Sunday Prayer Service
6th Sunday of Easter
May 22, 2022
Grant, almighty God,
that we may celebrate
with heartfelt devotion
these days of joy,
which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,
that what we relive in remembrance
we may always hold to in what we do.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever
Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out.
The celestial city. . . . is inspired and taught by the true God.
—Saint Augustine of Hippo
If I differ from you, I do not lessen, but increase you.
—Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Who gets to change the rules?
Rules are rules, many will say, shaking their heads over any amendments, deletions, or nuances to the established order. Such folks may also be tempted by a creeping legalism: Anything that is simply old or has been done a few times in the past can easily take on the authority of absolute Tradition. The phrase “the church has always taught” has ended many an argument.
When Tradition is tampered with, or traditions are questioned, it takes a pretty big authority to be able to trump the gravity of “rules are rules” and “the church has always taught.” For those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that is plenty authority enough. If you further believe that Jesus promised and sent the indwelling Spirit of God to “teach us everything,” well, that’s probably got a lot of clout, too. But where does that Holy Spirit dwell, exactly? In you? In me? In the pope? In each of us, or in all of us together?
We catch a glimpse of how the apostles understood it, at least. Paul and Barnabas were bringing Gentiles into the church all the time, and they weren’t too particular about who was circumcised and who was keeping a kosher pantry. This caused distress among fellow missionaries down from Judea, who were teaching strict adherence to the law of Moses and the faith of their fathers. Did Paul simply stick to his convictions and blow off his detractors? Honestly, knowing Paul, surely he was tempted to. Perhaps Barnabas proved to be the voice of diplomacy and unity who urged a visit to the Jerusalem elders for a judgment on the matter. When the decision is finally rendered, the terms are telling: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden . . . .” The operative word, naturally, is us.
The judgment of the Jerusalem Council did not end the matter, needless to say. It merely settled it for those who trusted the authority of the apostles and believed in the indwelling Spirit of God who continues to teach the church with divine wisdom. Others saw this decision as proof positive that the apostles had lost their religion.
From the time of the first Council of Jerusalem to the most recent Vatican Council, there have always been those who see any departure from the way of the past to be a betrayal of faith, of religion, even of God. Does the living Spirit of God remain with the church just to patrol all the doors and windows of ritual and doctrine so that the status quo is perpetually maintained? Has the Holy Spirit stopped teaching fresh lessons in each new age of humanity, and is the Spirit only concerned now with making sure we have memorized the old ones?
Clearly not: The church continues to speak on new matters of faith and morals all the time. Every advance in society, whether it be political, economic, scientific, medical, technological, or philosophical, is quickly joined by the church’s own running commentary on the subject. And by the church, here, we most fully intend to imply the whole people of God within whom the Spirit dwells. It is a long, loud, sometimes exuberant and sometimes dissonant conversation. Like the long pages of Mishnah to which hundreds of rabbis have added their glosses in the margins over the centuries, many voices speak from the bottom to the top of this Body of Christ. Some of those voices—discounted in their generation as clearly losing their religion—became the canonized saints of another era. We can’t be too discourteous in this conversation, as none of us can be sure yet whose voice will prove to have the last word.
May the strength of God sustain us;
May the power of God preserve us;
May the hands of God protect us;
May the way of God direct us;
May the love of God go with us
this day and forever.
What's in Your Heart?
Imagine what it would be like to have Jesus literally “make his dwelling” with you, as he promised he and the Father would do with those who were faithful. Hard to imagine, to be sure, but perhaps you can recall a time when you had the privilege of having as a houseguest someone you revere as a spiritual role model. Or perhaps you have lived with a community of believers whose faith was vivid and energizing for you.
Does your current living situation bring you into contact with inspiring and uplifting companions in the spiritual life?
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
The mercy of the Lord endures forever. With hope in that mercy, we offer our prayers.
God of mercy, may the church witness to the love of God, we pray, Lord, hear our prayer.
God of mercy, may the world know peace where there is fear, we pray, Lord, hear our prayer.
God of mercy, may all those who are ill or disturbed in body or mind find healing, we pray, Lord, hear our prayer.
God of mercy, may we as a people of faith know that our sins are forgiven, we pray, Lord, hear our prayer.
Our strength and courage are in God. With that courage we pray to and receive strength from God, through Jesus Christ, our merciful Lord.