So that they may be one, as we are one
The ten days between Ascension and Pentecost is something of a strange time, a time of waiting, of anticipation, which speaks very powerfully to our present predicament. It is a time to wait and pray, which feels particularly apposite at this moment in time. Likewise the advice of the First Letter of Peter speaks powerfully when it says, ‘But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, … because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you’ (1Peter 4:13-14 ESV) We receive the Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. He lives in us, and we can unite our sufferings with those of Christ, and be drawn ever closer to Him.
The Gospel this morning has taken us back to the Garden of Gethsemane, where in the seventeenth Chapter of John’s Gospel , after celebrating the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus goes out to spend time in prayer. It can seem strange to suddenly look back to Maundy Thursday seven weeks after we have celebrated Jesus’ resurrection, but there is a very good reason to do such a thing. The prayer we have just heard is a conversation between God the Son and God the Father. It is a moment of intimacy, a private moment which shows us their relationship, something extraordinary, something wonderful, we don’t often think of prayer in these terms, but currently there is a world-wide initiative, called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ which calls upon Christians everywhere to do something wonderful together. Between the Ascension and Pentecost we are asked to be like the Apostles in the first chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, just like they did, and for us all to do this together, to pray for unity and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is a funny old thing, and most people probably think of it as asking God for things: please watch over my parents as they travel, please help me pass this examination, hopefully in our language of prayer we can also find time to say thank you for all the good things of this life, and to say sorry for when we’ve not been good enough, and also time to say, ‘I love you’ the prayer of adoration that we may be drawn closer to God. It’s a powerful thing, and a wonderful thing. It is ordinary, yet able to do amazing things:
It can be all to easy in life to think that what God wants is something big and difficult, when actually the opposite is what is required. The key to it all is humility: knowing our need of God. Those who are poor in Spirit, those who are humble can be filled with God’s Spirit, because they rely upon Him, they know their need of him. They know that God can do what we cannot, and they trust Him.
There it is plain and simple: prayer, it can change the world, and for the last two thousand years it has been changing the church and the world, one soul at a time, the wonderful revolution of God’s love at work in the world. In His prayer before his Passion, Jesus prays that we may be one, as He and the Father are one. He prays for unity, it is Jesus’ will for the church, and it is clear that the first apostles did what Jesus wanted them to do, as we can see form the Acts of the Apostles. They listened to Jesus, and did what He told them to do. We have to do the same.
‘And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.’ (Acts 1:13-14 ESV)
Here is unity, unity of will and purpose, and we hope to share that here and now. They are devoted to prayer, and we can be too. While the church is not as united as we would like it to be, or as God would like it to be, we can at least say that we are trying to do God’s will. It is something that we can all try and do together. So let us do it. Let us pray for unity, and the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, to fill the Church with love, with grace, with forgiveness, with reconciliation, that we can heal the wounds of the past, and be drawn into unity and love, by the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing our need of God, and our reliance upon Him. If we ask, God will both hear our request, and grant it (if it is His will).
So as we stay put, and wait and pray with the Apostles for the gift of the Holy Spirit let us pray that God may be at work in us, that He will fill us with his love, and transform our lives, building us up, and giving us strength to live His life and to proclaim His truth, to offer the world that which it most earnestly desires, a peace, a joy and a freedom which pass human understanding, and the gift of eternal life in Christ. Let us pray that we are strengthened so that we can proclaim in word and deed what wonderful things God has done through his Son, Our Saviour Jesus Christ. That all that we are and do may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father, and that the world may be filled with his love so that all may come to believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.