Seventh Sunday of Easter
Prayer of the Day
O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us and ascended to your right hand. Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and in joy, that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Acts 1:6-14 Jesus’ companions at prayer after his departure
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 God will sustain and restore those who suffer
John 17:1-11 Christ’s prayer for his disciples
Title: Joy, Hope, and Life Sustained
Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia
43 days of our Easter shout. Is it starting to fade? Like those lilies that used to adorn the altar and the cross? Has that buried alleluia that we joyously reclaimed on Easter morning lost some of its umph, it pizazz, its power? It’s hard to keep that joy alive in this every day demanding world. Isn’t it? Especially when we are constantly being taken to places like Manchester, Egypt, Syria, the list is never ending. Hard to keep that Easter hope vibrant, when though there are real problems to address, issues that we have the ability and the resources to address, and yet all we hear of is the irritating and pointless folly of Washington. Hard to live into the victory over death when we have lost so many to the insanity of war that seems never ending, such that we have to have national holidays to remember those who died before they had a chance to live. 43 days. Where is that Easter joy, that Easter hope, that Easter life today?
As we search for this and more, we find that we are in good company as we stand with those disciples on the hilltop. They had been seeing Jesus for 40 days. Seeing the risen Christ in their midst. Seeing the one they saw brutally tortured and killed, but who was now alive. The victory over death was accomplished and complete. You’d think they would have been able to hold onto that Easter joy for those forty days. That their hope was unwavering. That their grasp on this new life that is ours in the risen Christ was firm and enlightened. But what do they say to Jesus, the risen and conquering one? Lord, is this the time we’ve been waiting for? Is this the time you will give us victory over the ones we count as enemy? Those people and powers that we see are against us? Those that we see standing in our way of really living?
And the folks who were receiving Peter’s letter were having a time that challenges the alleluia shouting as well. They were suffering persecution for their faith. Like the Coptic Christians in Egypt of today, they must have been asking themselves: why is this happening to us. They were hurting, demoralized. Their joy was challenged, their hope dissolving, their pursuit of new life appearing pointless.
Perhaps it is good that as our Easter blessings of joy and hope and life are tested and perhaps even fading, it is good that our gospel reading takes us back to that night when Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room. The night that would see him betrayed, arrested, abandoned, and his horrific ordeal begin. And we see that as he was preparing for his own suffering, Jesus anticipated the challenges that would test his followers in the future. And so he prays. He prays that what God has brought to life through him, in his followers, in us, might continue to thrive in us and strengthen us for the sake of our own journey, for the sake of the world, that it would continue beyond suffering and death, would continue with a resurrected newness.
Jesus the Christ, brought a new understanding of God, of God’s presence in the midst of all that the world will throw at us. In Jesus we see that God’s mercy and grace comes to us in the midst of all that breaks us, all that misleads us, all that wounds us, all that deceives us. And this merciful and grace-filled presence is so filled with life and hope that it never ends, it is eternal life – not beginning in some distant place where all is perfect, but here in this world, where the presence of God keeps hope alive, even in the face of death. In Jesus, we see that God is truly with us – in the glory of mountaintop experiences, in the awe-filled wonder of miracles, and even in the agony of suffering, shame, and death.
In his prayer, Jesus reminds us that he has also brought the word of God with new understanding. No longer is it simply a law that seeks to divide observers and breakers. But Jesus has brought a word that is filled with promises, filled with messages of love, filled with good news that brings joy to the sorrowful, hope to the despairing, and peace to the fearful. This is the word on which our lives are centered and built. This is the word that directs us in our search for meaning and purpose. The word of God is ours for the living of our lives and for the proclaiming to those around us.
And in his prayer, Jesus prayers that we might be one in him. This faith journey, this living into God’s presence, this growing in God’s word is not to be accomplished alone. Jesus knows we need one another. We learn from one another. We are challenged by one another. We are supported by one another. We are to be there for one another, standing with one another. Jesus prayers that we might live into the truth that we are stronger together.
So how is Jesus’ prayer answered? And in his prayer being answered, how is this new life that is ours in the power of the resurrection – new life that is filled with joy, anchored in hope, and strengthened by peace – sustained beyond 43 days of alleluia shouting, (or 50 days if you count the full season of Easter that still has one week to go.) How is it sustained in the midst of bombings and bickering, wars and weariness, illness and insult, division and destruction?
Today, we take time to remind ourselves of some of the signs that remind us that Jesus’s prayer is answered in our midst and that point us to his everlasting presence that, though ascended, he is filling our world and our lives. You are invited to come to font and with this refreshing and renewing water of new life, water filled with the promises of God, to make the sign of the cross with it and remember that you are a cherished child of God.
With hope and compassion, you are invited to connect with those places around the world that cry out for justice and peace, reminding ourselves that we take the presence of the risen Christ out into the world.
With peace and assurance, we light candles remembering those we miss, those no longer with us in this world, mourning not as those who have no hope, but rather trusting in the everlasting promises of God.
We come to God in all honesty of our brokenness, our hopelessness, our weakness to completely trust in God, and we speak words of confession and hear, from a fellow believer that by the grace of God we are forgiven.
We come for anointing and laying on of hands, sharing with one another the healing touch of our Lord as he commanded. Being reminded that though we are wounded and though we wound, the one who rises with healing in his wings comes to us, so that we might live.
And then, of course, we will come to the table to feast on the presence of Christ as we are joined together, made one as Jesus prayed for, as the body of Christ, the risen Christ, in the world.
It is not a 43 day challenge. It is not a fifty day challenge. The alleluia, good news of Easter is what we take with us to face the challenges everyday of our new life in Christ. Embrace faithfully whatever signs and gifts aid you in holding fast to the presence of the risen Christ for the living of this life.
And then come back next week, for a celebration, as we receive even more from our creator and loving God for the living of this life in the Holy Spirit descending anew, filling us with the power to continue our eternal shout: Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!
The Rev. Mark Erson,