Sunday Reflection and Prayer 17th May
This is the Sunday before Pentecost the time when we remember the coming of the promised Holy Spirit of God and the birth of the church. We will celebrate Pentecost next week with people all over Scotland and even the world as we join in watching the service that will be streamed online form the Church of Scotland website and Facebook pages – remember we won’t be having a zoom service next week.
We have accompanied the disciples over the last weeks through some of the hardest times in their lives after their leader Jesus our Saviour was crucified on the cross. Our reading from John’s Gospel takes us back now to before the final events of Jesus life, it takes us back to a time when Jesus was still preparing his disciples for what was to come. He has told them of what will happen and he has told them that when he leaves them they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – remember our reading last week – now we are told ‘he looked up to heaven’ - he prays to his heavenly father - for his disciples – a prayer which we his disciples today can also take to heart. He starts this prayer with establishing his own identity tied up in the concept of glory. The Hebrew word for glory is kavod which actually means heaviness - we speak of a person being “weighty”, not literally heavy – but someone who is honorable, worthy, respected or impressive, this is the idea we find here in this text. Kavod was translated by the Greek word is δόξα "doxa" which carries the idea of opinion, judgment, estimate, splendor, or brightness.
In Christ we see the glory of God, the regal presence of God.
We often think of glory as dazzling light, but when the term is used in this passage several other meanings emerge. The crucifixion, for all its horror and darkness, will be the hour in which Jesus is glorified (v.1). Jesus has also glorified his Father by finishing the work he was sent to do (v.4). Jesus even says that he has been glorified in his disciples (v.10).
Glory, like knowledge, is deeply relational and mutual: Jesus requests that the Father glorify the Son, so that the Son may glorify the Father. Glory is something to bestow on another, and knowledge is about knowing someone, not something (vv.3,6).
The spirals of meaning in John’s Gospel take on their widest curve yet: right back to the prologue of the Gospel (John 1.1-3), and so back to before the time that the world itself existed. Jesus is not asking here for a return to a heavenly status quo where he can forget that the experiment of the incarnation ever happened; he is praying for a new situation of increased knowledge and glory, where his disciples are included in the relationship between Father and Son, caught up in this mutual giving of glory, like so many mirrors reflecting the eternal light.
Jesus prays for his disciples that his glory would be seen in them and he asks for God’s love and protection and power that the disciples would remain within the relationship of father and Son.
Our reading from Acts takes us further forward in time for here Jesus is with his disciples in that in-between time after his resurrection and before the coming of the Holy Spirit. The disciples still can’t accept what has happened and are still looking for Jesus to take away Roman dominance and give them back the kingdom of Israel.Jesus of course is not tied to time and place – his idea of kingdom is far greater than the disciples at that time can understand. He says that when the Spirit comes upon them they will be witnesses to the end of the earth – they will be the ones who bring in the Kingdom of God – Jesus disciples will do his Kingdom work until Christ returns again in all his glory.
We are told that the disciples then returned to Jerusalem and they gathered frequently to pray as a group, together with the women and with Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.
And this is the picture we are left with until the Day of Pentecost.
It’s because of this picture that we are asked to observe Thy Kingdom Come prayer initiative from Ascension Day (24th May 2020) until Pentecost on the 31st May. If Jesus has left his disciples – both his immediate disciples - and us today to do the work of his kingdom then prayer is very important. We are asked during this time to pray for five people that we know. We’re not just to pray in a general way we are to pray specifically for them to come to know Christ and we are to tell them that we are praying for them. We are to pray in a more general way for the kingdom of God and for more people to come to know Jesus and to spread his word and to grow his church. Unlike the disciples of Jesus time we know we have the Holy Spirit with us and we pray in the power of the Spirit and with the people of the kingdom – what a powerful thing to be doing as we wait to celebrate Pentecost once again.
If this period of lockdown means we have little to do – it also means we have the time this year more than any other year recently to spend time in prayer just as those disciples did so long ago. Do so knowing that Christ prays for you and the Holy Spirit prays with you and God is waiting to hear your prayer. Thanks be to God Amen.
Prayers for Others:
your ascended Son has sent us into the world
to preach the good news of your kingdom:
inspire us with your Spirit and fill our hearts with the fire of your love, that all who hear your Word
may be drawn to you.
God of our salvation,
hope of all the ends of the earth,
we pray for your kingdom to come
in all its glory, that the world may know Jesus Christ
as the Prince of Peace,
Almighty God, we pray
That all who are estranged and without hope
may be brought near in the blood of Christ
That the Church may be one in serving
and proclaiming the gospel,
That we may be bold to speak the word of God
while you stretch out your hand to save,
That the Church may be generous in giving,
faithful in serving, bold in proclaiming,.
That the Church may welcome and support
all whom God calls to faith,.
That all who suffer for the gospel
may know the comfort and glory of Christ,
That the day may come when every knee shall bow
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
Almighty God, we pray
for all those for whom this day will seem long and hard, for those in hospital or ill at home, those struggling with despair or depression, those waiting to hear about their job, or important news, or a friend to call, those without the means to set a meal upon the table. We pray particularly for those for whom this day will be their last. We name in our hearts the people we know who are in special need today...
Comfort all those who suffer in mind, body or Spirit.
Give them courage and hope in their troubles.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
we pray earnestly at this time for a vaccine for the Coronavirus. Guide all those scientists and Doctors and researchers who seek this we pray.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
by your Holy Spirit you have made us one
with your saints in heaven and on earth:
grant that in our earthly pilgrimage
we may ever be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves surrounded by their witness
to your power and mercy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.