Hymn 516 Come down, O Love divine
In the Gospel lesson today Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will come to dwell with his disciples for comfort, strength, and mission. This fervently personal hymn expresses the yearning of a soul drawn to God, seeking the Spirit. Originally Italian, it was translated by R. F. Littledale in the 19th century. Ralph Vaughan Williams named the tune “Down Ampney” for the Gloucestershire village where he was born.
--Donna Wessel Walker
1 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.
2 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.
3 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.
1 Peter 3:13-22
O God, 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, for ever and ever. Amen.
The First Lesson
Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we too are his offspring.’
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
7 Bless our God, you peoples; *
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
8 Who holds our souls in life, *
and will not allow our feet to slip.
9 For you, O God, have proved us; *
you have tried us just as silver is tried.
10 You brought us into the snare; *
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
11 You let enemies ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water; *
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
12 I will enter your house with burnt-offerings
and will pay you my vows, *
which I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.
13 I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts
with the smoke of rams; *
I will give you oxen and goats.
14 Come and listen, all you who fear God, *
and I will tell you what he has done for me.
15 I called out to him with my mouth, *
and his praise was on my tongue.
16 If I had found evil in my heart, *
the Lord would not have heard me;
17 But in truth God has heard me; *
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
18 Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, *
nor withheld his love from me.
1 Peter 3:13-22
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you-- not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
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 Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
From The Lectionary Page: http://lectionarypage.net
We are called to be a community of a particular sort with a distinctive brand or identity which clearly shows the world around us just who we are.
The mark, the identifier, of this community is love. What a simple thing to say and what a difficult thing to do and achieve! This quote may give us some insight into why this is:
GK Chesterfield said; “In one place in the Bible, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. In another place he tells us to love our enemies. This is because, generally speaking, they are the same people.”
Of course, we are not talking about a warm fuzzy feeling focused on one person in hopes that that feeling will be returned so that we can live happily ever after. Jesus is inviting us into something very different. He calls us to a life of AGAPE. This is self-giving, sacrificial love which seeks nothing for itself but instead seeks only to aid and help the other. Love is hard; especially when we are invited by Jesus to love people we don’t really like.
The heart of the matter is his: Loving people you like is difficult enough; how can Jesus’ order us, command us to love even those we don’t like? In order for this conundrum to be overcome we need to tease out the Gospel in this text. We need to be able to hear the good news being announced to us.
There are two clues in the reading which point us the grace found here. The first is this:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments”.
We hear these words as law, as a rule, as a command to be obeyed, as a work to be achieved.
“If you want to prove to the world and to God that you love me, then you will have to show it by loving one another.”
That’s what we hear; but Jesus gave us a word of gospel, not law; a word of promise, not judgement.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments,” This is a statement of gospel truth. It points toward the reality of a relationship that allows us to love our neighbors, the ones we like and the ones we don’t’ because we are loved by Jesus.
The point is that the ability to love people is not something we achieve on our own. It is a gift of God received in our relationship of love with the Christ.
Christ gives love for which we have done nothing to earn and nurtures us so that we are able to love in the same why in which God loves: freely and unself-centeredly.
The Second Key is found in verse 16:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth . . .” We are not alone in God’s mission to love the world, Jesus promises to be with us, to encourage us, to teach us and to lead us in how to love our friends and enemies. Thus, in the midst of the curious turns and rough spots of life, the Holy Spirit is with us enabling us to answer the call to love one another purely.
To sum it all up: Agape, self-sacrificing love, fulfills the demands of the law. Our actions, the response to this is a reflection and result of this fulfillment. The children of God are infused with the Holy Spirit and to be the body of Christ in the world around us. We are never on our own or alone, Christ is always with us.