Seventh Sunday of Easter

I really feel for the disciples! They witnessed awful scenes at the crucifixion, and surely wondered what Jesus was all about. They must have had misgivings, must have been confused. And then , some how, Jesus was back with them, teaching them and explaining more about God. Just as they began to be used to this, their lives changed yet again, for after teaching them for a while Jesus ascended into heaven to be with his heavenly Father. We don’t know how long the period was between the resurrection and the ascension – in church we mark it with a period of forty days. I wonder if, as the disciples began to get used to Jesus appearing after the resurrection, they thought that life would shake back to normal. Jesus concentrated on teaching them - no interruptions about miracles and healings in our readings over the last few weeks. It’s been Jesus instructing his disciples, and quite often his disciples missing the point. And then, as they are gathered together again, they realise that Jesus isn’t going to hang around all the time with them after all. What are they to do? Jesus expects them to carry on as if he is still with them. Last week, we heard Jesus explain that he would send another helper or advocate to be with them. But this is not the time, not yet. Jesus disappears from their sight, and they are left behind. I wonder how that felt. I wonder what went through their minds. We are told, though, that as a group they returned to Jerusalem, and prayed together continuously, with Mary, Jesus’s mother, and his brothers. We, too, are asked to pray in these days between Ascension Day (which was last Thursday) and Pentecost, which is next Sunday. Together with our ecumenical brothers and sisters from the Methodist and Roman Catholic Churches, we pray for the coming of God’s Spirit. From the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ website : “Every single day hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters around the world say the prayer Jesus put on our lips, praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. In the past few years, the focus of our prayers in these days between Ascension and Pentecost has been for the coming of the God’s Kingdom in the lives of family and friends, neighbours and colleagues that they might come to faith. But TKC is not a slogan and it is vital we aren’t tone deaf to what is occurring around us. The Holy Spirit always has an address, speaking in our mother tongue, thereby applying and particularising the work of Jesus Christ to certain individuals in different locations at distinct times. So, when we pray ‘Come Holy Spirit’ during Thy Kingdom Come 2020 we pray in this specific context of the COVID crisis, with all that we face, all that is unknown and all we are helpless before. Haven’t we sensed more than ever the longing for the Kingdom of God – where there is no pain or crying, no injustice or loneliness? Haven’t we longed for God’s ways to be seen in the world? Haven’t we been most moved by those who give their lives to serve all that the Kingdom of God stands for? We long for signs of the Kingdom. And as a church do all we can to serve that Kingdom. In the light of this the team at TKC have sought to discern what the theme of Thy Kingdom Come 2020 should be. Over past years we have endeavoured to be clear in our messaging – that in these 11 days we pray for the Spirit to work significantly in those who don’t follow Christ, that they might encounter his love and peace and make the best decision anyone can ever make – become followers of Jesus. And that they in turn would come to give their lives in service of the Kingdom of God. But however important prayer is we know the pray-er is called to action. So, this year we will be encouraging all not simply to pray that friends and family, colleagues and neighbours might encounter the love of God in Christ, but that they would experience that love in action. We are calling this ‘Prayer and Care’. Of course in churches up and down the country doing this is a daily reality, and this time of prayer gives itself to an even deeper engagement with the needs around us. There are a whole load of ways we are suggesting this could happen; by care, by contact, by service – but serving as Christ serves. This year as we pray for others, we pray that they would come to know Christ so that they may come to give their lives to serve God’s Kingdom. We will once again encourage every person taking part in TKC to pray for 5 others who don’t know the love of Christ and then to resolve to invite them along to something appropriate once our church buildings are reopened. All this prayer is reliant and expectant that the Holy Spirit would draw more and more to encounter God’s love in Christ, so we might be and bring the difference in the world he sends us to stake everything on.” These are difficult times. We grieve because we can no longer meet with our friends and loved ones. These times, though, will pass. What we ask this week, more than ever, is that we pray. Light a candle, focus on the flame. Prayers do not have to be words. God knows what is in our hearts. Remember you are a beloved child of God. You are enough. The disciples stayed together and prayed. We can’t be together physically in church, however, we are still the body of Christ, we are still the Church. As ever, I hold you all in prayer, and long for when we can meet in person. God bless. Anne
— Janet Taylor
Sun, 24 May 2020