Grace Episcopal Church
The Seventh Sunday of Easter (A)
Psalm 68.1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4.12-14; 5.6-11
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
This past Thursday, on Ascension Day, I preached on one of the verses in today’s lesson from Acts. I preached about receiving power to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the world. I preached about how in witnessing in Jerusalem—at home base—we are witnessing to each other in the church; that we are called to reach out into all Judea—to those who are connected to this parish—to better connect with and invite to worship those who are already connected to us, like the people in AA and at Boy Scouts. I preached about Samaria, the people in the communities around us with whom we do not presently enjoy a real connection, and about the rest of the world. In preaching I was careful to note that Jesus does not say that we shall have power, but that we shall receive power.
So, today, encountering the same verse, I want to focus on power—on what power is, and how power is experienced. The beginning and end of this power is God. In doing God’s work and being His witnesses we shall never accomplish a thing by and through our own talents, insights, and resources. We need to pay the closest attention, therefore, to how God’s power is manifested in Jesus Christ—the One, the way, the truth and the life to whom and by whom and in whom we witness.
When Jesus is speaking with His disciples, preparing them for the fulfillment of God’s plan, He speaks of the glory of God. He prays “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you ...” The hour has come. What hour? To answer this question let’s first go back and look at the times in John’s Gospel when Jesus’ hour is described as not yet come. Jesus first says that His hour is not yet come to His mother, when she asks Him to help at the wedding feast in Cana because the supply of wine has run out. Twice Jesus escapes arrest at the Temple, for “his hour had not yet come,” and yet Jesus then recognizes that His hour is come, when, again at the Temple, He says, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” And what hour is this? What event comes about that Jesus now knows that the time has come that His glory may be shown in the world? It is the time when He speaks of His own death, when He washes the disciples’ feet and instructs them at the Last Supper, when He gives the disciples a new commandment to love one another, and when He instructs them in the one way to the Father. Up to this point John has had us follow Jesus’ ministry as highlighted by miracles–John calls them “signs”–but now the story switches from signs to glory; to glory that is revealed ultimately on the cross, when the dying Savior breathes His last and says, “It is finished” (John 19.30).
It is finished, indeed—the work which the Father has given the Son—but we know that these words are uttered from the mouth of a man dying on a cross. We need, therefore, to pay the closest attention to this fact when we, ourselves, experience the power which we receive from God, the power to be God’s witnesses. As Peter admonishes in the epistle, we are to “Humble ourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt [us] in due time.” We are to “Cast all our anxiety on him, because he cares for [us].”
In our anxiety—in our need for control—we want our will to be done. We want to “win” and to triumph over the thorns of life. And yet when Paul prays earnestly and repeatedly to God that his own thorn might be removed, what is it that Jesus replies? “[M]y power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12.9). And Paul understands. He writes to the Corinthians, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Paul does not have power; he receives power. We do not have power, but we shall receive power, and we shall receive this power when our own will is made subject in all things to God’s will.
What must I do, then, in order to subject my will to God’s will? I must, above all, pray. We have a special opportunity to do this. We can participate over the next days in The Global Wave of Prayer, in praying together and as individuals that all may come to know and love and serve God by and through Jesus Christ. The Global Wave of Prayer is an initiative begun in 2016 by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. If you join in this novena of daily prayers the intention is (in the words of the Global Wave website) “… [you] will deepen [your] friendship with Jesus, bring others to know Jesus or know him better, and come to know that every aspect of [your] life is the stuff of prayer.” (Prayer resources can be found at the website listed at the back of your bulletins, and there is a signup sheet in the narthex if you want to participate in a prayer vigil on the Eve of Pentecost.)
Let’s look at that last bit from The Global Wave of Prayer: the intention is that in the habit and practice of prayer we may come to know that every aspect of life is the stuff of prayer. What is the stuff? It is all; it is the offering of self; it is the opening and offering of the heart in order that the heart may be filled by God. It is the posture of the heart in which God makes His dwelling within His believers. And when God is present, what power have we received! When God is present because our lives are prayers as much as our words and thoughts, what power is present. When I pray not to pile up empty words, but to bring forth words that have been given to me by the Spirit, then my will has been replaced by God’s will. When, as a parish, we are so soaked in prayer that the objects of prayer are offered to us because we are paying attention, what witness to God can we offer!
Try this: Whether you pray in The Global Wave of prayer, whether you use the website resources or not (and I urge you to do so), compose yourself in prayer, and begin not by thinking about for whom or for what you should pray. Just ask God. Become weak in thought in order that God may give you power. Ask God, “For what, for whom should I pray?” When a name comes to you, lift up this name in prayer. Lift the name up, knowing that God knows what is needed in prayer. When an outcome or ministry or work comes to you, lift this up in prayer. Do this daily. Be intentional. Do this sacrificially, by saying “no” to something else you want or think you need to do, and you will find that God will begin to use you as a prayer warrior, as one who receives His power. In this you will receive power to witness to God’s saving Good News. You will receive power to witness to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life: here in Jerusalem and in all Judea; in Samaria, and with all whom you meet.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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