Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 11:1–18, Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1–6, Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
Part of community is trusting others with the blessings and the concerns of our lives and hearts.
Incorporate the joys and concerns that were shared.
Call to Worship
Reader 1: The apostles and other believers in Judea heard that the Gentiles had received the word of God. When Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him.
Reader 2: “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” Reader 1: Then Peter explained what had happened.
Reader 2: “I was in the town of Joppa and while praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down from the sky by its four corners. When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of tame and wild animals, reptiles, and birds. And I heard a voice say,
Reader 1: ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’
Reader 2: “‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’
Reader 1: But the voice from heaven spoke to him again. ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven.
Reader 2: “Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. We went and soon we entered the home of the man who had sent for us.
Reader 1: He told of how an angel had appeared to him and told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’
Reader 2: “As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
Reader 1: When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”
—Acts 11:1–18, adapted
Song of Praise
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” CCS 99
OR “How Can We Name a Love” CCS 2
OR “Blessed Be Your Name” CCS 252
Option 1: Ask the congregants to share examples of how they have seen or experienced members of your congregation displaying the love of God. Ask them to be specific, for example, “When I graduated University, Gwenda made me a card. In that act she was sharing the love of God with me.”
Option 2: Either in small groups or as a whole congregation, ask the congregants how they have shared the love of God with others who are not a part of your congregation. What are additional ways that we can share God’s love with those outside our community?
Hymn of God’s Love
“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” CCS 565
OR “Come Down, O Love Divine” CCS 47
OR “The Love of God” CCS 210
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
Gracious God and Precious Friend,
Extend your peace throughout creation in flowing ribbons of love. Let all who seek you know your presence and be moved to greater acts of peace in their communities. May they know your infinite tenderness and intimate friendship as they seek greater knowledge of you. Bring your presence to those struggling with loneliness and uncertainty, that they may understand your desire for their companionship and reach out to you in love. Be with those who feel weak and useless, that they would find strength in their trials and the confidence to share this strength with others.
Above all, we pray that your peace, love, and grace would impress upon our hearts the desire to live in service to you. As we go forward from this sacred place, may we carry your peace and love with us to all the corners of the world. In Jesus’ most precious name we pray. Amen.
For more ideas, the Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Story: The Smartest Giant in Town
Read The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson, (Puffin Books, 2005, ISBN 9780142402757).
George the Giant buys a new outfit and looks very smart. As he is walking home he encounters others in his community who are in need. He chooses to share what he has with them. While he no longer looks very “smart,” others appreciate his generosity, and George learns that sometimes it’s what’s inside a person—or a giant—that matters most.
OR Engage in a discussion and activities around John 13:34–35 found at www.sermons4kids.com/a_new_commandment.htm.
Hymn of Peace and Calling
“Called by Christ to Love Each Other” CCS 577
OR “Jesus’ Hands Were Kind Hands” CCS 585
OR “All Are Called” CCS 606
Based on John 13:31–35
Hymn of Response (ministry of music or congregational hymn)
“We Are One in the Spirit” CCS 359
OR “Draw the Circle Wide” CCS 273
OR “Friend of the Streetwalker” CCS 289
Disciples’ Generous Response
Scripture Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a
Stewardship Principle 4: Share Generously
Tithing is a spiritual practice. It is a gift of thanksgiving to God in response to God’s generous gifts to us. When we share our tithes, the church can spread joy, hope, love, and peace around the world so others can experience God’s generosity, too.
Support the Church and the Community
Scripture reminds us disciples serve in the congregation and in the community: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Living Christ’s mission happens individually and collectively within our congregations and in the world. As discussed earlier, Doctrine and Covenants 161:3d states: “Understand that the road to transformation travels both inward and outward. The road to transformation is the path of the disciple.” The balance between the inward and outward journey in our personal discipleship is also important in our congregational experiences. The Mission Initiatives help us with this balancing act.
—Stassi Cramm, ed., Choose Generosity, (Herald Publishing House, forthcoming).
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Generosity (sung as the offering is received)
“Take My Gifts and Let Me Love You” CCS 609
OR “Take My Life and Let It Be” CCS 608
OR “From You I Receive” (sing several times) CCS 611
May we not “bring forth” your kingdom.
May we “be” your kingdom
Spelled out in living, loving relationships,
Pouring the salt of discovery on every bland soul,
shedding the light of healing on the breadth of creation,
sharing your wave offerings of joy, hope, love, and peace.
Bless us, then, to be your kingdom
here and now as well as there and then,
Partial, incomplete, yet unwilling to await
Glorious tomorrows at the expense of today.
—Danny A. Belrose, Wave Offerings, (Herald Publishing House, 2005, ISBN 9780830912117), 9.
Hymn of Sending Forth
“Find Your Wholeness” CCS 643
OR “Send Me Forth” CCS 651
OR “The Church of Christ Cannot Be Bound” CCS 347
And all God’s people said: “Amen!”
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Exploring the Scripture
This text presents Jesus’ love command: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another” (John 13:34). The setting follows Jesus washing the disciple’s feet and Judas’ departure to betray Jesus. An early commandment is found in Leviticus 19:18. The instruction there is to “…love your neighbor as yourself.” The commandment to love your neighbor is also found in Matthew 22:34–40 and in Luke’s story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37). John takes the focus from loving neighbor to loving one’s community of disciples. Jesus is talking with his disciples about loving one another. The gospel writer is urging his church members to love one another.
The instruction to love one another is the primary commandment in the Gospel of John. The writer heightens the importance of the command by placing it at the end of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus embodied God’s love throughout his ministry. Jesus knows of his approaching death. He urgently needs the disciples to understand they are expected to show the same mutual loving relationships in their lives and ministry. Jesus modeled the type of love he expects of them when he washed the disciples’ feet. Humble, servant ministry glorifies God’s loving relationship with all people.
Jesus does not lessen the call to love one’s neighbors; he expands on it. Jesus expects the disciples’ love for one another to equal the loving relationship between God and Jesus. He tells the disciples how to measure their success. People will recognize Jesus’ disciples by the way they are in loving relationship with one another.
While loving one’s neighbors is important, it is essential to love one’s companions. This may seem a simple distinction; however, loving people we know well can be difficult. Neighbors are more distant than friends, colleagues, church members, or family. It is often more difficult to love the ones we know well. We know them at their best and at their worst. We know their faults and their giftedness.
The commandment to love one another has implications for us as disciples and for our church community. Imagine if we could genuinely live this love commandment. Invite People to Christ could happen as people see our loving relationships with one another. People might want to know more about this group of people who serve with gracious servant ministries. Our mission statement would be obvious in how we live daily. We would proclaim Jesus Christ through our loving relationships with one another and with those we meet. Our communities would be full of joy, hope, love, and peace. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).
- Jesus gives a new commandment “that you love one another.”
- Faithful disciples understand the new love commandment means we are to be in loving relationship with one another.
- Jesus will know we are his disciples by how we love one another.
Questions to Consider
- When have you experienced the love of another disciple and how has that made a difference in your life?
- What is an example of how loving, servant ministry transformed a family, small group, or a congregation?
- How would you describe the transforming effect loving relationships have on the congregation’s role in Christ’s mission?
- How does “love one another” apply in your congregation?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 13:31–35 NRSV
The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.
The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.
Today is the fifth Sunday of the Easter season. The Easter season continues for 50 days and concludes with the Day of Pentecost.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
Gracious God and precious Friend,
Extend your peace throughout creation in flowing ribbons of love.
Let all who seek you know your presence and be moved to greater acts of peace in their communities.
May they know your infinite tenderness and intimate friendship as they seek greater knowledge of you.
Bring your presence to those struggling with loneliness and uncertainty, that they may understand your desire for their companionship and reach out to you in love.
Be with those who feel weak and useless, that they would find strength in their trials and confidence to share this strength with others.
Above all, we pray that your peace, love, and grace would impress upon our hearts the desire to live in service to you.
As we go forward from this sacred space, may we carry your peace and love with us to all the corners of the world.
In Jesus’ most precious name we pray. Amen.
Read the following to the group: At the last supper Jesus said:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
—John 13:34–35 NRSV
This new commandment is as important today as it was in Jesus’ time. Tensions, misunderstandings, abuse, wars, and oppression are destructive forces. As disciples of Christ we can offer healing to humankind and to all creation as we live this new commandment: Love one another.
During this Easter season, our spiritual practice is a Breath Prayer. During the prayer we will use a word to breathe in and words to breathe out. For today’s prayer we will breathe in the word love and breathe out the words one another.
Sit with a relaxed posture. If you are comfortable, close your eyes. We will spend three minutes in centering prayer.
Breathe in a regular, natural rhythm.
As you inhale, focus on love. As you exhale, breathe out one another.
Continue to focus on breathing in love, and exhaling one another.
Monitor the time. Occasionally give instructions, “Breathe in love, breathe out one another.”
After three minutes share the following instructions:
Close your Breath Prayer by offering a silent word of thanks to God. When you are ready, take a deep breath and open your eyes.
Sharing Around the Table
John 13:31—35 NRSV
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This text presents Jesus’ love command: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” The instruction to love one another is primary in the Gospel of John. One need not look far in John’s Gospel to know what kind of love Jesus is talking about. The very next line is clear. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (13:34).
We should note that though this passage comes right after Judas’ departure from the table, Jesus does not take this opportunity to call out the evil that Judas is about to do. He does not focus on the consequences such actions surely will bring. Rather, he turns his attention to preparing the disciples for what is to come. He speaks of being glorified and loving one another.
When read in the context of the whole of John’s Gospel, we are reminded of Jesus’ servant-like expression of love as he washes the disciples’ feet and says:
“You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right for that is what I am. So if I…have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
—John 13:13–15 NRSV
We also are reminded that this love goes beyond foot washing to something more extreme when he says:
“…love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
—John 15:12–13 NRSV
Jesus embodied God’s love throughout his ministry. Jesus knows about and warns of his approaching death. He urgently needs the disciples to understand they are expected to show the same mutual loving relationships in their lives and ministry. The “glory” of which Jesus speaks is not the glory we typically associate with fame and celebrity status. Rather, this kind of glory is achieved and expressed through the love found in truly Christ-centered community.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
—John 13:35 NRSV
- When have you experienced the Christ-like love of another person or group of persons, and how has it made a difference in your life?
- What does the phrase, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” mean to you? How might it be expressed or shown through Christ-centered community?
“Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:9). The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response.
The offering prayer for the Easter season is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
God of rejoicing,
We share our gifts joyfully and with thanksgiving in response to the generous gifts you have given us. May the offerings we share bring joy, hope, love, and peace into the lives of others that they might experience your mercy and grace. Amen.
Invitation to Next Meeting
CCS 647, “The Peace of the Earth”