Sunday, 2 June 2019

To the ends of the Earth Part 1

Psalm 47; Luke 24: 44-53 

Sermon for 2nd June: To the ends of the Earth Part 1

We live in exciting days!
You may not know this. You may even be a bit surprised by this!
But we live in exciting days.
The Church is moving; change is happening; and we are part of the new chapter, the new version of church, fit for the times we live in.
There is much to be done; yesterday, in Innerleithen around 60 people met from right across the Presbytery. We listened to each other and we explored together what might be.
The news filtering down from the central church can be difficult to hear: change is coming, and we must reduce our costs.
That same news also contains things which are exciting to hear: change is coming and in order to make the church fit for purpose new funds are available, and new ways of being the local church are being proposed. These changes will affect us here in the Leader Valley. There will be new ways forward, and new ways ahead.
Nothing specific was decided yesterday – but ideas were heard; and visions shared. The task of the Presbytery Planning Group now is to collate those ideas; to bring them together and create something new.
It seems somehow appropriate, that as the new plans are coming together, the church year is moving from the season of Easter and New Life, to the season of Pentecost and New Energy!
Today we heard about Jesus’ final act on earth – reminding his disciples, one last time, of the task ahead, blessing them, and then being lifted up… Part Two comes next week – what happened next?!
But for today. What does the Ascension tell us?
First: patience!! Jesus was lifted up; and they have to wait some more.
Waiting is not easy… the days and hours stretch out; time seems to slow down. As we wait for The Thing to happen.
And then, it happens and suddenly we really want things to slow down for a moment so we can catch breath, take a moment.
The disciples are at the culmination of three years of travelling with Jesus, hanging on his every word; followed by the three longest darkest days of all when he was gone and hope and light gone with him.
Now, they are at the end of  fifty days of wonder. The resurrected Jesus, with them, teaching again, showing again that God’s Love is paramount. Jesus’ teaching hinges on that one premise: God Loves you, me, us.
If we live by that, if we can live that out, then everything else falls into place.
Now, what do you think they did after he was finally taken up into heaven?
Clearly not yet fully ready; not yet equipped by the Spirit to go into the world, they retreated.
Here is, what I think is the most important lesson about the Ascension and the period between Jesus leaving and the Spirit arriving.
They did not go home and hide in the privacy of their own homes. They went to the temple and spent the days praising and blessing God.
“While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God”
They stayed together and they prayed.
I cannot emphasis enough the importance of prayer. Praying in the peace of your own home; praying together with others; praying out loud; praying in silent mutterings deep in your heart.
Prayer. In waiting.
Prayer. In hoping.
Prayer. In celebration
Prayer. In anxiety
Prayer. In pain.
Praying, worshipping, blessing, praising, naming our fear, our requests, our joys,
Praying and handing over to God, that which we cannot yet name.
As Jesus went up to heaven; to claim his place in God’s kingdom, the disciples returned to Jerusalem and spent the next ten days in prayer; singing psalms and praising God.
The psalmist describes the same:
 God has gone up with a shout,
    the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
    sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the king of all the earth;
    sing praises with a psalm.
We are in a season of waiting.
Waiting for the joy of Pentecost next week
Waiting for the coming together of our neighbours to create a new plan for our area.
Waiting for the start of something new.
We could wait and worry and fret.
Or, we could wait and pray and praise God, seeking God’s vision, God’s plan for this community, and for our hope-filled future.
Remember: God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.
God is king of all the earth; take that message to ends of the earth. 
And back again!

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