Sixth Sunday of Easter (B)
There are two obvious themes to today’s readings: Saint Peter summarises many of the ideas of Easter - baptism, the name of Jesus, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit; the other readings talk simply of love, both God’s love for us and our love for each other. Our Gospel is taken from the great discourse at the Last Supper, and has at its centre the New Commandment that Jesus gives his disciples - the commandment of love. This love has its origins in the love of the Father, manifested in the love shown by the Son (willing to die for his friends); we, like the disciples, are called to imitate the love we see in Jesus’s life and death - not because we are servants, but because we are friends.
Notes For Readers
First Reading: Acts 10:25-26.34-35.44-48.
This reading, with its Psalm, almost hark bark to Epiphany, for the message is the same: the Universal Message of Salvation. Or, to put it in Saint Peter’s own words: “God does not have favourites.” Peter’s short speech here is quite momentous: the idea of Israel as the only nation chosen by God was so strong, that for Peter to say that any nation can be acceptable to God would be very startling to his Jewish listeners. Don’t forget the enormity of what he says when you proclaim his words. Emphasise the astonishment of the “Jewish believers” when the Holy Spirit is poured out on the listeners. Be careful with Peter’s question - it’s quite long, but questions are always very powerful devices when read to a congregation. Try and encourage them by your tone to think of the answer. Remember to be positive throughout this reading: look at the response to the Psalm which follows: “The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations”: this is what it is about, and indeed what Easter is about, that all peoples throughout the world can now be part of God’s chosen people, his own family.
Second Reading: 1 John:7-10.
In essence this is a very simple reading, with short phrases and a clear logic. But the reader should still be careful, because of the frequent repetition of certain words - mainly “love” and “God”. These words crop up so often that the reading can easily become garbled and confusing, with the listeners unable to keep track of the argument. So give thought to your phrasing and emphasis, and especially your longer pauses. Let each sentence (until each full stop) stand almost alone, leaving a good space after it. At the very beginning, don’t be afraid of the words “My dear people.” If you are confident enough to look at the congregation while you read these words, all the better: this will engage them and invite them into the reading. The key phrase in the middle of the reading is “this is the love I mean...God’s love for us...”: here Saint John is really trying to get the point across, because it is important. If the reader realises how important this teaching is, he or she will give it the weight it deserves for the congregation.