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Thought for the week - 12 May 2024

There are two meetings happening today, notwithstanding our APCM! I mean, there are two meetings in the readings and we are to follow them, I think. In this today’s gospel reading Our Lord is meeting with the Father in prayer – surely an easy enough example to follow. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles are gathered to make an important decision together – again, surely an easy enough act to follow.

It may be helpful for us to look back on the day we have had as we close each one, to think of the things we have done well and done badly, or not done at all, and to think, without making ourselves feel guilty or self-important, how to do better the next day. This is in essence what Jesus is doing in the whole of chapter 17 of St John’s gospel. In his prayer (both self-examination and working with the Father in prayer), Christ is looking back to the past and looking forward to the future. He is talking to the Father about the divine mission which had been given to him (as it is given to us), making himself accountable, as it were, to the Father regarding his mission – as we are accountable to Him. Part of that mission has been completed; during his ministry he had a special concern for those entrusted to him, just as we do as well:

While I was with them, I kept those you had given me true to your name; I have watched over them.

He is also looking to the future as we do in our planning and our prayers as well, indeed we can’t go back, so it is the only way we can go;

But now I am coming to you.

The Christ is looking forward to Pentecost. The Easter gospels tell us that after his passion and death, the apostles and disciples believed that they had lost him, that everything he had taught them, the promises he had given them, had come to nothing. Death, it would seem, is final and absolute; nothing survives death. Everything had either been a lie, or they had misunderstood and there would have been a day when they said ‘but surely, we do not believe this, we simply got carried away. Today at our APCM, we will begin to set the direction of travel for our Church, under God, according to His good purposes and His perfect plan for our lives and our community, as laid out in holy Scripture. This, then, must be done by those who believe, in the same way that a butcher would be unlikely to ask a Vegan to decide on the contents of their window display, so a church would be unlikely to ask those who do not believe to guide its course through the dangers and temptations of this world. This does not mean that our church has to be guided by the perfect, or the pious, no. It means that it has to be guided by those who practice their faith assiduously and in love and learn from our mistakes in love and charity.

By his resurrection Our Lord showed that death, for himself and for all those who believe in him, was never final, but could be conquered. It is the belief of the Church that death is not an end, but the prelude to a new and glorious life. In that new life we now live, but in that final life after the second coming we commit our every work and effort.

When Our Lord appeared to them after the Resurrection, the apostles and disciples were confused and suspicious. Was it really he? Gradually they accepted that he had come back to them, and that their lives would be as they had been before his passion. When Our Lord eventually told them that he would be leaving them, they were sad, and felt insecure, so much so that they did not ask the two important questions; where are you going and why are you going? They had to learn that the Ascension would mark the triumphant end of Our Lord’s earthy ministry, that his ministry would continue, and that they would be involved, that we are involved in that work by dint of our sharing in His resurrected life, and that we will share in His death.

Our Lord is also concerned about the hatred which greeted his divine message on earth,

I passed on your word to them, and the world hated them

Because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world.

His church would experience the same hatred in the future; the church would always be in the world, if not of it. It would need protection from the hatred of the world, and from the evil one and the darkness that always seems to surround us. That protection we find in our prayer life and in each other – we cannot help those who we do not love.

Our Lord is also looking towards Pentecost. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes how the Eleven decided on a replacement for Judas, what qualifications were required of him,

We must therefore choose someone the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, right from the time when John was baptising until the day he was taken up from us…

and what he would do,

He can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.

Today, we are called to the same thing, and this building can fall down and all in it be consumed by the stones crushing it if we are not witnesses to the resurrection. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of witnessing and praying and loving to do, and in a week we will pray that the Holy Ghost will lead us into new life and the fulness of Gospel truth. Today, the church prepares us for that great triumphant occasion. Today we are witnesses to a death that became our life, and here, in this place, is where we are called to continue that journey made first in Jerusalem. We are witnesses to these things, and we must be compelling witnesses.


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