Saturday, 31 May 2014
Sunday 1 June 2014 Easter 7 Acts 1:6-14 John 17:1-11 Bruce
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. It is all about Jesus. The vast range of events and beliefs that form the Christian faith all come together in the person of Jesus. He is the prism through whom we see and understand reality. He is the Word made flesh who made his dwelling among us. His is the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. On Thursday we celebrated the feast of the ascension. As Anne reminded us in her sermon, this seems to have faded in importance compared to the two major feasts of Christmas and Easter, but it is of equal importance. The same Jesus who died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day returned to his home in heaven. He is there right now. He has returned to glory. This matters because without the ascension, Jesus might have been just a very special human, albeit a holy and extraordinarily gifted one. Because of the ascension, we see that Jesus is glorified. The word is doxa from which we get the word doxology. It means to be bright, effulgent, worthy of praise. It is the word to be used of victors, those who triumph, those who excel, who are supreme. We see the word used a number of times in John’s gospel. It refers to the person of Christ. It is sued when people praise others. It comes in response to a miracle like turning water into wine or raising Lazarus from the dead. In John 17, Jesus prays on the night before his death. He says that God will be glorified in the death of his Son, and that he himself will reach the peak of glory in this. He has brought glory to his Father God by completing the work that God gave him to do, and now he looks through the agony and shame of the cross to his regaining his place of honour in heaven – he will be glorified. This is what the disciples have an insight into as they watch the cloud cover Jesus as he is taken away from them, This is what we celebrate at communion services when we sing: Glory be to God in heaven, and again: Only Son of God the Father, Lamb who takes our sins away, now with him in triumph seated for your mercy, Lord, we pray: Jesus Christ, most high and holy, Saviour, you are God alone in the glory of the Father with the Spirit: Three-in-One! It is all about Jesus, and we praise him. And yet it is also about us. The whole of John 17 is a prayer by Jesus, to his Father, in which he prays for us. It is as if we get a foretaste, an insight, into how Jesus is spending his time now. He starts the prayer ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.’ As he continues, he talks about his followers, those who have come to believe in his name. “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” It is almost as if Jesus is saying that the job will not be complete unless and until his followers are also with him in heaven. In verse 22 he says ‘I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one’ and in verse 24: ‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.’ Here is the remarkable thing. Reading the repeated verses about Jesus and his glory, we might think that he is the centre of attention. Here he is suggesting that it is all about bringing us to be with him in glory. We get a sense of this when our team wins; for a brief moment last summer we all shared Andrew Murray’s glory at Wimbledon. But it is even more personal and intentional that than that: it is as if Wayne Rooney were to score the winning goal in the Brazil World Cup Final , and turn round and say: “St Michael’s Camberley, this is all for you!” This is how Jesus prays for us as we continue his work, that the Father’s will may be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus prayed: “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.” Hence he says to his disciples: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ Yes, Jesus is in glory having completed his mission on earth. Yes, we continue his mission and thus continue to bring glory to him. For the disciples this was initially to mean taking no action at all. They were to return to Jerusalem and to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had said in John 14 that he was returning to the Father, and would ask him to send another Comforter just like him to be with them forever – the Holy Spirit. I have often wondered why there was a ten day gap between the ascension and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. I suspect that this was not a delay in heaven. Rather, might it have been a delay on earth in the disciples being ready to hear and receive? We are told they all ‘joined together constantly in prayer’. The reading stops before we hear about what they did next – they had a committee meeting. It was only when they were ‘all together in one place’ on the Day of Pentecost that God could intervene in all his glory and transform them and the world. How can we respond to this? 1. We can give glory to Jesus. Allelujah! sing to Jesus, his the sceptre, his the throne; 2. We can cultivate our relationship with him, our living High Priest who is praying for us moment by moment. Intercessor, Friend of sinners, earth’s Redeemer, plead for me, 3. We can pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised he would send us. Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire; In the coming week pray every day for the God’s Spirit to fill you. Join us for the Day of Prayer on Friday, where we will be praying for the coming of the Spirit. Look for ways that he will help you to be his witness, not necessarily to ‘Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’, but to Yorktown, Camberley, Blackwater and College Town, to Surrey and to the ends of the earth. Discussion starters 1. Jesus seems to have seen glory in obeying his Father’s will, even in embracing suffering. How does this affect your understanding of the concept of glory? 2. As we finish our time together, what is the burning concern of your heart that you would share with God? Dare we believe that Jesus is carrying this burden with us and for us? How does this make you feel? 3. Let us spend a some time asking God to fill us afresh with his Spirit, to the glory of Jesus …..