There’s not much room in the vicarage loft. It’s full of old photographs that we don’t want to lose. There must be thirty albums worth up there and other little boxes filled with all sorts of pictures and cuttings.
A task of this lockdown time was that we would go through the lot of them and slim it all down a bit. Well, we’ve made a start.
But what do you throw away – when each snap opens up a precious memory.
Back in the day, we took photos of all sorts of things. A cow in a field somewhere in Dorset. A view of the sea with a dot in the distance that might be one of our girls. A random birthday cake. A car we once had parked in a street.
All carefully mounted and stored away – but to what purpose.
So those can go – the lot of them – but that still leaves hundreds more – that I for one don’t want to part with, and I don’t know about you, but in these times, the past seems even more important because we have this feeling that we all stand at a bit of a crossroads, and need to think what it is we can leave behind to make room for what lies ahead. Times when even the little things feel precious.
Our reading from Acts finds the disciples of Jesus in exactly the same mind set. He has risen from the dead and it seems he is going back into heaven now and leaving them to face an unknown future. Not really going to be there at all, but just with this Spirit of Him to guide them.
After Jesus rose from the dead on Easter day – these disciples seem to spend as much time as possible clinging on to the good old places.
Hanging around the empty tomb, even though he had gone from there.
Getting back in their old boats for fishing trips and hoping he walk on the water one more time or still the storm.
Hunkering down in the Upper Room because maybe he would come and break bread again and wash their feet again – like he did before, and they would understand it a bit more this time.
Tombs. Rooms and boats. Here was where they felt safe and protected and they longed for Jesus to come to them again there.
But something happens in the space between this week and next week. You watch and see.
For next week when the Spirit comes – they find this to be not some vague idea that the memory of Jesus was hovering in the background of their lives, but that he was in their hearts in a new and vital way.
Jesus promised this change in our Gospel reading where he hints that things will not be the same, but He says – I will protect you. I will look after you.
And from that moment beginning next week, they never went back to the empty tomb again.
They never went fishing again, nor did they meet in the Upper Room.
But rather a new confidence and purpose came to them. And we need to be ready for this too.
A Gospel story that always pulls me up sharp is when some people come bounding up to Jesus full of enthusiasm about following him.
I will follow you but I will need to bring all my possessions with me.
I will follow you but I need to say a proper goodbye to my family first.
I will follow you but I have a family funeral to attend.
And in each case, Jesus seems rather harsh – come now or not at all he says – because you cannot plough a straight furrow by looking back.
I wonder how easy it has been for you to replace the normal rhythm of church.
I wonder how you have compensated for the time we were used to spending in church together. I am finding that a service on line is not quite the same as being together in the building. Prayer is a bit different. Worship is harder, for now we cannot support each other in the same way – the quality of our prayer life feels as if it’s entirely down to us.
Sometimes even I would not feel entirely on the ball and then the choir would sing, and then a prayer one of you said would grab me or someone would say hello in a way that touched my heart and all would be well and I would feel lifted up.
We are a few days into Thy Kingdom Come. Nine days of prayer each year that lead us to Pentecost. There are resources to get hold of which I pray will be a blessing.
Thy Kingdom come – those words from the Lord’s Prayer.
And one of the things I have only just noticed about that prayer is that it is entirely about the present opening up into the future. It has nothing to say about past things at all but rather it encourages us to move into a new future with God.
Where he is with us just as was promised in this morning’s Gospel, where the momentum of his love might stir us in exactly the same way as those first disciples, where sins are forgiven, temptation is avoided, our daily needs provided and we learn what it is to give Him the glory in our lives.
The Lord’s Prayer is about clearing the decks, and it’s a good prayer to pray in these days before Pentecost.
Rooms and tombs and boats held the faith of the first disciples.
Many things hold us in our lives but the question is What is it that holds us back from love and what is it that holds us in love. I think His Spirit will show us – if we create the space to let Him speak.
Perhaps that’s something for this coming week armed with the prayer he taught his disciples.
JOHN 17: 1-11