2020.05.10 Fifth Sunday of Easter
Prayer of Approach and Confession
God our Maker, Redeemer and Friend, we come before you in praise and thanksgiving. You are the prize we keep before our eyes, the purpose that gives meaning to our lives, the patience that makes the space for us to grow, and the persistence that enables our courage and our hope.
We come seeking right paths; set our feet on your Way.
We come hungry, our faith seeking understanding; feed us with Truth.
We come to drink at the well of your living water; give us Life.
Make your home in our hearts, your divinity dwelling in our feeble flesh.
For frail we are – and fallible.
Inwardly we long for holiness; outwardly we live for ease.
Inwardly we desire growth; outwardly we resist change.
Inwardly we hear your whisper; outwardly we march in step with the maddening crowd.
We need you, Lord. Do not hold our sin against us, but open our hearts, firmly and gently, and knit together our inward and outward being. Free us from fear. Build us into a dwelling place for the holy, hope for the world. In a moment of silence, meet us where we are and lift us to who we can be in the light of your love. Silence. Hear us as we pray together as Jesus taught us: Our Father… Amen.
Assurance of Grace
Hear the good news! We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people – called from the shadows into the light, forgiven and freed in order that we might live by God’s light and walk in God’s love. Thanks be to God. (1 Peter 2:2-10)
Reflection: The End
Our readings for this morning invite us to contemplate the end of living in two senses of the word: end as in death and end meaning telos – purpose.
We meet Stephen at his life’s end as he is stoned to death for his fiery sermon (Acts 7:55-60). The story mirrors Jesus’ crucifixion. The author of Acts, who also wrote the gospel of Luke, makes the link to the gospel where Jesus cries out Father, into your hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46). Stephen prays Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Standing nearby guarding the rock throwers’ coats is young Saul, who approved of the killing and would become an active persecutor of the Followers of the Way….until he was stopped dead in his tracks on the road to Damascus and took a new name, Paul, for a new end/purpose.
The reading from the gospel of John is from Jesus’ Farewell Discourse – his words to the disciples before his betrayal and crucifixion. He is preparing them for his death and to live without his physical presence. He begins Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? Later he says I am the way, the truth and the life.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. He encourages us not to fear the future, whatever it may hold. He names our true Home as God, the place where we dwell eternally.
I cling to these words in these challenging times that are so full of uncertainty, where there is much to fear. I breathe them in. They bring me Home. They are a prayer that points to the way to live now: in the peace that passes understanding, as much as possible. We don’t know the future: if we will live or if we will die, when we will be together again in the flesh, or what the impacts of this dread disease will be on the way we live in weeks, months and years to come.
Living in the peace that passes understanding, we accept that these are uncertain and unpredictable times that bring adversity to many. But we are not resigned to that adversity. We are not resigned to all suffering. Breathing peace, we draw strength to live the Way, the Truth and the Life to which we are called. Not fearing the end (death or change), we grasp onto the end (our purpose).
Jesus spoke these words to those who had heard and seen, touched and tasted the goodness of God. They called for commitment and signalled direction.
The Way – thy will be done, not mine. The Truth – God made all creation and loves all creation, an interdependent whole, an order with justice in its bones. The Life – abundant life, eternal life, purposeful life. This is how we who hear this shepherd’s voice are to live: in self-giving love, trusting in God’s purpose and God’s power. Jesus is present to us. He invites prayer in his name. He promises he will work through us.
Our marching orders are clear: breathing peace, we focus our energies in whatever small way we can to be bringers of peace, love, hope and joy into a world that is dying for lack of it. This we can do. This we shall. It is our intended end.
God bless you, and bless this world through you.
Hymn: Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life R&S 352
(We sang this poem by George Herbert to a tune by Vaughn Williams at my ordination and at our wedding. It is particularly precious to me.)
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a Way, as gives us breath:
such a Truth, as ends all strife:
such a Life, as killeth death.
Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a Light, as shows a feast:
such a Feast, as mends in length:
such a Strength, as makes his guest.
Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a Joy, as none can move:
such a Love, as none can part:
such a Heart, as joys in love.
George Herbert (1593-1633) Note: “mends in length” means “gets better and better as it goes on” (see John 2:10).
Trust in God, who has made this Way for us.
Cling to God, whose Truth will not fail us or forsake us.
Abide in God, who gives us Life in all its fullness.
Into God’s hands we commit our spirits and our bodies,
as we go forth to love and to serve in the name of Christ.
CCL No. 213535 / One Licence A-632495