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Worship, prayer and Bible resources

Sixth Sunday of Easter - Year B

Liturgical Colour - White

Abide in my loveIntroduction

At the start of a wedding we often use the words from 1 John 4:16

'God is love and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them'

These are beautiful words and they are important not just at weddings. They express the conviction that love and God are interchangeable terms. When we experience real love, then we experience God. Giving and receiving love are divine acts. When we share love with others we experience God, love makes God present. This is something which Jesus showed in his life as he loved people and encouraged us to love. 

It is love which lies at the heart of the universe, the power which holds all things together.

Opening Verses of Scripture Psalm 51:17

The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart He will not despise.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

God our redeemer, you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. CW

Risen Christ, by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples: help your Church to obey your command and draw the nations to the fire of your love, to the glory of God the Father. Common Worship Shorter Collect

First Bible Reading    Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. NRSV

Second Reading   1 John 5:1-6

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. NRSV

Gospel Reading John 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.’ NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

God our Father, whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life: may we thirst for you, the spring of life and source of goodness, through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.



If you go to McDonalds for a burger You will perhaps be ‘Lovin it’
Love is a word used in a variety of difference contexts and meanings. If recently you have been watching the TV series ‘Line of Duty’ on the BBC you will have grown used to hearing the phrase ‘For the Love of God’. It is just one of the vast range of uses of the word ‘love’ which can render it quite meaningless. But the way in which we most think of love is romantically. We fall in love.  Old people have falls and they can end them up in hospital. But this is the way we talk about the feeling we have when we start a new relationship, the language of a potentially damaging accident.

This is not an isolated metaphor, we also say we are · Love struck· We are crushed by love, · We burn with it· We become love sick· Our hearts ache with love · And they often break All of these words show that we equate the experience of loving somebody to extreme violence or illness! One of the words you will hear is ‘smitten’ with love, smitten is the past participle of the word smite. In a dictionary you will see that it can be defined as either a · grievous affliction· very much in love

As a theologian I associate the word smite with a particular context - The Old Testament. In the Book of Exodus alone there are 16 references to smiting - the word the Bible uses for the vengeance of an angry God. So we are using the same word to speak of love as we use of the plagues visited up Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Why do we associate love with pain and suffering?

One of my favourite quotes as everybody knows is from Captain Correlli’s Mandolin ‘Love is a kind of madness’ When you look around literature about love you will see madness romantic metaphors everywhere. The history of western culture is full of language which equates love to mental illness  "ove is merely a madness; by William Shakespeare, As You Like It ‘there is always some madness in love’   Friedrich Nietzsche ‘Got me looking, got me looking, so crazy in love’   Beyonce Knowles the pop philosopher

Most of us feel somewhat mad in the early stages of love and this is normal because neurochemically speaking romantic love and mental illness are not that easily distinguished. The serotonin levels of the newly in love very closely resemble the serotonin levels of insane people with nasty mental afflictions, obsessive-compulsive behaviours associated with infatuation.

Love changes our moods and behaviours.  The good news is that whilst relationships begin this way with compulsive behaviour. It normally lasts only up to a couple of years.

1. So what do you say in marriage guidance when a couple say to you we are no longer ‘In Love’ 2. What do you say to a Christian who says they no longer feel that they love God ?

If we listen to Jesus today he says This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Try that in marriage guidance - I command you to love one another. How do we conjure up love ? Well when Jesus speaks about love it is not a psychological state, nor is it an internal quality. Love is an action — a really difficult action. The definition of love which Jesus gives is a radical willingness to die — not for your child or spouse, but for a fellow follower of Christ. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And actually you don’t even have to like them. And yet that is what this text, this message from Jesus, calls us to do. We must be prepared to give up our lives for others. How can we show that depth of love for others within and outside the church?

We are all God’s children, which should qualify us as friends. This means that all lives, black lives, white lives, all lives matter. We are called to show life-giving friendship openly and equally to all people regardless of any distinctions. 1. Is Jesus asking the impossible?  2. Does love obey decrees?  3. Can we be ordered to love? Well no we can’t if it means we have emotional feelings, but yes if it means a hunger for justice  and a willingness not to restrict my compassion to the ones I like. This COVID crisis has forced us to keep our circle small and manageable.  We want to choose the people we love based on our own security, affinities and preferences — not on Jesus’s all-inclusive commandment.

So what can we do?  Jesus offers a single, straightforward answer: “Abide in my love.”  We cannot live up to Jesus and his high standards as a role model. But Jesus’s love is not our example; it’s our source.  It’s where our love originates and deepens.  Where it replenishes itself.  In other words, if we don’t abide in Christ, we can’t love. If we abide in Christ then his love will be a part of us. If we know and understand the love which God has for us and if we keep close to God, then God’s love will change us. That is what Jesus promises. Jesus’s commandment to us is not that we wear ourselves out, trying to conjure love from our own easily depleted resources. Rather, it’s that we abide in the holy place where divine love becomes possible.  That we make our home in Jesus’s love — the most abundant and inexhaustible love in existence.“Love one another as I have loved you.” “Abide in my love.” These are not two separate actions., they are one and the same.  As we partake of the Body of Christ broken for all humankind we share in a love which knows no boundaries or restrictions. It is a love which embraces all of the diversity of humanity which he has created. More and more may that love be our guide and may we share that love as he has commanded.


Julian of Norwich had a lot to say about love. Her book “Revelations of Divine Love” was based on her mystical experiences which began with a grave illness in 1373. She experienced a series of mystical “showings”, visions, which were later written down by her admirers. Her visions are of God’s surpassing love for us, and present a tender, intimate portrait of Jesus that many find profoundly moving. She lived in an anchorites cell, but seekers after spiritual guidance could come and consult her through a window. Her advice was always practical and pithy as well as deeply rooted in God’s word. In our time Julian’s words resonate with us, perhaps far better than they did in her own time, when the Church taught that God was prone to anger and inclined to punish. This is what she wrote: 'There is no wrath in God….It is the most impossible thing that can be that God would be angry, for wrath and friendship are two opposites.' Does it change your perception of God, if you view Him as a friend? Not as Lord, Master, Teacher, Saviour (although of course God is all these things too!) but seeing God as a friend brings Him very close to us indeed. Real friends are interested in the details of our lives, they do not mind sharing our darkest thoughts and are companions in our worst times. God wants to be that kind of friend to us, but we often distance God, by pushing him on to a throne far away. Joan Crossley


Mine eyes have seen the glory
Give me joy in my heart
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Lo, he comes with clouds descending



Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,

if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

“O Fountain of Love, love Thou our friends and teach them to love thee with all their hearts, that they may think and speak and do only such things as are pleasing to thee. Though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen   St Anselm

From Prayers from the Ark, the Ox’s prayer.
“Dear God, give me time. Men are always so driven! Make them understand that I can never hurry. Give me time to eat, Give me time to plod. Give me time to sleep. Give me time to think. Amen   Carmen Bernos de Gasztold

“O Saviour Christ, we beseech you, when the wind is boisterous and our faith weak, and we begin to sink although we wish to come to You. Stretch out Your hands, Lord, as you did to Your fearful disciple and say to the sea of our difficulties, “peace, be still”. Amen  Dean Vaughan

O Beauty, so ancient and so new! Late have I loved you though you were always with me. You call to my heart. You burst through my deafness. You scatter my blindness. I draw breath at your fragrance. My heart pants for you. My soul hungers for you. You touch me and I am consumed at the thought of your peace. St Augustine, 354-430

Loving God, when we grow weary, undisciplined or unexpectant and cease to pray, help us to see that prayer is not a burden or demand but your precious gift. Remind us of all who pray with us on earth and in heaven and of Jesus Christ our great High Priest, who ever lives to make intercession for us. Then with faith reawakened, hope restored and love renewed, turn us again to share in the ministry of prayer for the salvation of all people, for this is both our calling and your longing. Amen. Leo Osborn

Additional Material


In my sermon today I will invite you to focus on just a small part of the passage from the Gospel according to John. After Jesus has given his Great Command “love one another as I have loved you”, he goes on to exhort his followers that they should “bear much fruit”. The words continue the metaphor, begun at the start of chapter fifteen, of Jesus as the True Vine. In this imagery, Jesus was drawing upon the writings of the prophet Ezekiel (15:1-8). The language of the vine and the useless branches would thus have been familiar to Jesus’ listeners, but what is new is that Jesus identifies himself as the Vine, from which all life and fruitfulness stems. Scholars argue a great deal as to what that word “fruit” means. I have chosen to consider only one aspect of being fruitful Christians: of living out the Gospel in loving practical service to God and to our sister and brother humans. But we must note that we serve, not because it makes us feel good or to impress others, but because we are branches of the True Vine and because we depend on that Vine, our thoughts and actions do not glorify ourselves but Him. Being fruitful Christians is entirely rooted in being prayerfully dependent on the inspiration of God, in every aspect of our lives and work.
Coming as it does, straight after Jesus’ injunction to love one another, I take the phrase to mean that Jesus is warning us that love is not just about feeling, but acting upon that feeling. It is no good loving your child, if you don’t also feed it, clean it or relate to it. Love is what you do, not merely an emotional state. Jesus’ own ministry was a combination of healing, praying, teaching and serving. We must strive for a similar balance in our service to God. Joan Crossley 

Self-Expression / Self-control
This week we were blessed with a visit from the Riding Lights Theatre Company, who performed a play called “Saving Grace”. The play cleverly interwove the “pilgrimage” of a writer to Wesley’s birth place in Lincolnshire, during the dark days of the Second World War, with scenes from the life of Wesley. There were many wonderful things about the play, but most striking for me was honest portrayal of Wesley’s character, based on the family’s letters and journals.
In an age such as our own where self-expression and self-fulfilment are almost seen as duties, it was extraordinary to be confronted by a man who strove so hard for self-discipline. We were shown that Wesley was strongly influenced in this self-dedication by his mother Susannah. All his life Wesley struggled to subdue his weaker side, to control any needs or desires which would imperil the work to which he had committed himself. Such determination to be better, to grow in self-control must command our respect.
By the end of the play, I found myself loving Wesley, because despite his best intentions, he remained, like each of us, a flawed individual. These lapses from perfection, far from spoiling Wesley’s image, make him endearingly fallible and human. Surely what is significant is that Wesley strove consistently to rise above his faults and that God chose not a perfect man, but a good man, to be His instrument. And that Wesley, through self-denial, study and prayer, did his best to keep the instrument of self fit for God’s purpose. Joan Crossley


“The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is free in all, and free for all.... It is free in all to whom it is given. It does not depend on any power or merit in man; no, not in any degree, neither in whole, nor in part. It does not in anywise depend either on the good works or righteousness of the receiver; not on anything he has done, or anything he is. It does not depend on his endeavours. It does not depend on his good tempers, or good desires, or good purposes and intentions; for all these flow from the free grace of God; they are the streams only, not the fountain. They are the fruits of free grace, and not the root. They are not the cause, but the effects of it."   John Wesley

As followers of Jesus we live in a relationship of love which we seek to share with others. This sharing of love is God's mission - our calling is to work in partnerships, based on trust and respect, offering mutual support. The nineteenth century idea that we should encourage people from other cultures to be just like us, the British, have now gone. The paternalistic model of mission abroad and at home has been replaced by one more mindful of the traditions of other societies and respectful of what is valuable within them. We now recognise that in giving to and interacting with mission partners, we are also fortunate recipients. St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: "I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." (Romans 1:11-12). So it is with the worldwide Church today - we have much to learn from each other and then to share with others.


God of power, may the boldness of your Spirit transform us, may the gentleness of your Spirit lead us, and may the gifts of your Holy Spirit equip us to serve and worship you, now and always. Amen

I am no longer mine but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will: put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen

Govern all by your wisdom, O Lord, so that my soul may always be serving you as you will, and not as I may choose. Do not punish me, I beg you, by granting what I wish or ask if it offends your love which should always live in me. Let me die to myself, so that I may serve you; let me live for you, who in yourself are the true life. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)


I've got Joy
Love divine, all loves excelling
Forth in thy name