Collect and Readings for Sixth Sunday of Easter – Acts 16.9-15, Ezekiel 37.1-14, Psalm 67, Revelation 21:10, 22-22.5, John 14.23-29, John 5.1-9
The Prayer for today God our redeemer, you have delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your Son: grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
During this time between the Resurrection and the Ascension Jesus continues to prepare his friends for something which is completely beyond their experience. In today's Gospel we hear how he introduces them to the idea of God's personal involvement through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The prospect of having to carry on without Jesus in person among them must have been bleak and daunting to the disciples. Jesus speaks into those fears and assures them of this faithful presence once he has gone from their physical sight.
There is a section in the Bayeux tapestry which is called 'William encourages his soldiers'. This strikes me as somewhat wry comment, as the picture shows William encouraging them by jabbing at their backsides with a sharp weapon! Forceful encouragement, indeed. But there is the image and acknowledgement that fear can prevent us from doing what we know is right, and at such times a prod or two sharpens our determination to get the better of our fear.
When Jesus has given us full assurance of God's presence, we are told not to let our hearts be troubled. I suspect this has a sharper edge which is often missed, and we are actually being told not to allow ourselves to be perturbed or shaken by circumstances. Satan can so easily sidle in through our fear, self-doubt and trepidation, and start whispering the lie that whatever we are facing is far too difficult and we are bound to fail. We can prevent that, in God's strength, by refusing to allow such undermining fears access.
In the Acts reading we can see the promised guiding power of the Holy Spirit in action. God's close involvement with his people means that, whenever Christians are attuned to him and make themselves available, they will be led at the right time into the right circumstances where they can be best used for the work of God.
There is urgency about outreach. We have before us that great vision of all peoples gathering to acknowledge their Creator, and worship the one true God, and whenever in the Lord's prayer we pray the kingdom in, we voice our longing for the vision to be accomplished. Yet there is still so much to do, so many lives to touch, and each of us has only a lifetime.
Dare we waste any more of it with our own priorities?
Some things to reflect on:
Notice how Paul and his followers are led by Lydia and the other women, and think about any experiences you have had of being led in unexpected ways in directions which have turned out to be valuable?
Do we pray for the kingdom out of habit, or are we aware of the responsibility it lays on each of us?
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev'd Fiona Robinson