Read Acts 1:1-11
‘He was taken up before their very eyes…’ (Acts 1:9)
As we journey through life there will be many occasions when that journey will take on a new directions. Occasions when we will begin a new stage in our life. And although our own individual journeys may be completely different, for most us these occasions will be the same. When we leave high school, when we leave university, when we begin our working life, when we get married, when we have our first child.
These are all moments in our lives, which for all of us, will determine what path our life takes from that point on. And sometimes the transition from one stage of our journey to the next will go smoothly with no hiccups. But sometimes that change in direction might be painful where it seems that anything that can go wrong – does. Yet either way, these moments help to shape us and make us the people that we become.
Last week we thought of Jesus telling His disciples that He would have to leave them soon. That time had now come – today is Ascension Sunday, the day when we think of Jesus ascending to once again be with His Father in Heaven. For about three years Jesus had taught His disciples by word and example what it meant to follow the way of God. Teaching them a new way of life and discipleship.
In all that time Jesus led by example – it was Him who spoke the Good News, Him who performed the miracles, Him who made all the decisions. But the one thing that was very explicit in what Jesus did was to show that those who followed Him are in partnership with God – and God expects partners to do their part. When God called Moses to take the Israelites out of Egypt, God expected Moses to do his part. Moses had to go and speak to Pharaoh ten times before he was successful in freeing the people. Moses had then to organize and lead the people out of Egypt and through the desert. God helped Moses, yes – but Moses had to play part.
And this concept of partnership continues through the entire Bible. Our God is a living, active God who can do wonderful things in our life as we witness to Him. But He is also a God who wants us to be active partners in that mission. He doesn’t want us to sit and expect Him to do it all on his own – because that won’t happen. Yes, of course God could do that if he wished. But He wants us to play our part – in the same way those Disciples did back then.
In all He did, yes, Jesus led by example. But He also taught His disciples to be active in ministry and mission. Even sending them out on their own and when they came back to Him asking them who people said He was. And now He tells them when the Holy Spirit comes upon them they are to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.
In their three years with Jesus these Disciples gained insight into God’s Kingdom as they saw Jesus perform miracle after miracle, preach life-changing sermons and teach eternal truths. They experienced all those the high moments of the life and ministry of Jesus. But they also experienced his suffering and death. However, Jesus used each and every moment – the miracles, the preaching, the suffering, even His death and resurrection, to teach them about ministry and prepare them for the future.
Now it would be up to them. Now they would be the ones who would continue to bear witness to the Good News. Yet, Jesus told them He would not leave them on their own completely, the Holy Spirit would come and be with them. To guide, empower, enable and accompany them through this next stage of their lives – and we will think more of that next week at Pentecost.
Today we have not had the same life experience of Jesus that these Disciples had. We weren’t among those at the feeding of the 5000. We didn’t see the look of joy on the centurion’s face when he discovered his servant had been cure or share in the overwhelming joy of Mary and Martha at the raising of Lazarus. We weren’t witness to Jesus being flogged, beaten and led to Golgotha to be crucified. We will never fully experience the joy of Mary meeting her Saviour as she left the empty tomb. Nor can we ever fully understand the events we read of today. Yet the lesson for us here is quite clear…
Our Lord and Saviour expects us to be involved in ministry with Him – we are all called to play our part, all who would claim to be His Disciples here and now. We might not have those first hand experiences of these Disciples. But through the living Word of God we have all the teaching we need. And we have all the examples we need to enable us to begin the next stage in our journey with Jesus Christ.
In and through His Son, God has chosen us – all of us – to be in a partnership with Him in building up His Kingdom here on earth right now. And with the help and guidance of His Spirit we are to be active in that mission. Using the gifts, talents and resources that God has put at our disposal.
So the only question for us now is this. Will we be partners in full – or partners that are all too often absent. I hope and pray that in all we say and do we may all be faithful witnesses to the power and love – to the Good News of the Risen, Ascended Jesus. Because now, more than ever, it’s a message people need to hear…Amen
Loving God we give You thanks that we are able to come before You in this way this morning. That we are able to set aside time from our busy lives to come and be at one with You in Spirit. We thank You for all Your goodness to us, for Your compassion, love and forgiveness, and for all the many ways You have been with us in the week that has passed – and we ask for Your continued blessing upon us in the week ahead. Help us to look to You at all times and to share Your love with others in whatever way we can. And all this we ask in Jesus name…Amen..
Sunday evening – national call to prayer
As has been the case over the past few weeks, the leaders of all churches have come together to call us to prayer at 7.00pm this Sunday evening. Underneath is a prayer by the leaders of all churches that could be used to begin this time of prayer. The full statement can be found on the Church of Scotland website where it also lists all those leaders whom signed that statement:
“In the Gospel of John (17: 1-11), Jesus prays for his disciples in anticipation of the time when he will no longer be with them. What is it that he prays for? Jesus asks the Father to ‘protect’ his friends. Whilst he was with them, Jesus protected and shielded the disciples and later in his prayer he prays for each one of us. The ascended Lord Jesus continues to pray for us and assures us that his presence will be renewed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Living God and gracious Father,
Protect and shield us.
Living God, protect and shield
All whom we love,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Living God, your Son now sits in your presence
And shares in your glory and honour.
We thank you for the promise
That his presence shall be renewed for us,
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Living God, we thank you that Jesus prayed for us
And that he continues to intercede for us.
We thank you that he continues to pray
For us and for our protection,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.