Sermon 16 May 2021


Sermon for Sunday after Ascension; Psalm 1, Ezekiel 36, Acts 1:15-17, and 21 to end, John 17:6-19 Revd Tudor V Roberts

 

Do you ever find yourself in an “In between time”? Something has happened in the past, others have promised something new in the near future, but right now you have to deal with today and that includes some real issues that need sorting out.

In two of our readings today from John 17 and Acts 1 that is what John and Luke are reporting on.

In John, Jesus has in one sense finished the major part of his mission on earth of his 3-year ministry, but now he is facing arrest, trial, torture, and crucifixion. In Acts Luke records how the disciples have witnessed the Ascension of Christ, leaving them, and ascending  to the right-hand side of the Father in Heaven. But they are distracted, they are one man down and that needs sorting.

Common to both readings and hinted at in Psalm 1 is a focus on prayer and as you know right now, that as we are in that in between time between Ascension and Pentecost, In that time we can be part of “Thy Kingdom Come “ prayer initiative as well as following the Prayer course at All Saints Church, so it sounds as we have a subject:

Prayer in the In between times based on John and Acts.

Firstly, we go to Acts 1:15-17 and 21 to the end. On Thursday we celebrated Ascension  one of the most important festivals in the Church calendar, but much neglected in the UK. We celebrated that Jesus ascended before his disciple’s eyes to the right side of the Father in Heaven, victorious to reign for ever more.

But for the Apostles this was an in between time they had gone through the Cross the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus they knew something else was coming Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem, but they do not have a  name for it yet.

All the disciples had were the promises of Jesus, the prophecies of Scripture and now they were as it were back at Base camp 1, the upper room in Jerusalem, perhaps the same one where Jesus had appeared to them resurrected from the dead or the one where they had had the last supper, but now they had business to tend to; the choosing a of a new disciple to take the place of the traitor, Judas Iscariot.

We have been and still are in a pandemic, in a sense we are meeting today  because we know there is a future, but we know It can never be the same again as Pre Covid 19, The world has changed, we have changed, and the Church must change.

For the Disciples, the 120 men and women, which probably included the 72 sent out by Jesus, the 11, and the 37 others and as vs 14 of Acts 1 says also included Mary other women and Jesus’s brothers (who were once recorded as thinking Jesus had lost his mind) this was a new Christian community, but they had one very important task find Apostle number 12 version 2.

It had to be a man who had been with the 11 the whole time from John the Baptist to the Ascension

One who had personally been a witness of the resurrection.

One called by Jesus.

What was the key to choosing a replacement for Judas? we go to Acts 1:14 and we see the key activity of this very early Church was prayer.

Acts 1:13-15.

New International Version

13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James’s son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)

Prayer was central for Jesus in choosing the disciples and likewise his 120 disciples made prayer central to choosing a new disciple, Apostle.

They follow the leading of scripture.

They begin to collect names.

They use the Biblical practice of casting lots.

And they co-operate with God in prayer.

Acts 1:23-24.

New International Version

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen.

Christian prayer in the Book of Acts is often  not per se  praying on your own (of huge importance though this may be in our own spiritual walk)

NB Moses and David and Elijah and Jesus and Paul and Peter and Luther and Theresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich and Wesley etc clearly prayed on their own so have many during Covid 19.Praise God!

Jesus taught us to go into bedrooms and shut the door and pray to our Father in secret.

But In Acts much of the prayer mentioned is corporate that is because being part of the Church was new it was the only place to hear scripture read and that (corporately) where a lot of the prayer went on.

It is praying together.

Using common sense

Using scripture as a guide.

Christian Prayer uses discernment, but it relies 100pct on God to guide us. The result was that of 2 men, Joseph, and Matthias there was clear guidance to choose Matthias. Now, we never hear about him again but that is OK. Sometimes there is not always an obvious impact of our prayers, but the choosing of Matthias was important enough to occupy much of Act’s chapter 1 and it prepared the way for Pentecost. The 12 were 12 again! the stage was set for the biggest explosion of new Christians that would transform the very nature of the very early Church. And it started with prayer.

In John 17 Jesus prays; we see him praying for the disciples preparing them for the in between times that will face them.

John 17:7-10

New International Version

Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me, and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.

Jesus is asking God the Father to be there for these fragile disciples He prays for their:

Protection vs 11

Their Unity vs 11b

That they may have the fullest measure of his Joy vs 13

And he is praying vs 15 that they may be incarnational, praying that God does not take them out of the world but that He might protect them from the evil one.

In Vs 1 he prays that they wil be sanctified by the truth your word is truth the word for sanctify is HAGIAZEIN it means “make them more holy”

And then in verse 19 he prays that they may sent ones.

So, in this period of the Churche’s year and at this time of our lives Lest pray for each other.

Let our prayers be focussed and intentional.

Pray for Protection.

For Joy

For each other to be incarnated in the world.

To be Holy

And to be sent ones

I believe as in Colossians 1 Where Paul never stops praying for his friends in Colossae asking God to fill them with a knowledge of himself that this is a revolutionary way of praying.

We are not through Covid 19 yet One day we wil but let us get praying.

C. Tudor Vaughan Roberts

O GOD the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven: We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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