Rev. Rosemary Webb
1st June 2014
Jesus is Praying for us Today

Jesus in the Gospel reading is praying – praying that he might be glorified by God, but that is not all he is praying for, he is praying that the disciples that God will protect them, and today he is still praying, praying for his church today, for today’s disciples, us.

In Acts Jesus is telling the disciples that they are his witnesses, not only in Judea and Samaria but throughout the world. For people who had never left their homeland that must have seen a terrifying prospect, but Jesus is telling that that through the Holy Spirit, the Advocate he has promised they will receive the strength to proclaim the Gospel.

We are today’s disciples, we are today’s witnesses, we are called to respond to Christ’s prayer, if we do not respond how will people learn the Good News, learn of God’s glory. Jesus’ disciples were called to go into the unknown, to people who had never heard of Jesus. Today as a church we are called to reach out to our own community to people who have heard of Jesus but who have forgotten him, both people who think they don’t need his help, who think money and success are the main things in life, and people who think that because they have got something wrong God no longer cares for them.

As you probably know by now not just our Church but all Anglican churches are being called to look again at what they do, to see if we need not necessarily to alter things but perhaps to ‘tweak’ things. (If you haven’t been given your invitation don’t leave church today without one).

Society alters and what was brilliant twenty years ago may need changing. This is why we are also having a gift day in the hope of raising the extra money we need to update our church hall. What seemed so great when it was first opened 25 years ago needs looking at again, needs updating.

Two reasons why it is so important that as many of us as possible come to the meeting on 21st June; young and old for the views of the young are also needed. We know our church hall needs updating because it is visually obvious, but is harder to see whether what we offer as a parish is need of an update. And we need as many members as possible to come, not just those who always turn up, but those who are perhaps newer, more hesitant to share their views – your opinion might just be the one we need most! You may see what we do differently from the way we see it ourselves.

If the first disciples hadn’t bitten the bullet, put their anxieties behind them the church would have died, we might never have heard the good news. We are doing a lot, we may feel we are doing enough, too much, but unless we are willing to sit down and think about it we cannot be sure if we should still be doing the same things but perhaps in a different way.

We are called to be witnesses to Christ just as much as the original disciples. We are not being called into long theological dialogue, but to show how knowing Christ has helped us, how letting God into our lives has given us the strength to face day to day problems, how following in Christ’s footsteps has made us more aware of the needs of others.

For in many ways it is our actions which count most, remember Francis of Assisi ‘proclaim the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.’ Yes it is our actions which speak so much louder than words, and I think we are an active church – David Bosch in his book ‘Transforming Mission’ says it might be more accurate to refer to the Bible as the Acts of God rather than the Word of God. Christ preached but think how he reached out how he responded to those in need. Christ wasn’t like some imperial emperor sending his slaves out, he was hands on, he reached out to all.

If stop for a moment and look at our own lives, at those who have been witnesses to us, we can probably all think of numerous people who have brought us to where we are on our journey of faith. So how have they inspired us? Many probably have spoken words of wisdom, but I suspect that we are far more impressed by the way they lead their lives. How they reached out to the difficult person, the person no one wants to talk to. How like Jesus they reached out without prejudice, reached out to those some people might like to call sinners, how they simply had time to listen to make someone feel they have value, that they too are a child of God and that God loves them.

The Disciples were scared of being threatened, of meeting violence and perhaps death as they went out to proclaim the Good News, we are not likely to have to face those things, but we are probably afraid of being ridiculed if we say we are doing something because we are Christian, of feeling we wouldn’t be able to cope.

Wearing a dog collar is in some ways an invitation for people to speak to me and one of the short passing chats I most enjoy is with a Moslem mum from the school. Mainly about school and day to day life, nothing serious, but one thing she said stuck with me and that is she thinks all sensible people should be able to talk to each other no matter what their differences.

That I believe is the key to reaching out, it isn’t thinking about difference, it isn’t us and you, it is just about us. Our circumstances may be very different but I think there is always common ground between everyone – whether we like someone or not doesn’t come into it they are a child of God as much as we are.

Jesus gave us two commandments ‘Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength and love your neighbour as yourself’. No mention of being prejudiced, judgemental, just the command to love.

Next Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, when we give thanks for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us all, let us celebrate the festival with joy and pray that we will be given even greater strength to be true witnesses to Christ.

John 17:1-11, Acts 1:6-14