Greetings, people of St Pauls.
Let us pray. “May the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.”
Today Jesus prays, as recorded in today’s gospel reading, which is taken from John 17:1-11.
We read that Jesus looked up to heaven and started to pray, “Father, the hour has come.”
After telling his disciples that he will be leaving them, Jesus then prays for them.
Passing on the mission
In his prayer Jesus says that he has finished the work that God had given him to do. With his ascension, which we celebrated on Thursday, Jesus entrusted his ongoing work to his followers – his followers then, and us now.
I am reminded of the words of the 16th century saint, Theresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.”
It is great privilege to continue Jesus’ work in the world; the work of loving, of caring, of bringing hope and healing to one another, and to the world. We also continue this work, in maintaining households, cooking, cleaning, helping with home schooling, or doing school work. When we do this in a spirit of love and service of others, we do God’s work.
Some other words also come to mind. A couple of years ago, when we were appealing to people to give in envelopes for the fete collection we were reminded by Dr Egerton making the weekly appeals, “Never underestimate what God can do in and through you.”
Let us remember that our efforts, however small they may seem, make a difference.
Protection and unity
In this part of the prayer Jesus concludes by praying: “protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.”
Jesus prays for protection and unity among his followers.
I am grateful for God’s protection of us as the people of St Paul’s during this difficult time of the pandemic.
People of St Pauls
I see God’s protection in the resilience and courage you show, drawing on your faith to sustain you.
I see God’s protection in your determination to continue. Some have said, “We can only pray.” Well, prayer can be strengthening to us.
On Friday I conducted a funeral service at another church for one of our members, Daphne Huet, who had been on our pew leaflet prayer list for a number of years. I had obtained a permit from the police station to conduct this funeral as part of an “essential service.” With limited attendance by family members only and with people wearing masks and sitting apart from one another in the church we were able to give thanks to God for Daphne’s life. I was grateful that in the restrictive conditions of lockdown we could share in prayer and support could be offered to the family in their grief.
I am grateful for the sense of unity that I have become aware of within our parish. There has been a greater trust that has developed among us. I have noticed a greater willingness to support one another and help those who are struggling.
We are drawn closer together when we show love towards others. And when we love others God’s love is seen through us.
This week leading up to Pentecost, which is next Sunday, has for many years been kept as the Week of Prayer for Christian unity. The key scripture from this focus is taken from this same chapter of John’s gospel, “that they may be one.”
In the midst of the pandemic, through the efforts of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council and other provincial church leaders there has been a close working together of a number of churches, including evangelical, charismatic Pentecostal, and mainline churches.
Various preparations are being made to prepare churches to play a supportive to the health services and to assist in other capacities. I have been part of some of these video conference meetings. It’s wonderful to experience different churches working together. I last experienced this degree of collaboration among churches in the earlier days of the HIV/ AIDS epidemic. May this working across denominational and other lines continue to be expressed beyond this immediate crisis.
I am aware that it is tough for many people at this time, and increasingly very costly in terms of mental health. Let us pray for and support one another.
Let us be aware we are part of a wider family. Today is observed as Anglican Communion Sunday. The Anglican Communion is composed of about 40 worldwide member churches, or provinces, all of which are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Each province exercises legal independence but shares a common heritage concerning Anglican identity and commitment to scripture, tradition, and reason as sources of authority, worship and practice.
We are grateful for being part of a worldwide communion. Let us become conscious of the hardships as well as the stories of hope also being experienced by others around the world. We are all in this together.
To conclude: The road ahead is still a long one; we know God hears our prayers.
We have focussed on part of Jesus’ prayer this morning, so it is appropriate that I conclude with a prayer:
you have protected us and continue to protect us.
May we act in ways that protect others too.
We pray that all health workers may be protected.
Thank you that you have been with us and continue to be with us.
May all in the world be prepared to set aside differences
and work in unity to help us all through this pandemic.
This we pray in Jesus Christ’s name.