This is one of the most shocking, yet joy-filled passages of the Bible. The disciples have locked themselves in the upper room in fear of their lives. Just three days before, in this room, they ate the Last Supper with the Master, then abandoned him. They've been confused and deeply distressed since.
Their confusion and distress stems from choices they made in abandoning their Master. They're overcome by fear, grief and shame. They want to reconnect with that last warm memory of Christ's hospitality at the Last Supper, so they pray.
We gather today because of Christ's command in the Gospel for the Feast of the Ascension. The power of that command has sent the Gospel to the four corners of the world and through 20 centuries to us. We should sit up and take notice of that. If Christ's Word was passed for 2,000 years, then we need to pay attention to everything He says.
Before His Ascension, Christ completed three years of teaching, preaching and working miracles. He died on Calvary, rose from the dead and spent 40 days making occasional appearances to the apostles.
Peter sets the tone for the readings for the 6th Sunday of Easter. He speaks from experience, first denying Jesus then accepting the fullness of the Holy Spirit. What was happening in the time of Peter still occurs today.
Chronologically, the Gospel is first, and the other two readings flow from there. In it, Jesus says remarkable things. He tells us that we didn't choose Him but He chose us to be His friends: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."
My father was a faithful husband and a wise father of 15 children whom he raised on a very rocky farm. His priorities were God, our mother and his children, but not the family vineyard.
He didn't take time to prune yearly, so the vines grew wild, climbing over the fence and up a neighboring apple tree. Meanwhile, our neighbors pruned their vines each February, and their efforts paid rich dividends. Their lush clusters of grapes were far more numerous.
The readings for the 4th Sunday of Easter speak about our present and our future. When Jesus tells His Jewish audience, "I have other sheep," He is referring to the non-Jews who will hear His word. That includes you and me.
Every day, Christ the Good Shepherd searches for us. You might say, "But I am baptized and I belong to Him." That is partially true. You have committed yourself to follow Him, but you don't fully understand what it means to follow Him.