SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER 21st MAY 2023
FOUNDERS OF METHODISM -JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791) AND CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788)
EXTRACT FROM THE JOURNAL OF JOHN WESLEY MAY 24TH 1738
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society (Moravian meeting) in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Verse of one of the hymns Charles Wesley wrote to mark a similar experience he had on Pentecost Sunday 1738 May 21st.
Come O my guilty brethren come,
Groaning beneath your load of sin,
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
His open side shall take you in;
He calls you now, invites you home.
Come O my guilty brethren come.
THE GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
God declares: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
OPENING SENTENCE- Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
Let us pray together:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people,
and kindle in us the fire of your love,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Let us confess our sins to God
Gracious and holy God
We confess that we have sinned
against you and against our neighbour.
Your spirit gives light but we have preferred darkness
Your spirit gives wisdom but we have been foolish;
Your spirit gives power, but we have trusted in our own strength
For the sake of Jesus Christ your Son,
Forgive us our sins,
And enable us by your spirit to serve you in joyful obedience,
to the glory of your Name. Amen
There is now no condemnation for those who live in union with Jesus Christ; for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
Amen. Thanks be to God.
GLORIA sung by Sue Turner
O God, the King of Glory, hear our prayer
that as we believe your Son Jesus Christ
to be exalted with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven;
so also, we may know his presence with us now,
and to the end of time
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen
COLLECT FOR ALDERSGATE SUNDAY
Almighty God, you raised up your servants,
John and Charles Wesley,
to proclaim anew the gift of redemption
and the life of holiness.
Pour out your Spirit,
and revive your work among us;
that inspired by the same faith,
and upheld by the same grace
in word and sacrament,
we and all your children
may be made one in the unity of your church on earth,
even as in heaven we are made one in you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
FIRST READING ACTS 1:6-14 read by Andrew Ratnam
The Ascension of Jesus
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 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.
SECOND READING 1 PETER 4:12-14; 5:6-11 read by Mark Toner
Suffering as a Christian
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
GOSPEL READING JOHN 17:1-11 read by Rev Chris Wren
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John chapter 17 beginning at verse 1:
Glory to Christ our Saviour.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you, for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
As we live in this time of soaring utility prices, higher interest rates and inflation many of us have had to reset our budgets and priorities. Our lives have been changed through the pandemic, Brexit, and the war in Ukraine. Things have shifted and we need to reset our lives. Our lives are different from what they were a few years ago, as someone in church said: “I am a different person from what I was a few years ago.” I suspect this is true for all of us, and we need to reset our lives. How do we do that?
Perhaps we start by managing our time. We are told in Scripture that we are to live abundant lives and the secret to abundant living is making the best use of our time. Time is our most precious commodity. You can get more money, but you can never get more time. In the Scripture reading from Acts we see the disciples are nudged into using their time wisely. “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” In other words, get on with life. The disciples are gently nudged into action- instead of being passive and reacting to things, they are being nudged into action. Now is the time to be proactive. The disciples on that first Ascension Day were encouraged to live with purpose. It says in Scripture in Proverbs that an intelligent person aims at wise actions, but a fool starts in many directions. Everything is available to us. It is so tempting to fill our lives with things that don’t matter and to go in all directions. We need to use our time wisely and like the disciples on that first Ascension we are encouraged to be active.
So today, a few days after the Ascension Day, we are given a reminder that all our action as a church begins with Jesus. In the Ascension we see a powerful image of Jesus received into glory. All that Jesus taught is true, his promises are real, and his Resurrection and Ascension show his victory over death. Ascension Day reminds us that all we see here is not all that there is. There is an invisible realm to the human eye, that is real and lasting. Jesus’ Ascension marks the beginning of the church, and the church needs to begin with Jesus as its authority and head.
To say that the church begins with Jesus might be obvious, but I wonder if at times we are tempted to do church without Jesus. To follow our own agendas rather than his. To ask him to bless our endeavours instead of joining in his endeavours. To talk about church, rather than Jesus. To be more of a club, rather than salt and light in our society. The earliest statement of faith in the church was “Jesus is Lord” and that is where the church starts, it starts with Jesus.
Ascension Day also shows us that the church begins with waiting. The disciples are encouraged to wait for the Holy Spirit. As we go about our ministry and mission, it may be time to re-evaluate what we should be doing, and not just simply doing the same things as before because that is what we have always done- no we are called as a church to wait- to wait upon the Holy Spirit.
Waiting is something that we might not be so good at in our own lives and in our church lives. We want to push ahead but Jesus says wait. Waiting reminds us that we are not the ones in control- God is. We are to wait for God’s timing, for God’s wisdom-we are to wait before we act. So, in resetting our lives and the life of the church we are to wait and re-assess our priorities and goals. We need to be ready to embrace the new things that God is doing. Life is not going back to what was. You cannot go back, only forward. We wait on God who is in the business of doing new things. In Isaiah it says “Forget the former things—look at the new things I am going to do.” So, like the disciples that first Ascension Day we need to wait for God’s Spirit.
Ascension Day reminds us that the church begins with Jesus, that the church needs to wait for the Holy Spirit and thirdly we are reminded that we have a commission, that we are to be witnesses in the world. We as a church are commissioned to point to Jesus, to speak and act for him in a way that shows love and mercy to the world. The church is to point to Jesus in our locality. It is not always easy to witness among the people we know. In addition, the church is to point to Jesus more widely through our involvement in other countries, in India, in Yemen, in Sudan, in Malawi and in Syria. How do we do that- by prayer and giving? Today marks the beginning of Christian Aid Week, and it is an ideal opportunity to help other people who are struggling for medicine, food, water, and stability. Our giving helps them and lets them know in different parts of the world that we care and that our brothers and sisters far away truly matter. It is a way of showing our Christian witness. All in all, Ascension Day marked the ending for the disciples of what they had previously known, respected and loved but it also marked for them and for us a new beginning. They had work and ministry to do. They were energised by purpose and meaning.
Today is Aldersgate Sunday when we remember John Wesley’s conversion and encounter with God, when he felt his heart strangely warmed. This spiritual experience for John Wesley was a new beginning for him. His priorities and purposes were re-set and it led him to do great acts of practical and sacrificial service for God, as well as write hymns and develop a strong teaching ministry. John Wesley was renowned for his ability to expect great things from God and to attempt great things for God. For us Ascension Day can also mark a new beginning. We need to press the reset button and be energised afresh by Christ’s priorities and purposes.
His priorities and purposes are about love and salvation. It falls to us to share God’s love with others and speak of the good news. We are to bear witness to Christ. I have recently picked up the challenge from “Thy kingdom come” where it invites us from Ascension to Pentecost to pray for five people that they might know God’s love and salvation. Who are you praying for? How are you sharing God’s love?
For this vital task of witnessing, we receive God’s blessing. Did you notice the final physical earthly action of Jesus was one of blessing? Jesus blessed his disciples in their lives and ministry. We can build huge buildings and have thousands of people flocking to our church, but if we lack Jesus’ blessing, it’s all just wood, hay, and stubble that will be consumed by the fire of His judgment. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.”
Today, God blesses us in our lives and ministry- he trusts us to continue his work and to do so well. A beautiful old story tells of how Jesus, after his Ascension into Heaven, was surrounded by the Holy Angels who began to enquire about his work on earth. Jesus told them about His birth, life, preaching, death and resurrection, and how he had accomplished the salvation of the world. The angel Gabriel asked, “Well, now that you are back in Heaven, who will continue your work on earth?” Jesus said, “While I was on earth, I gathered a group of people around me who believed in me and loved me. They will continue to spread the Gospel and carry on the work of the Church.” Gabriel was perplexed. “You mean Peter, who denied you thrice and all the rest who ran away when you were crucified? You mean to tell us that you left them to carry on your work? Hmm! What is plan B? And what will you do if this plan doesn’t work?” Jesus said, “I have no other plan — it must work.”
Truly, Jesus has no other plan than to depend on the efforts of his followers, of you and me! So that is the plan – it’s a plan that depends on you and me – a plan that depends on each of us – each of us using our talents and gifts, our time and resources for the good of the Gospel. But often we sit back and say ah sure someone else will do it… NO that is not what Christianity is – it is a call from God to each of us to live our baptism – to live as active members of our parish and our church. There is no plan B – you and I are plan A -we are plan A.
The first disciples knew they were plan A. Did you also notice how those disciples were feeling after this farewell encounter with Jesus? They were joyous. It is not what I expected. I thought this farewell would have made them sad. So why were they joyous? I think it was because it marks the fulfilment of Jesus’ physical ministry on earth. He did all that he came to do… to show God’s love and power on the cross and in the resurrection. They were joyous for it meant the beginning of Jesus’ heavenly ministry. Jesus’ Ascension meant that he took his rightful place of glory beside the Father. Jesus’ Ascension meant the launch of his intercessory ministry for us and others.
The ascended Lord Jesus Christ is our connection into the very presence of God! Through Him we have access in the Spirit to the Father. Jesus’ Ascension began his preparation of a place for his people. He told His disciples that He went to prepare a place for them and that He would come again and receive them unto Himself, that where He is, there they may be also. Jesus’ Ascension began his present and future dominion over heaven and earth. Peter tells us that Jesus is now “at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to him. Jesus’ Ascension resulted in the pouring out of his Holy Spirit on his people. He told the disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” It marks the beginning of the first disciples and ourselves as Christ’s earthly ambassadors. Yes, there are many reasons for the disciples being joyous, and there are many reasons too for us to be joyous.
So, be encouraged for we have great work to do, and we have God’s blessing on our gifts and talents. All we are asked to do is put God first, wait upon his Holy Spirit, reset our priorities and purposes, and then move into action, and make a positive difference in our locality and in the world. Amen
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son,
he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
God, your presence and touch are a real blessing.
Thank you for the way you strangely warmed the heart of John Wesley
and affirmed him in his faith and discipleship.
Thank you that through the warming of his heart flowed
many practical and sacrificial acts of service, teaching and hymn writing.
Touch us O Lord that we might feel our hearts,
kindled afresh with your love,
that we might bear witness to others
of your grace and love.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, humility is the essence of your being
help us to put others first,
encourage us to think of others more highly than ourselves,
and make us hospitable to all people,
irrespective of status or reputation.
Grow in us the virtue of humility,
and fills us with life afresh
that as you love, so may we love
and do what you would do
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, love is your sign
Your love leaves no –one untouched, especially ourselves
strengthen all that restores us in your image
and make us worthy of our calling as your sons and daughters.
Fill us with a desire to serve your people
so that by our service we may be signs
of your love, humility and compassion
and so, like Paul and Silas draw others into your embrace.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, love is your way.
We pray for those who live in places of conflict and war
and experience such heartache, cruelty and hostility.
Will you help break down barriers of hatred,
take away fear and misunderstanding
and enable lives to be rebuilt
through reconciliation, trust, and peace,
so that your way of love and peace might become a living reality.
Empower us so that love might be our way.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, love is your mark-your mark of healing and grace.
We pray for those who suffer today in body, mind or spirit
and we invite your spirit to touch them in power and in gentleness.
We pray for those awaiting hospital results
and we remember those who watch and pray with them.
We lift to you those known to us who are sick at home or in hospital
We hold in prayer before you those who have lost loved ones.
May you loving God be present in their darkness and pain,
and as deep calls to deep, may you bring inner quiet and hope,
and may your mark of healing and grace be evident to all in need.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us.
God, love is your word
we pray for those who doubt your promises
in difficult times of bereavement
and in the hard times of unemployment and unrest.
We ask that you will enfold them in your love,
fill them with your strength and peace,
and restore their trust in your living word.
O breath of Love
come breathe within us
God, your love is our hope.
We thank you for those
who have shown us clearly your way of love.
Help us so to inspire others by our day- to- day living.
Thank you for all those
who bring such love and hope into our lives.
We lift to you our families
and those whom we hold dear
and thank you for them and for all they mean to us.
May we cherish and appreciate their love
and may we never take
your gift of love, O God, for granted.
Merciful Father accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord
who taught us to say together,
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
strengthen you to walk with him in his risen life;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be among you and remain with you always. Amen
Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ,