Easter 6, 2020
The readings for this Sunday offer a rich variety of material. We have Paul preaching at the Areopagus in Athens telling his listeners that the “Unknown God” they have been worshiping is really the One who created the heavens and earth and gave his only Son for us. Peter reminds us that it is our baptism which seals our salvation. The Gospel reading takes us back to the last supper when Jesus is saying “goodbye” to his disciples.
Our Gospel reading for today continues with that part of John’s Gospel known as the “Farewell Discourse” (John 13 – 16). Although the words are spoken on the night he was handed over to suffering and death, they only begin to make sense when we listen to them in the context of the Easter Season. Jesus is physically leaving us for the final time. Ascension Day is next Thursday, May 21st. So, Jesus is preparing us for his visible departure from us.
One of the things Jesus does to prepare us for his leave-taking is the promise of an Advocate who will be present with us always, who will remind us of Jesus’ teaching, and serve as a resource for our conscience – both individually and collectively. This promised Advocate is the Holy Spirit who will be given to us on the feast of Pentecost just two weeks from now (May 31st this year). The Holy Spirit is the outward sign that Jesus is still present with us in our thoughts and actions, as well as in our prayers – he reminds us that we are never truly alone, even in the midst of our loneliness.
This is one of the underlying gifts given to us in baptism. Baptism is the outward and visible sign that we belong to Christ – a relationship that is absolute and eternal. It’s more indelible than any tattoo, but it marks us as Christ’s own forever. It is through baptism that we, and the world, know that we have accepted Jesus the Christ as our Savior and have promised to follow him as our Lord.
Another gift given to us by the Holy Spirit is an awareness of God’s presence in what might seem to be the oddest places. Paul uses something he has noticed – the altar to the “Unknown God” as a segue into proclaiming the Good News to his listeners. Think of those moments when an apparently ordinary event or occurrence gave a flash of insight into God’s love and gracious presence.
All of this together offer us some of the tools we will need when Jesus takes his leave of us on Ascension Day with a promise to return and take us to himself. Amen.