Letter from the clergy - Sunday 24 May 2020

Dear Friends

Our readings this weekend focus on the Ascension, and Jesus’s great prayer for his disciples. Sometimes we overlook the importance of the Ascension, perhaps because it is always celebrated on a Thursday, ten days before Pentecost, but it is a vital part of the story of what happened after Jesus was raised from the dead. In Acts 1.6-14 the writer (St Luke) describes Jesus’s last moments with his disciples, when he promises that they will receive power from the Holy Spirit to continue his work, he is taken up into heaven, and they stand there looking intently up into the sky. The cloud indicating God’s presence, and the two figures from the Old Testament reminiscent of Moses and Elijah who appeared at the Transfiguration, explain that he will come back, and now is the time to take up the commission that they’ve been given. The Easter story is not just about the resurrection of Jesus, but is completed by his Ascension, his ‘lifting up’, to the most important place in heaven, ‘exalted to the highest place’ (Philippians 2.8-9), to sit at the Father’s right hand in his glory, where his glory will be fully visible again.

This glory is what Jesus is praying to his Father about in our gospel reading, John 17.1-11, he knows that it is time for God’s purposes to be worked out, so that by his death, resurrection, and ascension, people will be able to receive eternal life, and he describes this in his prayer in terms of being glorified. The words glory, light, ‘seeing’, and life run through John’s gospel, a theme of spiritual life being given, and it is a wonderfully uplifting concept to think of Jesus now being in such an elevated and powerful place in the heavenly realm, and yet so interested in us as individuals that we can pray to him about anything, however small. In verses 6-11 Jesus prays for his disciples, who will be continuing his work after he has left this earth, in wonderfully affirming ways, explaining how God’s character and the closeness of the Father and Son has been revealed to them, and I believe that God wishes to reveal himself to us in this way too.

At this time of being unable to gather together in person in church, I find it really helpful to be reminded that the gospel is all about the love of God for his people, and the deep connection between God the Father and the Son, which is held in a relationship of love and commitment as Jesus describes in his prayer, and not in a building. And this relationship of love between God and his people is energised and empowered by the Holy Spirit, who is the gift of Jesus to each of us today, just as he was to his first disciples. So in the next week, as we anticipate the celebration of Pentecost next Sunday, the coming of the Spirit, let us pray especially for the Spirit of Jesus to come into our lives, into our community as we learn how to be kind to eachother in these stressful times, and into our nation as our leaders make decisions for the wellbeing and safety of us all.

If you have internet, do take a look at the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ website and pray for people you know to come to know Jesus.

A prayer for this week:

Lord, help us to let go of anything that is making us anxious or weary, and to lay it at your feet.
Help us to draw near to you, to open our hearts to you, and to trust you to give us all that we need each day.
Be with those who are lonely, drifting in life, or who have lost sight of your glory.
Heal those who are sick, and comfort the bereaved, we ask in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

With grace and peace,
Sue McWhinney 
sue@stjohnsfarsley.org.uk
07484 181699


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