In the Gospel lesson this morning we hear Jesus’ prayer for our unity with him, the Father, and each other. This contemporary hymn reminds us that our unity is the basis for all our service and mission. Its author, Howard M. “Rusty” Edwards III, is a Lutheran pastor in Georgia who has connections to both Michigan and the Episcopal Church: he is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and studied and taught at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest.
--Donna Wessel Walker
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
The First Lesson
When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, “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. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 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.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 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 James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; *
let those who hate him flee before him.
2 Let them vanish like smoke when the wind drives it away; *
as the wax melts at the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
3 But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; *
let them also be merry and joyful.
4 Sing to God, sing praises to his Name;
exalt him who rides upon the heavens; *
YAHWEH is his Name, rejoice before him!
5 Father of orphans, defender of widows, *
God in his holy habitation!
6 God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners into freedom; *
but the rebels shall live in dry places.
7 O God, when you went forth before your people, *
when you marched through the wilderness,
8 The earth shook, and the skies poured down rain,
at the presence of God, the God of Sinai, *
at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
9 You sent a gracious rain, O God, upon your inheritance; *
you refreshed the land when it was weary.
10 Your people found their home in it; *
in your goodness, O God, you have made provision for the poor.
33 Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; *
sing praises to the Lord.
34 He rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; *
he sends forth his voice, his mighty voice.
35 Ascribe power to God; *
his majesty is over Israel;
his strength is in the skies.
36 How wonderful is God in his holy places! *
the God of Israel giving strength and power to his people!
Blessed be God!
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
”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.”
Optional parts of the readings are set off in square brackets.
The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.
Well it is late in Easter; it is the seventh Sunday and as I write this it is also the feast of the Ascension of our Lord. Jesus has gone to the Father and the question both we and the Disciples have is “now what?” The Acts reading gives us some guidance and it can be summed up this way: The Holy Spirit will come, we will be witnesses and “Don’t stand around cloud gazing.” God sends the Spirit to strengthen us and enable us to witness to God’s actions in the world for the world. We are further called to be active in our witness rather than passive in living out our faith. We are called to ponder two questions by the texts for this Sunday. The first is why Jesus came and to consider deeply what it is that we are called to witness to.
The answer to that question is this: Jesus came to us because we cannot come to him. Jesus came to where we are in order to get our attention up close and personal. He came to call our names and teach us by his life and interactions with humanity what God wishes for us. God came in human form to call us home. Dennis Covington describes it like this:
“Most of the children in my neighborhood are called home for suppers by their mothers. They open the backdoors; wipe their hands on their aprons and yell, “Willie!” or “Joe!” or “Ray!” Either that or they use a bell, bolted to the doorframe and loud enough to start the dogs barking in backyards all along the street. But I was always called home by my father, and he didn’t do it in the customary way. He walked down the alley all the way to the lake. If I was close, I could hear his shoes on the gravel before he came into sight. If I was far, I would see him across the surface of the water, emerging out of shadows and into the gray light. He would stand with his hands in the pockets of his windbreaker while he looked for me. This is how he got me to come home. He always came to the place where I was before he called my name.” (Dennis Covington, SALVATION ON SAND MOUNTAIN, 1995)
In all that he did, his interactions with ordinary folks, politicians and religious authorities and in his death and resurrection and his ascension, he called us to come home. In Jesus God reached out to us in love where we are. God called us to come home to God in the voice of a loving human being we could hear and respond to. Ok: Second question: Now what?
A pastor once saw a signpost in front of a church which read:
Jesus Loves You. Donations Accepted
God in Christ came to us in the life of Jesus to call us home, to let us know we are loved beyond any measure with we could imagine. As the sign says. Jesus love you. No price to be paid. We can’t earn what God gives.
Donations to the cause will be welcome, however. We are called to tell story of God’s love for the world to the world. Our witness is our response to the invitation so graciously given to us.