We come to the end of the Easter Season with the challenge to take on the work of our brother Jesus. It is interesting and challenging to reflect on his words, “You will do greater things than I!” For me this simply says, we are so many so why indeed wouldn’t this be true?! Our challenge is to be Jesus’ hands, feet, eyes, ears and heart in our world. I am happy to know that there are so many of you out there doing just that! If I can help you in any way, please don’t ever hesitate to give me a call, 507-429-3616, or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
O God, hear my voice when I call to you. My heart has prompted me to seek your face; I seek it, O God, do not hide from me, alleluia!
Let Us Pray
Loving Creator, reaching from the end to end of the universe, and ordering all things with your wonderful strength; for you, time is the unfolding of truth that already is, the unveiling of beauty that is yet to be. Jesus, your Only Begotten has saved us in history by rising from the dead, so that transcending time he might free us from death. May his presence among us lead to the vision of unlimited truth and unfold the beauty of your love. We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, Amen.
- Acts 1:1-11
- 1 John 4:11-16
- John 17: 11-19
My friends, with this Sunday, we have come to the end of the Easter Season—7 weeks that the Church gives us to reflect on the fact that we are a People of God and that our God loves each of us very much!
As in past years, because we don’t meet for Ascension Thursday, or in the case of the pandemic, when our “gatherings” are by monthly Zoom and weekly sharing of prayers, readings, and a homily; I don’t want us to pass over the Ascension, celebrated officially this past Thursday, so our 1st reading this Sunday is from the Ascension readings.
The Ascension is somewhat of a mystery to get our heads around. As is many times depicted; we know that Jesus didn’t “rise up into the clouds,” as if “going to heaven”—heaven is a different entity that we can’t fully understand, but know that it is not, “up there,” or “out there, someplace. We also know from the Easter readings, that Jesus looked “different” to the apostles and others who encountered him in his resurrected form. They only knew him, the Scriptures tell us, when he did a familiar action—breaking bread, saying their names.
And when it comes right down to it, the fact we need to hold onto is that it did happen! —these first followers had Jesus physically with them for a time and then he no longer was there.
Our faith then calls us to accept and believe that just as Jesus told them, he would not leave them alone and would send his Spirit to always be with them and us. This next Sunday we will celebrate that mystery—again something we can’t fully understand.
We humans always want to know the details, so as to understand and it was no different for these first companions of Jesus. In the reading from Acts for the feast of the Ascension, it isn’t enough for them to simply know that Jesus will send his Spirit; they want to know, “times and dates,” to which their brother answers—you don’t need that information, but just trust, trust and believe.
As I think of this message, “trust and believe,” I can’t help but think of our Honduran family and of all they have gone through these past two years, waiting in Mexico, and hoping that someone/s sponsor them so as to get their family here, now, to a safer place. And their “trusting and believing” will need to continue for a long time—hoping to win asylum status –hoping to not be deported if their case doesn’t go as planned. In the face of this scenario, it humbles me to realize, all the freedoms that I have. And equally, it spurs me on, in the face of all that I have been in gifted with, to do all that I can for those in my world, with less.
In the end, friends, what all of this is about, is love—pure and simple. In our second reading today from the 1st letter of John, for the 7th Sunday of Easter, he tells us, “If we love one another, God dwells in us…and those who abide in love, abide in God and God in them.” And isn’t that what it is all about? –having God, “living in us!”
I mentioned a week ago that I am reading, Bishop Michael Curry’s book, Love is the Way and throughout it, he speaks about the fact it isn’t always easy to know if what he is doing in any situation is, “the most loving thing.” But for sure, on some level, “love” must be at the heart of all that we do. At the end of the day, the question must always come, Curry says, “Do my actions looks like love?” And he says further, “All I can do is check myself, again and again[!]”
I would like to conclude today with some words I wrote a few years back that still seem to be of worth.
This Sunday calls our attention to the fact that we have arrived at the 7th and final Sunday of Easter, a season that has called us once again to the journey of the entire Church Year. We have lived it reflectively from Advent through this Easter Season. Advent prepared us to remember once again Jesus’ birth, then on through the quiet years of his youth when Scriptures tell us he “grew in wisdom and grace” and on through to his maturity when at one wonderful point in his adult life, he was able to proclaim in his hometown of Nazareth the Good News that captives, prisoners of all kinds—the poor and the lonely were now free—that their time of imprisonment was over!
Our journey through the Church Year to now has called us to remember that because Jesus fought for the rights and equality of all, challenging those with a lust for power, that these same ones would take his life, as a result, on a Friday that would forever after be called, good. Jesus’ life didn’t end there, we know, but continued beyond the grave to a new life that we will all experience one day.
So much of this, my friends, is clearly mystery to us—that we can’t completely wrap our minds around, and we would do better to simply lay upon our hearts, knowing that one day, as Paul says, “We will see clearly.”
Our life in faith is like this—it always calls us to look deeper than what appears on the surface. If we just take the simple words of Jesus that “he will not leave us,” we know that he must have a deeper meaning because Ascension Thursday remembers the fact that Jesus did physically leave those who loved him in his earthly life. We all, in our lives experience the “leaving” of those that we love, through illness, death, disagreement and the list continues. We all experience times when we wonder where God is. Knowing the loneliness of the feeling that God is not present to us; we might have to look further and deeper to where God might be.
The next step might be to ask as John seems to be in today’s Gospel—when did you do the loving thing—the gesture that was needed in a broken world? When did you give a share of your wealth so that others could have the basics of life? We, in this community will have the opportunity in the coming months and years to assist in the possible buying of property that would be used to shelter immigrants coming to this country seeking asylum. And the questions go on–when did you give comfort to a sad, lonely, forgotten person? When did you speak the word of truth that was needed to make a situation better?
John says, when you do any of these things, you make Jesus present to our world again and again and again! The deeper idea that our brother Jesus wants us to get through his entire earthly life is that as his followers, it matters a great deal how we choose to live our lives.
Our life in Christ, the resurrected Jesus will only be as good as we are willing to make it! That is truly what it is all about! So, if there are those who are suffering in any way in our world, it is because good people are not seeing, are not doing their part to make things better—to make Jesus present.
Jesus is present in each of us if we allow him to be there and the only “Jesus” some people may see, and experience, may be through us!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Jesus, today we remember that your life among us has taken on a new form, but help us to always remember that you are with us, always, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Jesus, let peace reign in our hearts and give us the strength and grace to be people of peace, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Jesus, you who said that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend, give us hearts that strive to love unconditionally, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Jesus, give the gift of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel for those suffering from discrimination of any kind in our world, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Jesus, you have called us friends—enable us to extend that relationship in our world to those who most need friendship, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Jesus, you no longer have a body in this world except through us—help us to be your hands and eyes and ears and heart for our world, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Jesus, your words in Scripture today remind us that we are to be one—to make a place for all at our table—help us to always remember that is why we are here in this community—to welcome all to our table—to your table, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Jesus, remind us this week as we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, that your Spirit lives within us enabling us to be your body for the needs of the world, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give each one your peace and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Jesus, hear our prayer”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, we pray, then response
Let Us Pray
Jesus, be the strength we need each day to be a people renewed—true to our calling to be people of peace and of love. Let us never falter in our commitment to you and your world. Let us look at your people, always with love, remembering that you have called us friends—that you have given all that we might have eternal life with you. Let us always remember your never-failing love for each person and that because you have loved us so fully, we too must love fully in return. Give us ever more open minds that we might see your face in each person we meet and therefore cease to judge others, but simply try and understand, to put ourselves in another’s shoes and then to simply look on them with love. We await anew the gift of your loving Spirit into our lives. Give us what we most need today so that we can more effectively be your body in our world. We ask all of this of you, our loving Savior and with the Creator and your loving Spirit— all, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t share the bread of the altar, but do remember that our brother, Jesus, is always with us!
Prayer of Communion
Loving God, hear us and through all the mysteries of our lives, give us hope that the glory you have given Jesus will be given to the Church, his body, for he is our brother, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.