5th Sunday of Easter
Year A: May 10, 2020
First Reading: Acts 7:55-60
Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu
(Written for ages 6-9)
Comment: Jesus had told his disciples that following him would involve suffering. Within a few months, Stephen, one of the church’s deacons, preached a sermon that angered the crowd before him. The hearers, says Acts, were so mad that they ground their teeth. They dragged Stephen out of town and began to throw stones at him, leaving their coats in the care of a young man name Saul. And just as Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit was with him. He prayed, trusting that the Lord Jesus would receive his spirit. And his last prayer was that God would forgive the people who were stoning him. His last words were very much like Jesus’ words on the cross. Paul, who was watching their coats, approved of what the crowd was doing. Was this a sight or words that Paul would find easy to forget? Stephen had only a few months to witness to Jesus and the resurrection. Was his life important? How can you tell?
Desmond Tutu’s book is based on something that actually happened to him. Growing up in South Africa where the color of his skin made him ‘less than’ in the eyes of the many, he was the recipient of a ‘mean word’ from a group of white boys as he rode his new bicycle to see Father Trevor. The mean word took over his thinking and made him so angry that he decided the only way to make himself feel better was to think of the meanest word he could and yell it at the same boys who had hurt him. He discovered this didn’t help at all, but Father Trevor helped him see that even when what is done to you is unjust, freedom can come in forgiveness. Desmond suffered unjustly but forgiveness gave him freedom and a way to live that seemed to help one of his tormentors change as well, and his willingness to forgive mirrored the forgiveness that Christ offers to all.
Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Before and After by Jean Jullien
(Written for ages 2-4)
Comment: Today’s book offers a series of before and after pictures. A ‘before’ dirty cat licking itself; an after of a sleek, clean cat. A ‘before’ picture of a double dip ice cream cone being offered to someone; an ‘after’ showing the ice cream being enjoyed by a friendy dog. A bottle filled with milk stands next to an empty glass. In the ‘after’, the glass is full and the bottle has less in it.
Peter is doing something like this in today’s scripture as he describes the church. Before you were not a people, after Christ you are God’s people; before you had not received mercy, now you have;before you lived in darkness, now you live in God’s marvelous light. Peter paints some wonderful word pictures of this people of this new church: new born babes growing on spiritual milk; living stones being built into a spiritual house; a royal priesthood, a holy nation. All of this wonderful change is so that they may tell what God has done for them and will do for others. This makes telling about God’s marvelous works very important so that everyone will recognize Jesus and share in the new ‘after’ that Jesus shares with us.
Gospel Reading: John 14:1-14
I Miss My Grandpa by Jin Xiaojing
(Written for ages 5-8)
Comment: The disciples have shared a last meal with Jesus and he has shared hard words – he is going to leave them, someone who has been a disciple with them is going to harm Jesus. Their fear and anxiety expresses itself in questions. Thomas wants to know how to get to where Jesus is going. Philip says if you’ll just show us the Father, we’ll be okay. Jesus replies that they know God, because Jesus has shown them the very essence of who God is. His life of healing, forgiveness, inclusion shows us God’s intention for the world. And Christ assures us that we will continue God’s own work on earth.
A little girl has never seen her grandfather and wants to know him. She asks her grandmother what her grandpa looked like. As the grandmother and other relatives describe physical attributes of him, they also share the kinds of things that he did. So Aunt Aai-zi, who has Grandpa’s mouth, also shares what a wonderful storyteller he was. Cousin Aiden has ears like grandpa, ears that listened in a way to hear the silence lying between sounds. As the young girl continues to miss her grandfather, her grandmother reminds her that she can meet him “in your heart. He is still living within us, who love him.”
We know God through Jesus’ life and words and promises for our continued care, and we can meet him and follow him still because he lives within all who love him.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links are co-written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumnae Virginia C. Thomas and Ann Thomas Knox.