Let’s exercise our imaginations this morning…. What would it have been like to have been one of the disciples all those years ago, as they waited after Jesus’ ascension to find out what he had meant when he promised them power from on high, so that they could be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth……
Andrew, say, faithfully waiting to see how he could help the project, and hoping his brother Peter wouldn’t do anything rash or embarrassing….. James, wanting some drama and excitement…. Thomas exalted by recognising Jesus as Lord and God but still hankering for a road map, for some clarity about the present, never mind the future…..
For the church the 10 days between Ascension and Pentecost are a special time, a time for prayer and expectation as we wait once more for the coming of the Holy Spirit. As always, we who know the story find it hard to think what it would have been like not to know the next chapter – the tongues of fire, the rushing might wind, the rush of language and inspiration that brought 3000 people to know Christ in a single day.
And yet we do know what it means to wait… to wonder what God is doing, what God is asking of us, and how God will enable us to do it, whatever it may be. After a setback, a bereavement, a success, an unexpected or long awaited event, we need to be wondering about God’s purposes for us. And that’s just as true for us as a parish, as a community, as it is for each one of us as individuals. We are all children of God, the family of God. We are called to discern God’s purpose for us, and we can be sure that God will give us all we need to carry it out. The Holy Spirit is as real today as in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, even though we may not see tongues of fire or hear the wind….. notice I said maynot – who knows what God will do? Jesus’ prayer for the disciples is for us as much as for them….. he is trusting God to protect them – to protect us – to make them – us – holy by his truth, and to give them – us – the fulness of joy…..
While the disciples waited to find out what Jesus had meant they found some practical stuff to do. The first and overriding practical thing they did was to pray –
When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
The second was to repair what you might call the collateral damage of Jesus’ betrayal and death, restoring the order of things he had instituted when he chose the original 12. Self-evidently, Judas was no longer one of them. They set out to replace him, and we learn that there is a wider group of followers who had been with them, as Peter says, throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us.
By a process which is in many ways quite familiar to us– a process of discernment and prayer – they identify two candidates and one is chosen. When choosing our wardens and PCC members we tend to prefer election to casting lots or drawing straws, but we trust that the outcome is the same – that God’s will is done in the selection….
That God’s will is done by an intermingling of what we tend to regard as the practical and the spiritual…. we like to put things into categories, but separating prayer and spirituality from what we actually do is like putting God himself into a box.
As the hymn says:
What a privilege to carry
Everythingto God in prayer!
So one thing I want to do is to remind you that we meet once a month for an hour of praying for the parish, for our community and for the world – and its tomorrow! 8pm in the Link – to the sound of bell ringing practice! This month we will be focusing on next weekend, praying for the Holy Spirit to come to us and inspire us as we use our parish weekend at home to develop our vision and discover our mission. The weekend itself will be that mixture of prayer and practicality that the disciples would recognise – I hope. and like them we will be sharing not only prayer and planning but also food and – fun. Many of you have been to PWAHs in the past – if you haven’t, and are wondering what its about, the idea is to spend time together, eating, worshipping, working and enjoying ourselves – actually talking to people we usually only glimpse across the aisle, building existing friendships, making new ones and discovering more about who we are. Starts with supper and story telling at St C on Friday…. breakfast and workshops on the visions and mission on Saturday morning…. bring and share wedding lunch as ch the wedding together – and hat competition! Free afternoon – supper at St C’s again, with some singing and some feedback from the workshops – and on Sunday morning a Pentecost celebration at St C with a procession out onto the green at the end, where we will light a brazier and sing – and have ice cream!
Children’s activities…. something for everyone – and for all of us the chance to grow closer together as a community as we plan our future.
And, looking to that future, the work we do next weekend will be a really important beginning to the process of finding your next rector, because the clearer we are now about where we believe God is leading us, the easier it will be to discern what kind of person is needed to lead you on that journey.
Please do come – and let’s usethis time of waiting between Ascension and Pentecost to pray for and grow our vision and pray for the will and resources to make it real as we think about our mission – what the vision will look like as we seek to make it real.
End with the parable of the mustard seed, which the vision group has offered us as inspiration and model….
‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’