The Sunday after Ascension
Hymn: O Worship the King
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Prayers of Penitence
The Spirit of the Lord fills the world
and knows our every word and deed.
Let us then open ourselves to the Lord
and confess our sins in penitence and faith.
You raise the dead to life in the Spirit:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
You bring pardon and peace to the broken in heart:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
You make one by your Spirit the torn and divided:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
A prayer of absolution follows
May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.
Gloria in Excelsis
We join in with this gloria sung as a hymn
Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.
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.
The Liturgy of the Word
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7 He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.
Hymn: Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.
Gospel Reading: John 17:1-11
Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John
Glory to you O Lord.
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6 ‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
My first on-line service was Passion Sunday, the story was the raising of Lazarus and we heard Jesus’ assertion to Mary his sister ‘I am the resurrection and the life.
Since then we have been watching Jesus alongside of the crowds and the disciples during the events that led up to his crucifixion asking the question – who is this Jesus? Then sharing in the joy of Mary Magdalene and doubting Thomas as they came to realise that Jesus was indeed the resurrection and the life, that he had risen from the dead.
Over these weeks of the Easter Season we have learnt that we can know Jesus, that we can recognise him and hear his distinctive voice, we have understood again that Jesus is the way to the Father and that in Jesus we have a dwelling place.
We have been looking to Jesus, seeking him, desiring his presence, refreshing our faith, living again those stories which are fundamental to our Christian understanding. I think the questions underlying all this exploration have been – where is my heart in relation to Jesus? Where am I in my relationship with him? How open am I to Jesus? Can I respond to his call? The perspective of the reflections over these weeks has been from us looking towards Jesus.
The gospel passage set for today from John’s gospel turns this perspective around. This is Jesus looking outwards – looking towards his disciples- and right now, today, that is us. Chapter seventeen of John’s gospel is written as an exploration of the thoughts of Jesus. It is written from the heart of Jesus; it describes his prayer. He was open enough with his disciples to stand and pray before them. This is the way Jesus understands his relationship with the Father and with his disciples. This is his prayer. This is his heart which is revealed.
This great prayer of Jesus is set at the end of the last supper before he and his disciples go out into the Kidron Valley where he is arrested. It is a prayer rooted in his relationship with his Father in heaven and centred on his relationship with that group of followers who had become his disciples and closest friends. Jesus is headed towards the cross. He knows it and he prays that the Son maybe gloried through what is to come, but above all this prayer is for his disciples. It is the last thing he can do for them before his journey to the cross – pray for them.
This passage is set for today because today is the Sunday after Ascension Day.
We listen to these two readings in juxtaposition to one another. Three days ago, on Ascension Day, forty days after Easter, we told the story of how Jesus was taken up into heaven leaving his disciples behind. Having been with them – even in his resurrected self, Jesus is now no longer with them. They have to go forward without him. Jesus is taken from them but he has asked them to wait – wait in Jerusalem and pray for the Holy Spirit that God will give them to empower them and enable them to proclaim the good news to the nations. ‘You will be my witnesses,’ he tells them.
This is the waiting time, the praying time between Ascension and Pentecost- the disciples’ mission has not yet begun. This is a suspended time, a time of wondering and anticipation and also worry. But in the background, we have the words of Jesus prayer. We hear what Jesus desires for these people who were so special to him. We just heard them named, his disciples and also his mother and his brothers. We listen to this prayer in the light of the mission upon which the disciples are about to embark, after the Spirit comes upon them at Pentecost.
These few who were going to carry so much, who had no idea how their decision to follow Jesus would work out. These few who were chosen. In the prayer Jesus describes them as ‘given’. These followers have been given – a gift from God. From the gospel stories we know the failings of the disciples , we know the stories about the times when they fell out and when they don’t get what Jesus is doing, when they think in the world’s ways – but here in this prayer Jesus sees them in a different light , he recognises the way in which they have been given to him – for the purposes of God – and how incredible it is that they believe in him.
He prays to the Father – ‘they were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word’ – ‘they have believed that you sent me’
And so, Jesus petitions the Father on their behalf. He urgently asks the Father to protect them when he no longer can. Because in coming to believe in Jesus as the son of God, they have been set apart from the world. They are in it – but they are no longer of it because they have become believers and so they are vulnerable. Vulnerable to the attacks of the world and vulnerable to the temptations of the world. Later in the prayer Jesus adds
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
The prayer is not to be spared life in the world – to be somehow separate from it – but hold onto their belief within it.
There are riches for us here. In all our failings and inadequacies – we too are Jesus’ disciples. We too, however unworthy we feel, have been given to Jesus by the Father. We are also precious and special in the eyes of Jesus and Jesus desires that not one of us should be lost. Jesus values us, Jesus wants us to know the fulness of God’s truth, Jesus wants us not to lose our way but to continue as those who believe in Him as the Son of God and who follow him. Jesus wants us protected from the evil one.
This is not us seeking after Jesus, questioning where we are in our relationship with him. This is Jesus affirming that relationship, being thankful for us and seeing us as a gift. God’s gift to the one who is our saviour – for God’s purposes.
This is not how we normally see ourselves. This perspective may well be hard to accept because we can usually can only see our failings. We know about the trouble in our hearts, our anger, unforgiveness, guilt, laziness, frustration. We know how about the times when we don’t turn to prayer and to God. We are quicker to sense how far we are from God than how near we are to God and how important we are to God.
But when we can hear it, when we know how treasured we are by the Lord then we can find reason and strength to go forwards in our faith to live it out with courage and proclaim the good news to the world. We say of someone who is above himself – he thinks he is God’s gift to football or God’s gift to the music industry. Well actually – you are god’s gift to Jesus. I wonder can you see yourself as God’s gift? Have a go at realising that.
I think this is especially significant at the moment. As I said during the Ascension Day sermon, because of the lockdown we are also in the waiting time. We are also waiting in a place of anxiety and anticipation. When can we open the church for worship? How can we do mission? What will be the impact of the regulations to prevent spreading Covid 19? How can we be witnesses ? How can we serve God?
It is as though Jesus has put a restraining hand on our shoulder. Wait a bit – there will be power from on high. You will be filled with Spirit once again. And what’s more you are chosen and I have asked the Father to protect you.
Let us pray.
Jesus, help us to wait with patience during this time for all that you want to give us. Help us to accept that we are given to you. Thank you for your love for us. Keep us faithful we pray and protect us. In your mercy. Hear our prayer.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Prayers of Intercession
Almighty God, we come today reminded of your greatness, your glory,
your sovereign power and eternal purpose
expressed so wonderfully in Jesus Christ,
risen and ascended.
We thank you that through his Ascension
Jesus was set free to be Lord of all-
no longer bound to a particular place or time
but with us always
and able to reach to the ends of the earth.
We thank you through his departing
Jesus prepared the way for his coming again,
through his Spirit,
and his coming again in glory.
like the apostles,
we too will never fully understand
all Ascension means.
We accept, but we do not fully understand.
We believe, yet we have many questions.
Help us, despite our uncertainty,
to hold firm to the one great truth
that the wonder of Christ goes far beyond
anything we can imagine,
and in that faith may we live each day.
The apostles waited and prayed in the upper room,
We pray for all who are in lockdown and isolation,
for those who are afraid and anxious, struggling with mental health
or financial difficulties.
We give thanks, although we may be separated from our loved ones
we are never separated from God’s Love.
We give thanks for all those reaching out to others,
the volunteers in our community,
for key workers keeping the vital services going.
We give thanks and pray for the doctors and nurses that they will be kept safe whilst caring for the sick with covid19 and other ailments.
We pray merciful Lord for your comfort and healing for those who are ill or in pain.
For those who are grieving the sudden loss of loved ones. May they find your fellowship in their suffering, your comfort in their loss and your hope in their despair.
Lord we ask for wisdom and guidance for our leaders, national governments and those in positions of responsibility grant them wisdom and strength. We pray that a vaccine may be found to eradicate the disease from the world.
We pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the church and the leaders in making decisions for the future as we slowly come out of lockdown. We give thanks for Olwen’s ministry to us and ask your blessing and guidance as we plan ahead.
Merciful father accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our saviour, Jesus Christ.
Merciful Father accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit we join in with this ancient prayer sung here…
Hymn: Come Holy Ghost our souls inspire
God has made us one in Christ.
He has set his seal upon us and, as a pledge of what is to come,
has given the Spirit to dwell in our hearts. Alleluia.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray peace for one another.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our saviour has taught us
Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
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.
The Spirit of truth lead you into all truth,
give you grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
and strengthen you to proclaim the word and works of God;
and the blessing …
Hymn: Christ Triumphant ever reigning
Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia.
‘Gigue’ Fugue G-Major BWV 577 – J.S. Bach