24th May 2020 7th Sunday after Easter, First Sunday after Ascension


Sermon for Sunday 24th May 7th Sunday after Easter, First Sunday after Ascension

Scriptures: Ezekiel 36:24-28, Psalm 68:1-10 Acts 1:6-14, John 17:1-11.

Revd Tudor Vaughan Roberts All Saints Church Lydiard Millicent. 24.05.20

Above the Vicarage the sky has been amazing during these shutdown weeks. Against a bright blue sky, we have been entertained by a pair of Kestrels calling out and swooping. One even landed right in front of the living room window. He looked magnificent. Then there have been the vivid colours of the fresh green leaves on the Oak and Ash and Walnut trees against the blue of the sky. We are surrounded every day by hints of Gods grandeur, in a word hints of the glory of God.

Psalm 121 says I lift my eyes to the hills from where does my help come ?My Help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

So surely its natural for us to lift up our eyes. Even now as I write this sermon, I lift up my eyes to the sky, there is a brilliant ‘mackerel’ set of clouds they are beautiful, like they have been ‘painted’ on the sky.

Yet a lot of the time we do not lift up our eyes, they are cast down. A health magazine I get says that some research by a physiotherapist found that many people have “Tech neck” syndrome caused by constantly looking down at a smart phone. Apparently the human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds but when we constantly look down it puts a weight on the spinal cord of the equivalent of 60 pounds that’s the weight of a sack of potatoes, or 57 pints of milk, or 126 avocados! You would not want those guys as a necklace, would you?

Well Jesus was as ever ahead of his time.

John 17: 1 says

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you’

From before the world began and for thousands of years before his birth in Bethlehem and then for thousands of years post the incarnation, birth life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, Jesus’s place has always been at the right hand side of the Father in heaven. Many people myself included if asked, our mental picture of Jesus is not a heavenly one, its Jesus feeding the 5,000 or teaching, or healing people, or on the cross, all these are things that took place on Earth, but Jesus’s default setting is by the Father’s side. Something we especially celebrate at Ascension.

In John 17 we get an intimate insight into the prayer life of Jesus, he is praying to the Father, but he is also praying for his disciples praying for the Church praying for you and me.

So, Jesus does what the Publican in Luke 18:13 did not dare to do.

Luke 18:13-14 13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

The synoptic gospels tell us that Jesus’s habitual position was to look up  when he prayed. Leslie Newbiggin says,  “For the Lord is also his child, the Son, who looks up in the freedom and love and obedience to the Father”. Abba, he says, you know you hear boys and girls in the park and on the beach cry out ‘Daddy’ and around the world the word ‘abba’ or one that sounds like it is used for Father.’ Abba’  says Jesus

“That tender and intimate word contains in itself the substance of the new relationship to God which the death of Jesus was to make possible for sinful human beings”

St Paul put it this way as he always wonderfully does. Galatians 4:4-7

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

So do you and I see that John 17 is a master class in prayer but I need to emphasize that you cannot understand these words in John 17 if you have not come to Christ and can call God ‘Abba’ Father. So, to understand this sermon you need to know God. If you do not please take steps to make that commitment. On the Online U tube version of this Sermon in our Sunday service there is an alpha video as we want to have another try at doing Alpha online, so that in these days no one may miss the chance to know Christ as Saviour and Lord  for the first time or call me on 07880 611337 email me on tudorandtricia@btinternet.com

Jesus says ’Father the hour has come’ what started with Judas Iscariot back in John 13:30 and 31 has now fast forwarded to this very hour and it will take Jesus to the Cross and then to the Resurrection, 40 days teaching and appearing, and then the Ascension.

30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[a] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

Let us just pause there in our reading of John and look at Acts 1:6-14

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” 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 toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward 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[a] 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.

Jesus’s ascension as I mentioned at the start of this service is mentioned or hinted at even before Christ’s coming in a number of parts of the Bible...

Psalm 68:18

When you ascended on high,
    you took many captives;
    you received gifts from people,
even from[a] the rebellious—
    that you,[b] Lord God, might dwell there.

Psalm 24:3

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

Psalm 47:5

God has ascended amid shouts of Joy the lord amidst the sounding of trumpets.

And in Hebrews 4:14 Therefore since we have a great high Priest who has ascended into heaven Jesus the Son of God let us hold firmly to the faith, we profess

And then in Acts we read in verse 8 that Jesus promises the apostles will receive power when the Holy Sprit comes upon them and they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth#

Just as we heard in the reading from Ezekiel 36:24-28 there is a coming into Jerusalem and a going out to the nations.

24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a] 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Of course we are cleansed as we accept Christ's atoning death for us,his blood shed for our sins, but sprinkled water can be taken as a sign of what Jesus would do and a new Christian sees this work and act of Christ dying for us sealed and symbolised in the cleansing waters of baptism,Ezekiel gave his prophetic words about cleansing with water for the returning exiles and a new heart put within us,which wonderfully connects with what Jeus says the Holy Spirit will do for us,and Paul takes up saying we have Christ the hope of Glory in us.

Anyway back to Acts 1,And when he had said these things (Acts 1:6-8)# Jesus did indeed go up he was lifted up and then a cloud hid him from their sight, He could have just disappeared as he did in the time between the resurrection the Ascension but now he wanted to be seen by witnesses so that the disciples and then indeed you and I, the Church, know that at this set time recorded by Luke in Acts 1 there was a clean break and Jesus’s time on earth had come to an end prior to the sending of the Holy Spirit.

So, when in John 17 Jesus was praying those words with the disciples listening in, he asks God to glorify His Son, and the Son, him,  Jesus that he may glorify the Father. When it came the Ascension was simply the assurance and the seal that this glorification had come

This is by the way the ABC of Christology, its basic Christianity. Christ has been given all authority by the Father so that Jesus can give eternal life to those the Father has given to him. And please note this is not for Anglo Saxon Christianity in Europe! The last verse in Matthew  makes clear all authority is given to Jesus for all nations and tribes. Do make sure you and I have a global faith.

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now Eternal life  (John 17:3) the eternal  life that Jesus talks about is not being on a cloud or having all your needs met in heaven, it is as John 17:3 says that they (the disciples you and me the Church) may know You (God) the only true God  and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. This is basic stuff; Christian life is knowing God the Father and his Son Jesus. Everything else flows from this knowledge and relationship.

So I have a  question do you know Gods glory? Have you seen the Glory that Jesus talks about in John 17 and the writer of Hebrews talks about in Hebrews 2:9-10?

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Jesus’s core mission was to make the Glory of the Father manifest, to make his Father known to those whom the Father had given to Jesus, to announce eternal life. That is the core mission of the Son.

When Jesus ascended to the right-hand side of the Father he had as I have said really finished his mission on earth. No disappearances like in the 40 days between his resurrection and now, instead he would visibly audibly and in front of witnesses go up into the clouds. In the same way said the witnesses he would return as St Mark says in Mark Chapter 13

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

So, what then do we do? As it were if I may put words in your mouth "Mr Preacher this is great stuff about heaven but what earthly relevance is it, or how do I translate this 'heavenly stuff' to my life, our lives now, what is Ezekiel 36, Acts 1 and John 17 saying to me now in the middle of this pandemic?

Firstly, I think it is this; we are called to obey Christ,in the power of the Spirit, that is what Jesus said his disciples who were listening into his prayer had done,they had kept his word. John chapter 17 and the sixth verse.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

I was saying to someone last week who said do you have any tips of how to obey God? Well apart from reading john 17 and putting Christ’s words into practice for obedience, I refer people back to Palm 119 where every verse is about God's word or God's law. Reading it in the light of Christ every verse can become a promise for us in our walk with God, all the more so when we feel “imprisoned” as it were by the Covid 19 Pandemic.

Now the message of Jesus in John 17 is not given to the world it is  given for the disciples and for the Church. The Church is meant to be a reflection of the Glory of Christ and of God, it is his bride. Sometimes people come to me and say I am finished with this Church I have found a better one! Well We have to let people go in love. But the Church is a reflection of God's glory (and there is only one Church) even in its imperfections and its among its members and it is in the Body of Christ that God calls us to work out our salvation, and that takes love and perseverance,forgiveness,authenticity, and a sense of humour!

We do not ‘believe’ by ‘gritting our teeth’ and trying our best, Galatians makes this clear; our faith in Christ is by faith and in in his grace but of course it involves all the gifts of the Spirit self-control etc. Jesus says in John 17 very clearly, I am not praying for the world. Now that does not mean we never pray for the World,so read Pauls words in 1 Timothy Chapter 2.1-6:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

So, in John 17:9 Jesus says:

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

Why this contrast between Paul and Jesus?

Why does Jesus say and focus on praying for his disciples and in turn for you and me? Well as the L’Oréal advert says, “we are worth it”. You and I are worth dying for, it took the Blood of Christ to redeem us.

So, are you are aware of the Glory of God the glory of the Triune God living in you?

St Paul puts it this way in Colossians 1:27

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory, of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

To those disciples in Colossae Paul is saying you “Haggoi” You Saints who have accepted the Gospel, Christ lives in you, and that is or it can be the truth for you today.

This is quite outstanding no other religion dares says that God actually lives in us

We do not bow down and worship an Idol

We lift up our heads, cleansed of shame (read the Ezekiel reading about sprinkling of clean water) Ezekiel 36:25

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you

The New Testament uniquely talks about being filled (new Age philosophies tell you to go get cleansed and empty your mind) in The Bible God says again and again “Be filled”! Ephesians 5:18, Acts 6:3, Micah 3:8, Exodus 31:3, Exodus 35:31, Luke 1:15, Acts 11:24, Luke 1:41, Luke 4:1, Acts 9:17, Acts 13:9, Acts 4:8, Acts 6:5 Acts 7.55. You get the idea.?

So that is today’s message Christianity, the Christianity Jesus prayed about in John 17, that he promised in Acts 1,that was hinted at in Ezekiel 36, is one where the power of the living God takes up residence IN us.Wow!

Acts 1.9

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Message of Christ today in this Pandemic as it is every day is God is prepared to live in us. I am no longer in the world says Jesus, but they are in the world, protect them by the power of your name

All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

This is the one and only time in the New Testament when the words 'Holy Father' is used by Jesus of God so this title should not be used of anyone here on earth, and Jesus says it by the name that the Father has given him that his little ones, his disciples are protected. This is not a magical formula it is a Biblical theological truth known by those who love God.

When I started writing this written version of the Sermon the sky was bright blue now it is dark, and rain filled.

There will be time when as in these last weeks of Covid 19 the way that God has set out for us seems difficult to discern (read the Psalm for today; Psalm 68 where David cries out "May God arise ,may his enemies be scattered may his foes flee before him"), so it’s now that we are called to exercise faith and take Jesus words as true and put them into action .So may Christ in you the hope of Glory fill you with hope and salvation and eternal life. Amen.

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. The BCP Collect for Ascension.

Tudor Roberts May 2020 Ascencion Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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