Updated: May 16, 2020
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
FIRST READING: ACTS 17:22-34
Paul Addresses the Areopagus
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a]25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[c]
29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
PSALM 148: 7-14
Praise the Lord upon earth, *
you sea monsters and all deeps;
8 Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
wind and storm, fulfilling his word;
9 Mountains and all hills, *
fruitful trees and all cedars;
10 Beasts and all cattle, *
creeping things and birds of the air;
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;
12 Young men and maidens, *
old men and children together.
13 Let them praise the Name of the Lord, *
for his Name only is excellent, and his praise above heaven and earth.
14 He shall exalt the horn of his people; all his faithful shall praise him, *
the children of Israel, the people who are near him. Praise the Lord.
SECOND READING: 1 Peter 3:8-18
Suffering for Righteousness' Sake
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered[a] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
GOSPEL: John 15:1-11 : I Am the True Vine
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
NOTES FROM THE ORTHODOX STUDY BIBLE
ACTS 17:22-31 Paul consistently preaches Christ from a starting point familiar to his hearers. To the Jews, he preaches from the OT (vv. 2, 3). To these Gentiles, he uses one of their own altars to proclaim Christ (v. 23) and emphasizes: (1) God is Creator of all; (2) God is the giver of life; (3) God desires all people to seek Him; (4) repentance is a way toward God; (5) God is Judge of all; and (6) God raised Jesus from the dead. (See also note at 14:15–17.)
17:32 The resurrection of the dead is the point at which some Gentile philosophers react negatively, while the other aspects of Paul's speech go unchallenged (see previous note). This rejection is due to the Platonic view that the body was a prison for the soul and unworthy of salvation.
1Peter 3:8-12 Our behavior today has consequences for the future. The Church as a corporate priesthood is to express God's graciousness to the entire world. As we have been blessed, so must we bless (see Mt 7:12).
3:13-17 As the royal priesthood follows Christ in His obedience and His mercifulness, so it follows Him in His suffering.
3:15 A challenge to all—clergy and laity alike—to answer when asked about our hope in Christ with meekness and fear.
3:17 Not all our suffering comes about because we have been righteous.
3:18-20 As Noah preached righteousness, suffered unjustly, and rescued those who were with him, so also does Christ. Christ descended to those in darkness and death that light might shine on them and He might deliver them from death. As Christ fearlessly faced His tormentors, death, and hell, so we through Him can confidently face mockers and tormentors—and, yes, bring His light to them.
John 15:1-6 The vine is a symbol of Israel (Is 5:1–7; Jer 2:21). In contrast to disobedient and unfruitful Israel, our Lord calls Himself the true vine, which together with the branches constitutes a new and fruitful people of God: the Church.
To abide in this vine is to abide in Christ and His Church. The figure of the vine and the branches shows (1) our union with Christ is intimate and real; (2) life flows from the vine to the branches—abiding in Christ is dynamic and vitalizing; and (3) the fruit we bear is both good works and mission (v. 16; 17:18).
15:10 One cannot love God and disobey His commandments. To love God is to obey Him (14:15).
EMPOWERING LEADERSHIP and CHARACTER FORMATION
John Maxwell: 21 LAWS of LEADERSHIP
Fruitfulness Brings JOY
Jesus taught His staff how to be fruitful so that their joy might be full (John 15:11). In other words, fruitfulness brings JOY!! There is great joy in gaining the results God desires.
Jesus said that He chose us and appointed us in order to go and bear fruit (15:16). As leaders, our goal is not only to bear fruit, but to help others do the same. We must be more than faithful; we must be fruitful.
We have great potential for fruitful leadership because of our . . .
1. Source (v. 1)
Jesus is the true Vine. If we stay connected to Him, we naturally bear fruit.
2. Care (v. 1)
Our Heavenly Father is the Vinedresser. He owns us and cares for us.
3. Pruning (v. 2)
God removes anything that hinders our usefulness. He trims our weaknesses.
4. Partnership (v. 4)
Our job isn’t to artificially push fruit out, but to stay connected to the Vine.
5. Promise (v. 7)
If we let His word abide in us, He promises He will do what we ask.
6. Purpose (v. 8)
God created us to glorify Him by bearing much fruit.
7. Obedience (v. 10)
Jesus gives only one condition to all this: We must obey God. We are to remain in Him, receive from Him, and reproduce for Him.