5th Sunday of Easter [by Very Rev Ken Gray]

Anglican lectionary:
Catholic lectionary:
1st Reading
Acts 8:26-40
Apg 9:26-31
2nd Reading
1 John 4:7-21
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8
by The Very Rev Ken Gray, Kamloops BC Canada

Moving through Easter Season, we see the early Church emerging and extending, today in an act of witness and evangelism. The apostle Philip meets an enigmatic wealthy traveller, on a wilderness road, himself in a spiritual wilderness. A court official of “the Candace” a mostly female administration associated with Meroe in the Kingdom of Kush (now Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt), a place of many religious traditions, he has worshipped in Jerusalem but is perplexed by the words of the prophet Isaiah (Chapter 53) describing one who must suffer in order for light and true love to be revealed.

Philip is the one to guide him towards insight and truth. Right place! Right time! His witness places Christ into the creation story itself and into the life of the Ethiopian eunuch (one who sires no children). Philip’s witness starts with the scripture and next leads to Baptism, itself a rite conducted within the waters of Creation. Such witness will continue, for all people and all time.

Creation dances neatly and deftly through this magical story. The land ruled by a succession of candaces eventually collapsed through unsustainable management. God’s provision of salvation through Jesus, himself associated with the creating and creative Word (Genesis 1, John 1) creates opportunities and experiences hitherto unavailable to the Ethiopian and ourselves. Finally the waters of creation facilitate the man’s re-birth (John 3) into new life.

PSALM 22:24-30

Psalms, themselves the poetry both liturgical and reflective and well known to Jesus and his followers occupy a special place in the Judeo-Christian tradition. With its own original voice, Psalm 22 begins in a typical manner:

1) Praise, a corporate act shared with others seeking to give honour to the one owed such gratitude;

2) A statement of factual benefit, the poor shall eat and be satisfied, even if this is not totally accomplished in our various contexts; and

3) Such gratitude extends beyond individuals, families, collegial groups, even nations. It is universally deserved and acclaimed.

Such verses are both ambitions and a statement of accomplishments. They are anthems of praise and prayers for deliverance. Psalms ought to be proclaimed, which is different from being read. To read Shakespeare or Indigenous stories of Africa or Canada is a small experience compared with live, in-person performance and sharing. And how we long for such sharing to become widespread again.


While there is no scholarly consensus on the authorship of the three epistles of John there is a striking similarity in mood, tone and language with the Gospel of John (see below). The priority of Love, the language of beloved, the relationship of abiding in God, suggest to this commentator an intimate and close relationship between Gospel and epistles. Certainly, one can hear Jesus sharing these very words, put in the first person, in the upper room discourse (John 13-17):

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world.

If there is a limitation to these verses, they describe right, even perfect relationships between humans here with no comment on our relationships with the non-human world. If 1 John seeks to reduce any sense of distance between the followers of Jesus and God as Creator, what of the relationship between God and creation itself; and of our relationship with creation? This is a good time to push beyond anthropocentric (the human is the most important part of creation) tendencies and prejudices.

Spirituality is not just about sitting in a room encountering a mystical god in meditation or about seeing God in a sunset. Awe is the gateway to compassion. It is a deep awareness that we are creators, creators who work with the Creator, in an ongoing project of crafting a world. If we do not like the world or are afraid of it, we have had a hand in that. And if we made a mess, we can clean it up and do better. We are what we make.
― Diana Butler Bass, Grounded: Finding God in the World. A Spiritual Revolution


I grew up in the suburbs of a mid-sized Canadian city, so as a child I learned little of farming, agriculture, or the growing of vines. In my second placement as a young priest however I lived in an area populated by many wineries and grew accustomed to the lovely lines of cherry, apple and grape trees. I learned of the challenges associated with farming, most importantly that weather is your friend or foe; I learned about fertigation, grafting, cultivation and processing. I knew a few vine growers who explained the value and technique of pruning.

I can imagine those sitting around a table or at an outdoor location listening to Jesus’ teaching and helping us all to understand who he is, though a concrete understanding is elusive. We have seen miracles enacted and traditions challenged, modified and employed. We have seen the response of many to things Jesus has done, but still cannot fully identify who he is. The Gospeller John has collected some of the identifiers together, a set of similitudes – “I am” statements (remember Moses in Exodus 3). I am the Way, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the true vine.”

There is more, however. If now I know a bit about who Jesus is when he says “I am” I now discover that I am connected to Jesus and to God in ways unimaginable. More so, I will bear much fruit as I am transformed into a disciple (one who follows). This is a lot to take in, though as I continue to abide in Him, it will become easier, clearer, and a life’s vocation especially within the community of the risen One.


Finding God in the World: Our World: God’s World

  • Begin with the quote from Diana Butler Bass above. Share your reaction.
  • Tell the story of the meeting of Philip with the Ethiopian traveller. Unpack how Philip’s and the Ethiopian’s very different worldviews collided.
  • Consider aloud how people would describe our/their world today.
  • Pandemic! Climate Change! Food for all? Or not!
  • If we live connected to the vine of life in Jesus, what pruning must now occur: In our own practices? In societal, commercial, industrial, political systems.
  • Where do we need the support, inspiration and resilience of Jesus and where do we find support for ecological justice in the ministry and presence of the local and global church?


Dean Robert Willis of Canterbury Cathedral has created a Garden Congregation, a daily virtual prayer gathering since the early days of the Pandemic. He often touches on Environmental themes, for instance:


Morning Prayer – Wednesday, 14th April 2021
A forest Garden, an innovative project in early stages of development, where various layers of creation, intertwined and in good ecological balance demonstrate how permaculture gardening/agriculture/eco-design function (Clip commences at 21 mins.).


Morning Prayer – Friday, 16th April 2021
Dean Robert’s exposition of John 15 (Clip commences with the Gospel reading at 7:16)


Speaking not specifically to creation, but directly to the gift of community, enjoy this wonderful collaboration between composer and friends:
You Can Do This Hard Thing – By Carrie Newcomer – A Community Song Project


There at the table
With my head in my hands
A column of numbers
I just could not understand
You said “Add these together
Carry the two
Now you.”

You can do this hard thing
You can do this hard thing
It’s not easy I know
But I believe that it’s so
You can do this hard thing

At a cold winter station
Breathing into our gloves
This would change me forever
Leaving for God knows what
You carried my bags
You said “I’ll wait
For you.”

You can do this hard thing
You can do this hard thing
It’s not easy I know
But I believe that it’s so
You can do this hard thing


by The Very Rev. Ken Gray, Kamloops BC Canada