Eucharist – Sun 17th May
Moving through Easter.. to Ascension.. and on to Pentecost
Our Gospel reading today has Jesus promising that the Father won’t leave us orphaned, and that we will receive the Holy Spirit, described here as an advocate or helper, the Spirit of truth. The Spirit won’t ever leave us (so no being orphaned for us) but will be with us and in us.
There are 50 days between Easter Day and Pentecost (Whitsunday) in the Christian year, and here we are this Sunday on the 36th day (the sixth of Easter), heading towards Ascension Day this coming Thursday (day 40) and then another 10 days to go after that until the coming of the promised Holy Spirit on Whit Sunday May 31st. It’s all an exercise in waiting…but aren’t we all fed up of waiting you may say….waiting for release from lockdown, waiting to see our family and friends, to hug them, waiting to resume normal life, waiting to return to church. Let us as Christians continue to pray and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, but let’s pray and wait with eagerness, anticipation and longing.
On this coming Thursday we will celebrate Jesus’ return to the Father, 40 days after his resurrection. Ascension is a strange kind of day, hard to grasp, because it marks the day when Jesus leaves the earth and his disciples no longer see him. So it’s about absence (Jesus going away), and I want us to reflect that we can identify with this, because we are in a time when, because of Coronavirus, so much of what we value seems to have gone away from us, and we are sad and grieving.
Let’s take heart then that Thursday’s celebration is not just about absence but also about presence…that we are taken up with Jesus into God’s heart, taken home to God, and promised that we will never again be separated from him, because we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, God with us, at Pentecost. When we pray for and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit the love of Christ will spread through us and in us as we commit ourselves in his power to work for the coming of the Kingdom. Look up Thy Kingdom come/The Church of England on your computer or other device, in order to be part of a global prayer movement that starts this Thursday for 10 days, between Ascension and Pentecost, as we pray together for more people to know the love, hope and peace found in Christ. There are many daily prayer resources on the Thy Kingdom Come website.
Our picture today is the dove of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus today in John’s gospel. A short reflection on the image follows, taken from Ulrich Schaffer: Into your light:
The gull is heavier than air, but by its motion and hollow bones it defies gravity and rides the wind.
It is the motion of faith and the knowledge of my hollowness that allow me to fly and break through to you.
I am hollow but filled with hope and this knowledge makes me light enough to survive the storm and the eye of the storm.
To be hollow and to know it is to become filled with the power to fly.