7th Sunday of Easter

Collect

O God the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Acts 1.15-17,21-26

Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus – he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.

“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

 

1 John 5.9-13

We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

 

John 17.6-19

Jesus looked towards heaven and prayed:

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

 

A reflection by Hilary

 

Throughout life there is a sense of moving on, each stage in a way marks an end of one stage of life and yet also a beginning of a new chapter.  Life does not stand still but moves on, nowadays often at an alarming pace.  Life is a journey and on that journey we commence and complete various stages, and as we move on and leave each stage there is often a sense of sadness. We leave the friendships we have made which have contributed to the closeness of the groups and to the sense of fellowship.  Parting can be and is often painful.

 

Last Thursday, the Church celebrated the feast of the Ascension, a major Festival that tends to be forgotten as it does not and cannot fall on a Sunday, as it falls 40 days after Easter and 40 does not divide by 7.  During those 40 days Jesus spent time with his disciples preparing them for the time when he would no longer be among them trying to prepare them for the time when they will not see his early body any more.  A time, when they would have to carry on the work of God’s mission, without the physical presence of their leader.

 

The origin of the Pascal Candle was, that it was lit at Easter and burned continuously for 40 days, signifying Jesus presence in the world, a symbolic reminder to us as we see it burning..  Nowadays the Pascal Candle does not burn continuously for 40 days and so it lasts somewhat longer and part of its symbolism, is subsequently used at Baptisms and Funerals.

 

Throughout life there is a rhythm, a pattern of one thing leading to another, a door closing and another opening – an end and a beginning.  And this theme is seen again and again throughout the liturgical year.  Advent a time of preparation for Christmas, and at the end of that preparation,  the birth of a baby to be our Saviour;  Lent a time of preparation for Easter and the opening of a door on new life.  The resurrection appearances, and then the Ascension, as Jesus leaves this earth, -  an end to his bodily presence, and a new beginning with the coming of the Holy Spirit, a festival we shall celebrate next weekend.  

 

The feast of the Ascension, the day when Jesus leaves his disciples, an end to his physical presence, and the start of a different relationship.  As Jesus prepares to leave his disciples in his physical body for the last time he gives them their orders, orders which will ensure that the work he started on earth will continue.  That order is ‘To go and make disciples of all nations’.

The work of mission, God’s mission passes to those disciples.  A tall order.  But Jesus does not leave them to get on with the job entirely on their own.

 

They are told not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for what the Father has promised.  ‘It is’, Jesus had said, ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’  Having received the Holy Spirit they were to go out as heralds to announce the king, who is ascended, and to bring the Good News to all peoples.

 

In the Gospel reading for today from the 17th chapter of John’s gospel, part of the “High Priestly Prayer of Jesus”, we hear the prayer that forms the link between Jesus’ final teaching of his disciples in chapters 13-16 and the story of his Passion in chapters 18-19. 

In the reading Jesus prays for his disciples. His victory will be accomplished through the cross, but it is his disciples who must make that victory a reality in the world. Jesus prays for the life of the faith community after his “hour”, both the first disciples and all who will follow them – including us.

Jesus’ prayer begins with the affirmation that his followers are gifts of God’s grace – they belong to God, who has entrusted them to the Son. Jesus’ prayer is for them, as they face living out the life of faith in a hostile world, a world in which Jesus is no longer physically present. Jesus has given his followers his Father’s word and has protected them from the “evil one”; as he prepares to return to his Father he commends his followers to his Father’s care and protection. They are citizens of a world in which they do not belong – they are in the world, but not of the world.

O

 

n this Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost, with the disciples and the whole Church, we are waiting for the “power from on high”, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a gift that is meant to help us locate our position as Christians in the world. And what a world!

It is a world of contrasts – rich and poor, over-fed and starving, flooded and drought-stricken, a world divided as a result of Covid – the list seems endless. It is in this world that we Christians, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are called to live out our faith.  As Jesus makes clear in today’s Gospel, it is in his followers, and nowhere else on earth, that he is to be glorified.

At the heart of Jesus’ teaching is the new commandment – the commandment to love one another - we are called to live in love. What kind of love are we called to show? “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,” says Jesus. That is the challenge – we are called to love with the love that Jesus has for us; with the self-giving love that makes possible the incarnation and leads to the cross.

Christians are called to choose the costliest option, the one that serves others before self and to build a loving society where we can dare to love selflessly because we have the security of being selflessly loved.  For those first apostles the Ascension marked a change and a new beginning in the form of Jesus presence.  Until then Jesus had lived and walked on this earth.  He had led them in God’s mission.  Now he was united with God as an invisible power moving up to more advanced work.

We are now called to continue the work of those first apostles – to be witnesses – good advertisements of Jesus Christ.

From Pentecost onwards he is everywhere present to inspire and help us and his Holy Spirit is the means by which he gives us that help and inspiration. 

No longer can God’s mission be left to the clergy and Readers, the licensed ministers,

we are all in this together.  Many of us have opportunities in our workplace, our immediate communities, in the places where we live, the pastoral work some of us undertake, the organisations we belong to, the music ministry of the choir, a very powerful one, we all have opportunities.

 

All baptised Christians have gifts and we all have a calling - all ministry is collaborative both lay and ordained. Collaborative ministry starts with you and me.  It all may seem somewhat daunting.  But Jesus also made a promise before he ascended, a promise which should be our support and reassurance in the ministry to which we are called; a promise which should give us confidence.

  

May the Ascension mark a change and a new beginning for each one of us in our discipleship as we hear those final words of Jesus to his disciples, two thousand years ago, but as relevant to us today as they were then.  ‘Go, and make disciples of all nations’.

 

May we and all who profess to be his disciples, follow his command confident of promise, the promise which says, ‘Lo I am with you always to the end of time’.    

 

Post Communion Prayer

Eternal God, giver of love and power,
your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world
to preach the gospel of his kingdom:
confirm us in this mission,
and help us to live the good news we proclaim;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

1 John 5.9-13 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Acts 1.15-17,21-26 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
John 17.6-19 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (7th of Easter) ©  1985 Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services
Collect (7th of Easter) ©  The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)