O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
by the lakeside you renewed your call to your disciples:
help your Church to obey your command
and draw the nations to the fire of your love,
to the glory of God the Father.
O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
Let Israel rejoice in their maker;
let the children of Zion be joyful in their king.
Let them praise his name in the dance;
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and lyre.
For the Lord has pleasure in his people
and adorns the poor with salvation.
Let the faithful be joyful in glory;
let them rejoice in their ranks,
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
John 15.26 – 16.4
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.’
Today’s reading contains words of great foreboding: an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.
There are many ways of killing someone. There is the obvious bringing about of the extinction of life, but there is also the killing of the spirit. In this latter version, we are left breathing and moving, but we do so without meaning or purpose. This latter way of existing in this world is often described as a ‘fate worse than death’. The loss of hope drains us of all that we consider to be of value as we eke out our daily existences. This is a world that many consider to be their reality in these modern, sceptical days.
Over the last year we have come to understand in a more profound way the value of human interaction and physical proximity. During times of lockdown and isolation, many have felt hope drain from their lives as they have remained locked in their homes for fear of infection, illness and, perhaps, premature death. Many of us have survived these days by clinging on to our faith in Jesus Christ. But the secular world has striven to hammer at our doors, taking advantage of the negativity in which we have been enveloped. In the name of ‘progress’, and often described as ‘being for our own good’, secular forces seem to have been attacking the life of faith from every angle. Alongside the self-doubt that strikes even the most committed believer, politicians, the media, the world of commerce and those who would bombard us with their secular ‘wisdom’ have attacked the Church consistently in recent days. Sometimes it has felt as though even the Church has begun attacking itself with talk of irrelevancy, hypocrisy and mis-management.
In today’s reading we hear of Jesus’ warning of such days as the ones we seem to be living through. In today’s reading we hear of Christians living in a world where their very existence is threatened, where their extinction is celebrated. But, Jesus’ message is not just one of doom and gloom! Jesus also says: I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling.
This week, as we continue to journey through the joyous season of Easter, we will celebrate Christ’s Ascension to his place at God’s right hand. Then, in just another ten days, we will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. Also, on the day after the Feast of the Ascension we will remember St Matthias, the one who was called to replace Judas Iscariot in the company of the apostles.
We should not be surprised that those who espouse Jesus Christ as their risen Lord and Saviour should feel attacked and dispirited at this time. Christians have much to celebrate in these days. The secular world seems to see that joy and try to beat it down, to celebrate as they worship their ‘gods’ by decrying ours.
Let us thank the one and only true God that he foresaw the dangers and threats that would confront us. Let us pray that we might not only hear his words, but also take them to heart and be strengthened by them. Let us pray that we may always have the joy of this season in our hearts as we walk the path of Christ.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us join our prayers with those of our Saviour Christ, seeking the Father’s blessing and the gifts of the Spirit.
Jesus Christ, great high priest, living for ever to intercede for us,
pray for the Church, your broken body in the world.
Jesus Christ, king of righteousness,
enthroned at the right hand of the majesty on high,
pray for the world, and make it subject to your gentle rule.
Jesus Christ, Son of Man,
drawing humanity into the life of God,
pray for your brothers and sisters in need, distress or sorrow.
Jesus Christ, pioneer of our salvation,
bringing us to glory through your death and resurrection,
surround with your saints and angels
those who have died trusting your promises.
Jesus Christ, Lord over all things,
ascended far above the heavens and filling the universe,
pray for us who receive the gifts you give us for work in your service.
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at your feet;
for you are alive and reign
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Prayer for the week
Grant that your Church, O God,
here and in every place,
may offer a living worship to you in your glory,
and a living witness to the world in its need;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
All for Jesus, all for Jesus,
this our song shall ever be;
for we have no hope, nor Saviour,
if we have not hope in thee.
All for Jesus, all for Jesus,
this the church’s song must be,
till, at last, we all are gathered
one in love and one in thee.
W. J. Sparrow-Simpson (1859-1952)