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Risen, ascended Lord,
as we rejoice at your triumph,
fill your Church on earth with power and compassion,
that all who are estranged by sin
may find forgiveness and know your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.
Acts 1.15-17, 21-26
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred and twenty people). He said, ‘Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus – for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry. So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’ So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Jesus looked up to heaven and prayed: ‘Father, 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. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 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. 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. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
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. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I 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. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.’
Post Communion Prayer
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.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen
What did you make of the Gospel this morning? What was it about? Did you understand it – I didn’t and I have been studying it for a couple of weeks …… and I am sure I have got greyer as a result.
So, when considering this text there were three things I wanted to know:
Firstly, what does the Gospel passage mean?
Secondly, why do we have a reading about Maundy Thursday today – are we going backwards?
Thirdly, what am I, personally going to do as a result of reading this Gospel?
John’s Gospel tends to be philosophical, …. it explores the deeper truths rather than telling a straightforward story. Today’s passage, sometimes called the High Priest’s Prayer, is part of a prayer Jesus offered during supper on Maundy Thursday. John never mentions the breaking of the bread or the sharing of the cup at all. Why not? As an event it is pretty central to our Christian identity. But John is more interested in the deeper significance of the events of that final evening.
Jesus offered this prayer to his Father whilst with his disciples. This deserves our attention – we frequently hear of Jesus going off to pray by himself, but this time … we know exactly what that prayer was
…. And the prayer is for the safety and unity of the Disciples … in the task that lies ahead.
There are three ideas I would like to investigate further. These are ‘belonging to the world,’ ‘glorification’ and ‘sanctification’.
Firstly, belonging to the world. If you remember, before Easter I was reflecting on Melchisidek – the High Priest, and how Jesus became the Highest Priest of the Highest of all Gods through suffering and trial. This is what he is telling his disciples now, here at supper. In Chapter 17 verses 13, 14 Jesus prays:
‘And now I am coming to you… (the Father) …. I have given them (the Disciples) your word, .. and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.’
Jesus does not belong to the world … because he is one with God the Father. He comes from God and will return to God. The Disciples now also share in this oneness with the Son and the Father. They have been given bread – the bread from heaven, and a life that is not of this world, but eternal life. It is, however, also the lot of Christians to live in this world – a world of troubles and temptations, and we are called to witness to the truth of God’s word… despite our own weaknesses and prejudices.
Secondly we come to ‘Glorification’ – what does to glorify actually mean?…
John is very precise with his use of words. For John,…. ‘glorification’ means revealing the divine presence in salvation. In Chapter 17 verse 10 Jesus prays ‘All mine are yours, … and yours are mine,… and I am glorified in them’. What this means… is that when we reveal God’s nature- the truth of his word either in words or in actions – that is when we glorify him.
Thirdly we come to Sanctification.
To sanctify … means to make ready for a special task.
God has sanctified Jesus, – God has prepared Jesus for the task of revealing to mankind the reality of God’s love,…. by dying for us,.. by defeating death and sin,… and by rising again from the dead. In turn, Jesus sanctifies the Disciples. He prays ‘I have made your name known’. Jesus has made the true nature of God clear. The Disciples have heard the word, they have understood God’s message and now they are called to spread the Good News to the rest of the world…. as are we.
My second question is why do we have a reading about Maundy Thursday today? Maundy Thursday was only six weeks ago. Surely we haven’t forgotten the story already?
We are, at the moment, like the Disciples… in a waiting time. On Thursday we celebrated the Ascension. Next Sunday we celebrate the great event of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit descended to empower the Disciples in their mission to spread the word of God. Interestingly all four Gospels end before the events of Pentecost. In the chronology of the New Testament the Disciples at this moment are relieved and happy that Jesus has risen but they are also afraid of the Jewish authorities and have locked themselves away… trying to make sense of what has happened and not quite sure what to do next. It is good, then, that we use this time of waiting… so we too can really reflect on the deep truths that Jesus was embodying – what it means for Jesus to be God incarnate. For those of us who embrace the Christian faith, and accept the word of God, we are promised unity with God the Father…. And the route for this journey has been revealed by Jesus the Son.
So finally, what, personally am I going to do about this? The key to the Christian journey is sanctification – through our Baptism, and Eucharist we are sanctified…. we are prepared for a special task. We as Christians – each and every one of us – has a special task. We are the body of Christ here on earth and it is up to us to reveal God’s truth in the world. That may be by prayer, by action, by generosity of spirit, by caring for creation, by supporting each other as a worshipping community. ..
In a few moments we will receive communion….. and when we do… we shall be sanctified for our Christian journey. By sharing in Christ’s body and blood, we will be prepared for our task. Each one of us has a different task and a different journey, but as Matthew said last week, let us go out and bear fruit.