The Pas Easter 7 – Ascension Sunday
13 May 2018
Psalm 1 pg 705
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
1 John 5:9-13
Giver of eternal life,
send us to your world
to speak the truth of peace,
to stand with those who suffer,
and to show another way;
through Jesus Christ, the life of all things. Amen.
Today our gospel tells us that Jesus prays.
And if we think about it, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Jesus in prayer. At the same time, it’s not the first time we’ve been prayed for by Jesus; but the fact that John, in his gospel, tells us what Jesus prays, at this time, as he prepares to face the will of God in his life, and for his life, a will that will claim his earthly life on the cross.
Yet his prayer is for you, and for me, for our faith to grow as we are called to be in the world, but not of the world.
And this is an incredible thing, if we just stop to think about it.
So often, when we look at, talk about Jesus’ life and ministry we focus on Jesus’ teachings, his miracles, we look at his actions. But that’s not what John shows us today.
Today we see Jesus praying for the disciples. We see him praying you, and for me.
At last week’s Provincial Synod, in Edmonton, in the midst of resolutions and changes to the Provincial Constitution, we heard from the guest speaker, Bishop Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, in England, who spoke about what it means to live a “Jesus shaped life” as a form of discipleship, in the Anglican Church, as a way of living out our faith, in and to the world around us.
Now, I have to admit that most of the models of discipleship I find are almost irritating to the point of being ‘off putting.’ They ‘command’ us to gather in bible study, in intentional prayer, in intentional service in the community around us, and in and to our world.
It reminds me of a very rigid, a very ascetic form of Christianity where even, those who adhere to it never seem to quite measure up. And such models, I find discouraging as they seek to encourage us to participate in their practices.
Yet, last week, Bishop Cottrell talked about discipleship as an expression of our every day faith, of our every day practices, and leaned back on Luther’s idea of praying without ceasing, although he never directly referred to Luther’s words.
He talked of needing to be reminded, to study, to know intimately the basic tenets of our faith: The Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles Creed, the Beatitudes, and the Ten Commandments. He reminds us to know, intricately and intimately what we live, adhere to, what we, from habit and familiarity often just gloss over, as we rush from task, to task in our daily lives.
He talked of how we live that faith to the world, and what we can try to encourage others to join us as a focus of Jesus prayers, today.
What he talked about centred on knowing the bible, and on prayer. And when he talked about prayer, he talked about how vital it is to our lives. Prayer is as vital to our lives of faith as is breathing to our general wellbeing.
At one point he asked us to participate in a table exercise. He asked, jokingly, us to hold our breath for about 5 minutes, and he’d time us. Then we could discuss our experiences, in our table groups.
Now, throughout the conference, he combined poetry and storytelling with a healthy dose of humour.
But in the end, the definition he gave us for prayer was as beautiful as the experience was enlightening. He said that prayer is like “the lover entering the presence of the beloved.”
“The lover entering the presence of the beloved.”
And this is an interesting viewpoint, after all, in such a situation, we are the beloved. We, God’s created, God’s creation are beloved of the one who loves each and every one of us so unconditionally that he sent Jesus into the world so that we might see, so that we might believe, so that Jesus might pray for each one of us, today, and tomorrow, without ceasing.
At the same time, we are loved so conditionally that he chose us to be the people of the Covenant through Moses, along with the Hebrew people.
We are loved so deeply that we are given the Law, the 10 Commandments to guide our lives.
We are loved so much that God gave us our hearts desire in forms of leadership and government through the judges, the kings, and the prophets.
God loves us so much that even when Adam and Eve erred in the Garden of Eden with the fruit, God continued to walk with them as God continues to walk with each one of us, still today.
And today we see Jesus praying for the disciples, we see Jesus praying for each one of us as he says: “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” (Jn 17:9b)
Jesus prays that we will be led, protected, encouraged and loved.
We are beloved of God to such a degree that Jesus prays for us, for our faith, and that we will have the courage to continue to defy the world and to carry in the work that Jesus has left in our keeping.
But that means that, in the cosmic sense, God is the lover. So, when we define prayer as “the lover coming into the presence of the beloved” then when we pray, when we make every action in our lives a form of prayer, then we are continually and constantly in the presence of God.
When we come together to pray, as the church as been encouraging between Ascension and Pentecost with the initiative “Thy Kingdom Come”, conceived of and promoted by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the whole of the Anglican expression of faith in the world. In this, we are praying for those we love, as well as those we don’t particularly love.
We pray for those who need to be uplifted, and for those who uplift each one of us.
We pray for God’s will to be realized in our lives, for the kingdom to be realized all around us, for the words of the Lords Prayer to be fulfilled, every day, in and for our lives, and for the lives of everyone all around us.
At the same time, today, we celebrate Jesus ascension. Today we celebrate that Jesus departs to be with God, so that the Holy Spirit is able to come to us at Pentecost.
Jesus, today, is trusting each one of us to carry on where he left off in loving our neighbour, as we are loved. We are trusted to carry on with carrying for those who are less fortunate than we are.
We are asked to carry on with being the beloved in the presence of the one who loves each one of us, unconditionally.
So, knowing the challenges that lie before us, Jesus prays.
Knowing how the world will pull at us, and strive to distrust us along the way, Jesus, the beloved, enters the presence of the lover, God, to pray for each one of us who is as much beloved as is Jesus.
Jesus prays: “6 “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. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.” (Jn 17:6-7)
But he doesn’t stop there, although knowing what Jesus teaches is vital to our lives of faith.
He says: “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 … so that they may be one as we are one.” (Jn 17:11b)
“14 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. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (Jn 17:14-15)
Jesus prays for each one of us to not be discouraged in the events of our lives.
Jesus prays that we have the strength, the courage, the conviction, the faith to carry on with the tasks at hand, the tasks that are more successful for our lives, because Jesus ascends to the Father and trusts us to be God’s hands, voices, and feet in the world, today.
But what does this mean for each one of us?
On some level, we’re aware that Jesus loves us, that we are the children of God.
We are raised with this knowledge, we revel in the fact that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead for you and for me.
Yet, there are those in the world, and today this is an increasing number, who are not aware that God loves them. That Jesus died for them. That when they pray, they are in the presence of the divine, they are the in the presence of the one who loves them, unconditionally, that they are beloved.
How are we, the beloved of God, able to be a presence, a positive influence, the hands of God, in the world around us, today?
Well, for the next week, we are encouraged to pray, either individually, or corporately. We’re encouraged to pray in the church and in the world. We are encouraged to make the actions of our lives a continuous prayer in and through the world.
At the same time, we’re encouraged to be visible in the world. We can actively invite people to join us, but if they’ve never been further into the building than the hallway out side the sanctuary, how do we encourage them across the threshold?
At the same time, how can we meet them where they are in their lives? Are we able to meet, in our groups, in the community? Are we able to sit with those who need companionship, mentor those who are in need of direction?
But it all begins with knowing our bible, it begins with being willing to pray for people, and with people. It begins with living out our faith
It begins, in today’s gospel, as we hear Jesus pray for us, who are still in the world.
Jesus prays: “16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”