The Rev'd Canon Michael Rawson, Sub Dean and Canon Pastor
The sermon preached at Choral Evensong on the Seventh Sunday of Easter
Last Thursday, on Ascension Day the season of Easter changed gear. Yes, we are still celebrating Easter, but the mood has changed. At the Ascension we come across the disciples playing a waiting game. And for them it's the second time they've had to do it. The first time was when they were so demoralised and depressed for they had watched Jesus nailed to the cross - the ultimate in failure and futility. They went back to their homes wondering what would happen next, if anything. But this time around they were in a very different mood. They had met their risen Lord on several occasions and the pieces of the jigsaw were beginning to fall into place at long last. What Jesus told them was beginning to make sense - it was no longer some pi in the sky which had little relation to their everyday life, for now their everyday lives were being transformed by his teaching. His final words to them were "Wait, stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." Now the disciples had a firm hope and a promise for the future. All they had to do was to wait for God to fulfil his promise. Easier said than done.
This period from the feast of the Ascension to the feast of Pentecost next Sunday is a time of waiting on God with eager expectation, praying that God will give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christians in England and around the world are taking part in Thy Kingdom Come for these nine days, praying that the gifts of the Spirit may bring about God’s kingdom in our day. It’s an invitation for us to pray but also to act. For through our loving action God’s kingdom can become a reality.
The gifts of the Spirit given to us in Baptism and Confirmation fill us with confidence and power to be Christ’s witnesses in the world. But we need to pray that God will continue to shower these gifts upon us and the whole church. Paul writes about this in our second lesson, ‘I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him … so that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.’
The Ascension of Christ into heaven, reminds us that Christ is no longer limited to a particular time and place - the Jesus of first Century Palestine - for he is the universal King of all. Christ isn't the property of the Church as some Christians would have us believe, rather the Church belongs to Christ. We have no monopoly over Christ or the Holy Spirit. So Christians not only bring Christ to the world, we also find Christ in the world, often in the most unexpected people and situations.
In this time of waiting that we share with those early disciples, may we wait upon God, asking God to send us the gifts of the Spirit, to open our eyes to see God at work in the world, and in the faces of those around us. May Thy Kingdom Come.
Come, Holy Spirit.
Come with strength for the weak,
courage for the fearful,
light for those in darkness,
comfort for the sorrowful,
healing for the sick and injured,
guidance for those who are lost,
faith for those who are in doubt,
hope for those who have no hope,
and love for those who have no love.
Come, Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,
and we shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.