1 Easter 7 Year C 2013 Pastor Dena Williams Acts 16:16-34 Psalm 97 Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 John 17:20-26 We are One Acts, Revelation, and

John: once more we visit these books on this the seventh and final Sunday of the Easter season. Last week we heard the story of Lydia, the seller of purple from the Book of Acts. We heard how she and her entire household were baptized, how they came to the river of the water of life, how they were received as loved children of God. We heard how Lydia became the first European Christian, how her house became the first Christian church in Europe. Then from Revelation we heard the story of the waters of the river of life that flow from the throne of God. In John, we heard Jesus promise to send the Holy Spirit. Love, life, Spirit: these were our messages from our lessons last week. We talked about how we have all we need, how we have some to share. We talked about renewal and revival. The lessons are not so different this week. We will, however, have to look a little deeper to find love, life, and Spirit in these verses. I find the story in Acts to be disturbing. Paul and his companions are still in Phillipi, where the church was established in Lydia’s house. A slave girl was following Paul around the city,

2 proclaiming “these men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” The slave girl’s words are true and accurate prophecy. She is much valued by her masters for her gift of prophecy. Her masters make a lot of money by having her in their household. Paul becomes annoyed with the slave girl who has the gift of prophecy. He becomes annoyed and strips her of her gifts. She becomes worthless to her masters. Out of their anger, the masters have Paul and his companions thrown in prison. Paul and his buddies come out all right in the end. What, though, of the slave girl? We do not even know her name. What happened to her? Was she cast out, into the street, by her masters? Now that her gift of prophecy was gone, how would she earn her meager living? I am sorry, Paul, that you were annoyed. I am even more sorry, that you stripped this slave girl of her livelihood. You were annoyed. Did it occur to you Paul, that this child needed you more than you needed her. What is the lesson for the church? Is this just a story to tell us of Paul’s ability to escape from prison? There is more here. The lesson for the church is there are and will always be people in our lives who annoy us. There will be people with whom we do not always agree. There will even be people who seem to be a drain on the community’s resources. There will be people who need us or need the church, more than we need them.

3 Or so it seems. Before we judge those among us who annoy us, who seem to need us more than we need them, it would behoove us to consider that we might be next. Who is to say that tomorrow or next week or next year we will be on the wrong side of an issue, we will become an annoyance to other people, we will suffer from a blow of fate that causes us to be the needy ones? Loss of a job, a wayward child, sick or elderly parents or spouse, a stroke that disables us, dementia that leaves us childlike, a long term, fatal illness. Then we will be the ones that seem to need others more than they need us. Then we will be the annoying slave girl. Is there another side to this story? Am I being too hard on Paul? Well, maybe I am. Perhaps Paul actually freed this girl from a life of slavery. Maybe by taking away her gift of prophecy, making her worthless to her masters, he set her free. There is an important “if” in this story. It may be that Paul freed this child from a life of bondage. Here is the “if.” He has only freed her if his new Christian community in Phillipi is willing to help her, to support her, to enable her to begin a new way of life. Is there someone in the community, Lydia, perhaps, who will take her into their household, give her meaningful work, a decent living wage, some protection and safety?

4 If there are people in the Christian community who are willing to help this girl, then Paul did a good work. We do not know the rest of the story. We do not know if the community stepped in, to use their resources to make a difference in the slave girl’s life. What of our community, here, in this time and place? What of people in need here? I have good news. This community, this body of Christ is willing to help. If you are ever the one in need, rest assured, this community will be there to help you pick up the pieces of your life, or to accept you in spite of your annoying opinion, to love you with the love of Christ. I see it happen here among us. We help one another. We accept others opinions, tolerate differences. We live together as the Body of Christ. The Book of Revelation has something to say to this community on this subject as well. These are words spoken, not for some time of apocalypse in the future. These are words spoken for us, for now, words to live by. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Let everyone who hears say, Come. Let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes, take the water of life as a gift.”

5 The water of life as gift for anyone who wishes. We are called by these words of Jesus to welcome, to invite, to encourage, to support all who long for the water of life. We have so much to offer. We have love, life, Spirit. We have neighbors, friends, relatives who need what we have to offer. There are people we have not met, people we may never meet who need what we have to offer. We have a Savior who prays for us. He prays for us in our Gospel lesson from John for today: “I ask, I pray, not only on behalf of these who believe, but also on behalf of those who will come to believe in me, through the word of these who already believe.” Jesus prays for us and for those we will welcome and invite to hear the good news of the Gospel, to share in the love, life, Spirit of this community of the Body of Christ. Jesus prays for us to be one as he and the Father are one. Our unity of purpose will make us one. Our desire to share love, life, and Spirit with all people will make us one. The slave girl’s well being depends on the community of the Body of Christ in Phillipi. The well being of those around us who long for the water of life depends on this community of the Body of Christ. Our well being, our unity of purpose, our oneness depends on the willingness of this community to share love, life, Spirit with each other and with all who long for the water of life.

6 As we plan and pray about our future, we depend on God to give us purpose, vision, and focus. We are at an exciting point in the life of this congregation. There are signs of signs of new life, signs of hope. I give thanks to God for the ministry of each person in this congregation: those who lead, those who follow, those who go quietly about their appointed tasks, all those who seek to share love, life, Spirit with all people. We are a community of faith that draws from the waters of the river of life. We are the church, the Body of Christ. We are one in love, life, and Spirit. Thanks be to God! Amen