: “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” arranged by Bruce Trinkley
Meditation on the Gospel: Saint Symeon the New Theologian, On the Mystical Life: the Ethical Discourses, Alexander Golitzin, trans., Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Press, 1996
Image 2: Icon of St. Symeon, the Christ-Bearer, n.d.
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
Blessing: The Book of Common Prayer, 1979
Thanksgiving at Table: Adapted Birkat ha-mazon from Lucien Deiss, Springtime of the Liturgy, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1979
Image 3: Marc Jesus, “Table,” 2008