Revd Lynne's sermon for Sunday 24th May: Sunday after Ascension Day
Acts 1: 6-14 & John 17: 1-11
Can you think of any pairs of words that go together?
Chalk & cheese; black & white; hide & seek; signed & sealed; soap & water.
I'm sure you can all think of many more.
Perhaps you could have fun making a list and see how many you can think of, including some that relate to church life and from the Bible
Maybe you could have a family competition, or simply challenge yourself to help keep the grey matter active.
Our gospel reading this morning from John chapter 17 – the first 11 verses, is a prayer by Jesus shortly before His death and resurrection.
His prayer talks of the completion of His mission.
Then He prays for His disciples, and all future believers.
In effect, He is passing on the baton to those who believe and trust in Him.
Preparing the way for his Disciples and, in the very uncertain and troubling times, giving them Hope and Promise for the future, and the promise of His Holy Spirit power.
Life seems a little like that for us at present. A little uncertain and troubled due to Covid19. No school, different routines, for many no work, no usual clubs and activities, and social isolation. What does the future hold? What will be the 'new normal'? These are very relevant questions on many peoples minds in these difficult and uncertain times.
Our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, other cabinet ministers and advisers, and our wonderful Queen in her broadcast – they have all affirmed that this uncertainty will come to an end and we will, by working together and obeying the rules for the good of all, come through this. They too are giving us Hope and Promise for an end of 'lockdown' and a brighter future when we can all meet and greet one another again - when it is safe to do so. But for now, no one can say for certain when that will be.
This reading from John's gospel is a wonderful prayer of Jesus, full of Hope and Promise, surely something we all need in our lives. It is what helps to keeps us going and lifts us up.
One of the many benefits of gardening, something that many of us have recently had more time to do, is the hope and promise of either beautiful flowers, or perhaps tasty vegetables still to come. I've certainly enjoyed sowing and growing - mainly salad crops and, though on a small scale, it is all looking hopeful.
Jesus talks of the assurance and certainty of believers, of knowing who Jesus is – Son and Saviour. This assurance of knowing Jesus in our lives also has the promise of eternal life. It reminds me of the hymn ‘Blessed assurance Jesus is mine'.
I have a small book on Saints and noticed that, for today, it had John & Charles Wesley. Both they and their father were anglican priests. Today John Wesley is remembered, especially in Methodist Churches, as the day in 1738 on which he 'felt his heart strangely warmed'. He had this assurance that 'he was saved, that all can be saved and saved to the uttermost'. His heart was transformed, but over the following months he didn't notice much difference in his life and ministry. At the end of that year, with a small group of friends, they committed to immersing themselves together in God's Word and in prayer, seeking Jesus’ promise of power from on high - and they were truly blessed and empowered several days later.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, v.8 really jumps out as a massive promise for ALL believers. It reads 'But you will receive Power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses'. Jesus' instruction to the disciples was to wait for the gift – and they spent their time in prayer together, not knowing when or how this gift would come. This same gift is available to us for His work in the world. Whatever our circumstances, wherever we are we know Jesus is with us and His power is in us.
Christians through the centuries have come to know the fullness of this promise in their lives. It is God's gift to every one of His people, to be equipped for whatever task He calls us to.
Jesus also assures us there is 'power in His name - that we might be one'. Often when we pray we say: 'in the name of Jesus'. We find an early example in Acts 3 where Peter and John are going to the temple to pray. They stopped to help a crippled man who was begging. Peter didn't offer him money, but something much more. He said 'In the name of Jesus, get up and walk'. We are all called to serve, to love and to care for others 'in His name'.
Through email and phone contact during past months with quite a number of folk, many have suggested they now have more time to get other jobs done, space to do other things. What an amazing gift to come from this pandemic period, time to hear the birds sing and to become more aware of the beauty of creation around us. We also can have more time to sit and be in God's presence, to read His Word and to pray for others. Time to feel the assurance of His love, and pray for the power of His Spirit to set our hearts on fire with love for Him. In Him we have Hope and Promise.
Next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, that first outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power. Red is the liturgical colour and, although we can't physically meet together, perhaps we can all celebrate in our worship at home by wearing something red (as per usual) or having something near us that is red to remind us of Jesus' promised gift of His Holy Spirit. Be encouraged and assured, in Jesus name.