Easter 7 May 17th 2020


May 17th 2020
Acts 1. 6-14
John 17.1-11
Revd. Cheryl Collins

May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen One of the great privileges of my life is being a god-mother. And this past week has affirmed this joy in new ways. ItIt has been a joyful week for me because it has confirmed to me that I have a relationship with my god-children apart from their parents. Two of them have rung for a chat, to tell me what is going in their world and to listen to how I
am doing. That they choose to do this brings me great joy. I guess in some ways we are re-learning our relationship. This re-shaping of relationship is at the heart of this part of the Easter season. The disciples have experienced the joy of the risen Lord here before them in the flesh, still bearing the marks of the nails. But now it is time to let him go from their sight. This is not so they can feel his absence, as he explains in today’s readings, it is so they can build a deeper relationship with him, with God the Father and with one another in and through the Holy Spirit. It is this new way of relating that enables the new life which Jesus talks about eternal life, life lived in the confidence that God is always with us and always more than enough for whatever lies ahead. In our passage from John, known as the high priestly prayer, Jesus asks the Father that ‘they may be one, as we are one.’ In other words, Jesus wants the relationships between the disciples and God, between the disciples themselves to reflect the dance of self-giving love that is the Holy Trinity. He wants us to know the same intimacy with one another and with the Father and the Son that he has always had with the Father, right from the beginning when ‘the
Word was with God’.

Throughout the gospels we have seen Jesus make it a priority to spend time in intimacy with the Father, whatever else is going on. When they return to the upper room the disciples follow his example by ‘constantly devoting themselves to prayer.’ Jesus’s example has taught them that in order to stop rowing under their own steam and start sailing with the wind of the Spirit this intimacy is an absolute necessity. It is rooting everything they do in this relationship with God which will enable everything that follows- the amazing fact that a small, ill-educated group of Jewish peasants managed to launch a worldwide church which is still here over 2,000 years later. So here we are, the heirs of those first disciples. Present circumstances have rather forced us to find new ways of relating to one another. We cannot take our relationships for granted, especially when we are not living with one another. We have to choose to contact one another, to give our time and energy to renewing our relationships. This lockdown life might also have created space for us to renew our relationship with God. Alternatively, of course, we might have been wrestling with the question Tom raised last week, "Where did you go God?’

We have been shut out of our old ways of doing church, of worshipping together. Around us, whether we like it or not, the world has changed, and is calling us to change too. We hear the phrase ‘a new normal’ being bandied about all over the place. What this will look like raises more questions than answers at this moment. What can we do? In this place of uncertainty and new possibilities we can take time to renew
our own relationship with God, perhaps we can’t quite manage to constantly devote ourselves to prayer but that’s only if we imagine that praying and living are two separate activities. At this point in our gospel Jesus declares that he has finished the work he became flesh to complete. That is, he has shown us in human form what God’s love really looks like; he is about to go to the cross to demonstrate to us just how high and broad and deep that love for us truly is. In doing this he has glorified God by revealing the glory of who God is to us more fully, that God who is pure love. Jesus’s whole life has been a prayer. Now Jesus invites us again into that intimate relationship which he has always enjoyed with the Father, so that we too can glorify God by making Christ visible in the way we live our lives. The Nicene creed tells us that Jesus is ‘God from God’ light from light.’ We celebrate that truth at Easter by lighting our Easter candle as a sign of the radiance of God the Father shone abroad in the life, death and resurrection of
the Son. I know that Tom has been looking forward all year to the special role that the Deacon has in this service. Traditionally it is the Deacon who sings the Exsultet, the great Easter hymn of praise.
‘Rejoice, O earth, in glory, revealing the splendour of your creation, radiant in the brightness of your triumphant King.’ This would have been the climax of our procession from the church door where the candle is first lit, up the aisle lighting our candles from the Easter candle as we go, to set our Easter candle at the front of church, a blazing symbol of God’s glory. And as the procession moved up the aisle Tom would have proclaimed ‘The light of Christ’ and we would have responded ‘Thanks be to God.’

At Easter we renew our baptism vows to remind ourselves that we have moved from darkness into God’s marvellous light and that, with all the baptized, our calling is to ‘Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.’ At Easter we remind ourselves of the intimate relationship God invites each of us into, as we recall the scene in the garden, a grief-stricken woman restored to herself by the saying of her name, ‘Mary’. She carries the light of that encounter back to the disciples, and they join with her in carrying it out into the Day of Pentecost, where Peter’s preaching spoke to everyone in their own language, a true language of intimacy. From this birthday of the church the light was passed from person to person until it reached each of us, as we too were given a lighted candle at our baptisms and instructed to ‘shine as a light in the world’. Today as we wonder what our ‘new normal’ is going to look like, we know that in one way it will be as it has ever been. If we are to be a church which shines as a light in our town, then we must root ourselves in prayer. We must begin with the intimate relationship in which we listen together for God’s call to serve and to shine in this our generation. “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown and he replied ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God, that shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.’ Let us go in the light and peace of Christ. Thanks be to God.