The Congregation of Christ? – Sixth Sunday of Easter
Today’s Readings deal with the inclusion of all Christians, irrespective of their race, into the Christian Congregation. In the early days of Christianity, Jews felt superior, because they believed that God was the God of Israel. Therefore some believed it to be an exclusively Jewish congregation.
 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.  When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:  And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:  Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:  It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,  Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;  That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
So to belong to the Christian Congregation you should not eat food offered to idols, some other foods and you should abstain from ‘fornication.’ The word translated here as fornication is porneia, the mother of the modern word porno.
The porneia was a festival in honour of Aphrodite Pornae, the heavenly harlot, in Corinth, which was a challenge to the Corinthian Congregation. It was a sex festival similar to our Mardi Gras, or the Love Parade or the Carnival in Rio. These sex festivals have been reported by the Ancient Greek writer Herodotus to exist not only in Greece, but also in Egypt and other places in the Middle East. During these festivals people worshipped Aphrodite, or another god or goddess, through sex! The Apostle Paul forbade the Corinthian Congregation to take part in the Porneia in 1. Cor. 7, not because of the sex involved, but because of the worship of another god, in that case Aphrodite. Paul explicitly wrote in verses 2 to 5, ‘Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have himself a (it does not say own) woman, and let every woman have her own man (the Ancient Greek words for husband and wife are nowhere used in the New Testament. It always says man and woman!). Let the man render unto the woman due benevolence: and likewise also the woman unto the man. The woman hath not power of her own body, but the man: and likewise also the man hath not power of his own body, but the woman. Defraud ye not one the other, except [it be] with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan (satanas means the adversary) tempt you not for your lack of self – control.’
Sex is not the problem, but don’t have sex with a temple servant of Aphrodite or another woman, who wants to have sex with you to worship the goddess. Have sex with a woman from the Christian Congregation. Does that mean a husband and wife pair? The word ‘own’ occurs only once in this whole text. It might also be interpreted as meaning suitable. No other possessive pronoun is used.
So have sex, but not to worship another god or goddess, that’s what this means. Everybody can belong to God’s congregation, if he observes these above commandments.
The next reading is:
 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,  Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;  And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are [the names] of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:  On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.  And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.  And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
Again John was taken up in the spirit to see this vision. This spiritual Jerusalem stands for the Christian Congregation, including the twelve tribes of Israel and also the Apostles of the lamb, which is Christ.
Now there is no temple building in this Congregation! God and the Lamb, Jesus, are the temple! The faith in God and Jesus is important, not a building, not a place. God is all – present, he does not live in a temple! A Congregation can meet anywhere!
And this is what we have to do to belong to this Congregation:
 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.  These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.  But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come [again] unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
The holy spirit shall teach us all things. So empty your minds to receive the holy spirit and you will have the Peace of Jesus!
In the next chapter Jesus draws the difference between himself and a worldly lord:
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.