Sixth Sunday of Easter
Listen for the Holy Spirit
Acts 16:9–15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10, 22—22:5
Arrange four large candles in a worship setting at the front of the sanctuary waiting to be lit during the singing of “Hope Is a Light” CCS 398. Ask three participants to be the voices needed for the Call to Worship in addition to the presider.
Focus Moment supplies: thermos of hot chocolate or mugs of hot chocolate, or balloons; a quilt or comforter.
Song of Stillness
“Be Still” (ministry of music ensemble) CCS 156
OR Listen to the vocal recording of “Be Still” CCS 156 Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings
OR “Listen in the Silence” (sing several times as a congregation) CCS 153
Call to Worship
At least three voices all speak at the same time making a lot of noise. In the background another voice slowly says, “Listen, listen, listen.”
One by one the three voices become quiet so all that can be heard is: “Listen (long pause), listen. Listen for the Holy Spirit.”
The three voices: “Come to the Lord, set aside the distractions of the week. Open yourself to the Holy One. Soften your heart.”
Repeat four times. The first time, use all three voices. The second time drop off one voice. The third time drop another. The last time, one reader speaks the phrase slowly and clearly.
Call and Response Song
“Hope Is a Light” CCS 398
Either a soloist leads and the congregation repeats or the congregation could be split in two groups: left side/right side or males/females or high voices/low voices. One candle is lit at the beginning of each stanza.
Following a few moments of silence, invite congregants to engage in a spiritual practice of a centering prayer—(deep breaths) breathe in, breathe out, (saying to oneself) “Breathe in God’s love, breathe out God’s love.”
Sung Congregational Response
“Spirit of the Living God” CCS 567
OR “In the Quiet of This Day” CCS 161
OR “Soften My Heart” CCS 187
Time of Praise
Scripture Reading: Psalm 67:3–5
Hymn of Praise
“Creator God We Sing/Cantemos al Creador” CCS 114
OR “Sing of Colors/De colores” CCS 332
OR “Alleluia” CCS 120
Congregational hymn OR sing along with the vocal recording found on Community of Christ Audio Recordings.
Objective: Help both children and adults understand ways of experiencing the unseen.
Ask someone to walk through the sanctuary carrying an open thermos of hot chocolate (or something else with a pleasing aroma that would invoke happy memories) so that everyone can smell it. An alternative would be to provide warm mugs for people to wrap their hands around and enjoy the warmth that flows through their hands. Inflated balloons would be another alternative.
These examples of the aromas we could smell, or the warmth of the mugs, are brought about by something we cannot see; but we can experience them through our other senses. The Holy Spirit that Christ promised us as a gift is something that is difficult to see, but something we can experience through a variety of means. For instance, when we listen to the Lord through prayer or hear a song that touches our hearts or receive a warm welcome as we arrive at church, we experience the gift of the Spirit of God. Share examples most relevant for your congregation. With your eyes closed, can you imagine the feeling of the Holy Spirit all around us? Demonstrate using a quilt or comforter to surround several participants. How might you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit?
Time of Peace
Light the peace candle.
Hymn of Peace
“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” CCS 605
OR “Let There Be Peace on Earth” CCS 307
Prayer for Peace
We thank you for the gift of peace that you left us as you promised so long ago. But Lord, we struggle with maintaining the peace within.
We find the media of today bombards us with so much negativity it is hard to not worry about our world. At this moment, on this day, we want to set aside our worries and rely on you for internal peace.
We want to strive for peace in our relationships, peace in our communities, and peace in this world. Help us Lord, help us stay in tune with your presence, your peace. Our prayer, Lord, is for your peace to remain within and spread afar. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Based on John 14:24–29
Disciples’ Generous Response
Scripture Reading: Acts 16:9–15
Scripture emphasizes repeatedly that responding to God, following Jesus Christ, and listening to the Holy Spirit involves our whole life. When God called Samuel, it involved a whole-life response (1 Samuel 3). When Esther faithfully responded to the needs of her people, she put all that she had at risk (Esther 4:1–17).
Community of Christ has always believed everything is spiritual. We understand the physical and spiritual worlds work together and come from God. Paraphrasing from Doctrine and Covenants 28:9a shared in 1830: …all things are spiritual to God, and not at any time has God given us a law which focuses only on the material world. How we manage our material and spiritual lives are equally important. The goal of whole-life stewardship is to balance and integrate our material and spiritual lives.
—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
Hymn of Generosity (sung as the offering is received)
“Take My Life and Let It Be” CCS 608
OR “Can We Calculate Our Giving” CCS 617
This hymn could also be used as a reading. Use one group for stanza 1 and another group for stanza 2. Alternatively, those on one side of the sanctuary could read stanza 1 and those on the other side could read stanza 2. Everyone then reads stanza 3.
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Scripture of Blessing
Psalm 67:1–2, 6–7
Song of Blessing
“Go, My Children, with My Blessing” CCS 650
OR “I Wish God’s Love to Be with You” CCS 663
Leader: Go, my people, for the gift of the Holy Spirit is within you.
People: We shall go feeling renewed.
Leader: Go, my people, with peace in your hearts.
People: We shall go as one.
Leader: Go, my people, and share my love.
People: We shall go to spread Christ’s love.
Leader: Go, my people.
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Exploring the Scripture
Scholars think this Gospel was likely written in Ephesus in the 80s or early 90s CE. Christians met in house churches, but many individuals still attended synagogue. However, during this time the Jewish community started banning Christians from their synagogues. They also faced persecution from Roman rulers. It was important to assure the first generation of disciples of God’s continuing presence in their lives.
It is helpful to put this part of Jesus’ “farewell discourse” in the setting of the preceding verses. In John 14 Jesus offers three promises of presence. In the first promise, Jesus says the disciples will not be orphaned (v. 18). When Jesus returns to God the Father, the disciples will be comforted by a divine presence; a companion called, in Greek, the Paraclete (John 14:16–17). In Greek the noun, parakletos, means advocate or counselor. The Greek verb parakaleo offers further descriptive meanings. They include “to comfort and console,” “to encourage and exhort,” “to call on for help,” or “the one who helps,” to name a few.* The Greek reader recognizes all these ideas in the one word parakaaleo.
In the church, we say Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John writer wants the reader to know the full extent of the blessing God and Jesus are providing the disciples. Faithful disciples will not feel abandoned in the presence of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, that comforts and consoles, encourages, and helps.
The second promise of presence is that Jesus will return. This promise reminds us of Easter morning and the empty tomb. It also reconnects us to Jesus’ visits to rooms with locked doors, and sharing fish on the shore. Jesus’ promise is for believers of all generations—those who knew and touched him and those who believe the stories of the encounters with Jesus. His promise of presence is for each of us, no matter when and where we live.
The third promise is about living in love and keeping Jesus’ word. Faithful disciples follow the example of Jesus. They teach about God’s love, and have the Holy Spirit to remind them of Jesus’ words and deeds. The Paraclete offers encouragement and help. The strongest evidence of faithfulness to Jesus happens in community, rather than as individuals. God, Jesus, and the Paraclete are interconnected. They model mutual care and love. As a triune community they offer love and continuing care for faithful communities of disciples.
Verse 27 introduces the word peace. This is a special peace that Jesus gives. It comes from the way Jesus lived his life with joy, hope, love, and peace. The promise of God’s peace does not mean we live without pain, conflict, loss, or distress. Rather, it assures us Christ’s peace comforts us even when our lives are distressed. We live peacefully when our lives reflect the life of Jesus Christ. When we live and love as Jesus, our lives are filled with God’s peaceful presence.
*George Johnston, “The Spirit-Paraclete in the Gospel of John” (Cambridge University Press, 1970) cited in Interpreters Bible: Luke, John; vol. 8, 747.
- Jesus offered three promises: the presence of the Holy Spirit, or Paraclete; he will return; and peace.
- The triune, loving interrelationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the model for faithful, loving communities of disciples.
- God promises us Jesus’ presence in our lives. We need to focus on living in loving relationship with one another.
Questions to Consider
- Share an example of when you have experienced the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
- How have you experienced the presence of Jesus’ love within a congregation?
- Describe a time when the peace of Jesus Christ was obvious in congregational life.
- How would you explain to a new disciple the concept that Jesus will come again?
- How does the Mission Initiative Invite People to Christ offer the congregation the chance to share the promise of the Holy Spirit with others?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Sixth Sunday of Easter
John 14:23¬–29 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 sixth 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.
We thank you for the gift of peace that you left us as you promised so long ago.
But Lord, we struggle with maintaining the peace within.
The media of today bombard us with so much negativity that it is hard to not worry about our world.
At this moment, on this day, we want to set aside our worries and rely on you for internal peace.
We want to strive for peace in our relationships, peace in our communities, and peace in the world.
Help us Lord. Help us stay in tune with your presence, your peace.
Our prayer, Lord, is for your peace to remain within and spread afar.
This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Read the following to the group: After the resurrection, but before he ascends into heaven, Jesus promises his disciples he will not leave them alone.
“[T]he advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
—John 14:26 NRSV
In other religions and cultures this Holy Spirit also may be referred to as the light within, the inner voice, intuition, instinct, second sight, the Holy Ghost, and many other names. Jesus refers to the Spirit as a teacher to remind us we belong to God and are loved.
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 Spirit, and breathe out the words teach me.
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 Spirit. As you exhale, breathe out teach me.
Continue to focus on breathing in Spirit and exhaling teach me.
Monitor the time. Occasionally give instructions, “Breathe in Spirit, breathe out teach me.”
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 14:23–29 NRSV
Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
Scholars think this Gospel probably was written in Ephesus in the 80s or early 90s CE. Christians met in house churches, but many individuals still attended synagogue. It was a time of persecution, and the community still was forming. They faced expulsion from the synagogue and the loss of strength and security that comes from being part of a faith community. They also faced persecution from the Roman Empire. It was important for these early disciples to be assured of God’s continuing presence in their lives.
We find three promises in the verses just before the passage above. The disciples will not be orphaned (14:18); Jesus will return (14:18–19); and, God will love those who love Jesus and keep his commandments (14:21).
Though Jesus must return to God, he tells the disciples that God will send an Advocate (in Greek Paraclete). As a noun, parakletos means advocate or counselor. As a verb, parakaleo means to comfort and console, to call on for help (John 14:16–17). In the church, we say Holy Spirit. The Gospel writer of John writes with words that help the reader understand the breadth and depth of blessing found in the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit among believers. (George Johnston, “The Spirit-Paraclete in the Gospel of John” (Cambridge University Press, 1970) cited in Interpreters Bible: Luke, John; vol. 8, 747.)
The promise of the Holy Spirit, along with the promises voiced earlier in the chapter, reconnect us with Easter morning, the empty tomb, Jesus’ appearance to Mary in the garden, behind locked doors, and early morn on the Sea of Tiberias shores. Jesus’ promise is for believers of all generations—those who knew and touched him then as well as those who love him and keep his commandments today. Christ’s promise of presence is for each of us, no matter when and where we live.
The promise of Christ’s peace does not mean a life free of pain, conflict, loss, or distress. It is however a timeless promise of presence. In the midst of all life brings, the Holy Spirit, the promised Paraclete, remains, to comfort, console, encourage, and help. We are not alone.
- How have you needed the assurance of God’s continuing presence in your life?
- How have you experienced persecution (or threat of persecution) in your faith journey?
- How have you experienced the fullness of God’s blessing in ways that echo the meaning of Paraklete?
“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 662, “Peace Be With You”