Readings and Sermon for Easter 7 (2022; Year C)

Here are the set readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the Sunday after Ascension Day, 29 May 2022 (Year C), and a sermon based on them.

Readings for Easter 7 (Year C)

First Reading
Acts 16.16-34

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place before the authorities.

When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, ‘These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.’ The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 97

The Lord is king, most high over all the earth.
The Lord is king, most high over all the earth.

The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the multitude of the isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are round about him,
righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.
A fire goes before him
and burns up his enemies on every side.
The Lord is king, most high over all the earth.

His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees it and is afraid.
The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declare his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
The Lord is king, most high over all the earth.

Confounded be all who worship carved images
and delight in false gods!
Bow down before him, all you gods.
Zion hears and is glad and the cities of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgements, O Lord.
For you are the Lord: most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
The Lord is king, most high over all the earth.

The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he preserves the lives of his saints
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light has sprung up for the righteous,
and joyful gladness for those who are true-hearted.
Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name.
The Lord is king, most high over all the earth.

Second Reading
Revelation 22.12-14, 16-17, 20-21

I, John, heard a voice saying to me:

‘See, I am coming soon;
my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end.’

Blessed are those who wash their robes,
so that they will have the right to the tree of life
and may enter the city by the gates.

‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you
with this testimony for the churches.
I am the root and the descendant of David,
the bright morning star.’

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

The one who testifies to these things says,
‘Surely I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

Gospel Reading
John 17.20-26

Jesus looked up to heaven and prayed: ‘Holy Father, I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

‘The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

‘Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

Sermon for Easter 7 (2022; Year C)

Our readings today overflow with words that should thrill and cheer our hearts.

On Thursday we celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord.

Today we are journeying through one of those in-between times … we are awaiting the coming of the promised Advocate, the Holy Spirit.

Of course, this in-between time is different from the last one we had to endure … During that in-between time we were overwhelmed with sorrow and despair because it was the time between Jesus’ death on the cross and the moment of his resurrection.

So … as we await our celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit … a celebration that should NOT be forgotten in the midst of all the Jubilee ‘stuff’ that will dominate next weekend … let us seek out those words that should thrill and cheer us through the coming days.

First, let us think about our psalm.

When I first came to this benefice I was staggered to be told:
We don’t ‘do’ the psalms …
the psalms mean nothing to us
or, as one person said to me:
I don’t believe in the psalms!

The psalms lie at the heart of the Old Testament.

They are a collection of poems and songs that reflect the relationship humanity has with God.

Sometimes the psalms are joyous and sometimes they are sad; sometimes the psalms are triumphant and sometimes they are despairing; sometimes the psalms offer words of comfort and sometimes they offer words of challenge.

The psalms are not irrelevant! They are as relevant in the way they speak to the modern condition of humanity as they were when they were composed and collected, some 3½ thousand years ago.

So, where are the words on which we should focus today?

Psalm 97 is a great paean to the kingship of God.

Psalm 97 reminds us that The Lord is king, most high over all the earth.

Psalm 97 also reminds us that as we recognize the kingship of God, all peoples should rejoice.

In our reading from the Revelation to John, we hear of that great vision of the end of all time, the moment when the truth of all things will be revealed: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

In these words we see the naked truth of the one we worship as our Risen and Ascended Saviour … Jesus Christ.

Then we have the words of Jesus himself in our reading from John’s gospel … Holy Father, I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.

It is easy for us to let all these words wash over us … just a load of well-known phrases that need not bother us as we go about our daily lives.

But … these words are inviting us into the new life that was won for us by the sacrifice of Jesus as he hung on the cross, died in agony, and then rose again.

Next Sunday the Church will remember the coming of the promised Advocate, the Holy Spirit … but we do not have to wait for that celebration to see the Holy Spirit at work.

This very day, our Bishop will be coming to St John’s Church to administer the sacrament of Confirmation … those who have responded to the power of the words we have heard read today will committing themselves to a ‘new’ life … a life of Christian discipleship and apostleship.

Today, we are invited to join with those to be confirmed in an engagement with the powerful words that are meant to strengthen and guide us through this challenging world.

Our readings are asking us whether we really do believe that The Lord is King, most high over all the earth?

Whether we do believe that Jesus is The Alpha and the Omega … the beginning and the end of all things?

Whether we do believe that Jesus prayed not just for those who were closest to him during his earthly ministry … but also for those who will believe … through their word … that is, you and me?

And, if we are prepared to commit ourselves in this way … well, what difference is it going to make to the way we live out our daily lives?

When Jesus gave us his new commandment, that is to love one another as he loved us … he also said that our honouring of that commandment would demonstrate the strength of our faith to others …

How many recognize our faith through the way we honour all that Christ taught and did for us?

Of course, there are times when the life of faith seems to be laid among many rocks and pitfalls … it is in those moments that we should look to our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles …

The disciples were criticized, beaten and humiliated for standing firm in their faith, but … the power of God prevailed.

Human bondage and vilification was no match for the power of our creator and loving God.

It is God who looses the chains and sets us free … we just have to hold firm in our faith that that lies at the heart of our Christian lives.

Then, we need to recognize and welcome the Holy Spirit, and trust that all will be well.

Today we are in an in-between time.

But … this in-between time is a time of hope and rejoicing.

Let us throw off the doom and gloom that we allow to dominate the self-serving paths we tread, and let us shout from the rooftops …

The Lord is king, most high over all the earth;

Jesus was at the beginning of all things, and remains faithful to the very end of all things;

Jesus understands the hard times as well as the good times and ever holds us in his prayers;

We are the heralds who bring the life, the light, the joy and the peace of Christ to all.