Preaching Resources

The Seventh Sunday of Easter – Ascension Sunday – May 16, 2021

Assigned Scripture Passages:

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
I John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

 

Perhaps you’ve witnessed this scene yourself. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself: Mom is leaving for a trip and leaving her husband and children for a few days.  She has produced a long list of how things get done and when they need to be done.

 

  • School lunches need to be made, remembering that one child likes mayo, the other does not.
  • When washing the clothes, make sure to run the dark colors together and never wash whites with the reds.
  • There is baseball practice at 4:00 on Thursday for Charlie, but swim team practice at 4:15 for Susie, so Charlie might need to be dropped off a little early so that you can get Susie there on time, but that is fine because the coach is always there ahead of time.

You get the picture.  Today is often celebrated as Ascension Day when we mark Jesus’ physical departure from his disciples and those who would form the early church.  And while the words from our Gospel lesson are spoken well before this takes place, here Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure.

This is where Jesus is with his disciples.

In our Gospel text for today, we read some of the last words that Jesus speaks in his disciples’ presence, and they come from what is known as the High Priestly Prayer. This prayer forms the totality of chapter 17 in John’s Gospel.  It is a prayer spoken by Jesus in the Upper Room, just before they step outside and make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was prayed not only for those disciples that were gathered on that night but also all those who would come after them who would take the path of discipleship. This is Jesus’ prayer for each of us.

On behalf of all his disciples, this is what Jesus prayed for:

  1. Protection from the evil one
  2. That they would be sent into the world, not to be like to the world but to transform the world
  3. That we would be a light into the darkness of the world
  4. That we would be one, just as Jesus and the Father were one.

This is a prayer not only for those who had surrounded Jesus during his ministry but also for those who continue to carry out his ministry today.  In the profound words of this prayer, we can see that Jesus looks at the world very differently than we do.  We most often look at the world through the eyes of the self.  Everything before us is for our consumption, for our taking, for our benefit, and for our control.  All of it is mine for my benefit.

According to Jesus, the kingdom of God operates in a very different manner.  Here everything is for the benefit of others. Here everything points towards the true and lasting joy to be found in living in response to God’s love.  So now, all that I have is not for me, but it is for me to bring others to know of God’s love for them as well.

Since chapter 13, Jesus has been with his disciples, and he has been talking almost non-stop.  Maybe in not quite the frantic manner as a departing mom, but Jesus is, nonetheless, quite intense.  At one point, early on, Jesus says, watch me, I’ll show you how it’s done. Then Jesus wraps a towel around his waist and washes the feet of his disciples. The teacher humbles himself to wash his disciple’s feet and then tells them to go and do likewise.

And after four chapters of talking, there is only one thing left to do….pray.

We find here Jesus commissioning his disciples in the middle of the prayer as he prays: “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

We continue to be sent even today.  We continue to be sent from our homes through phone calls, emails, texts, zoom meetings, and masked conversations.  Nonetheless, God’s love can be shared.  Very soon, we will have a bit more freedom to move about, and we can be sent on missions that move out in different directions.  We have the chance to share God’s love through the humble service that Jesus has modeled for us.  We continue to be the Body of Christ touching the world around us in Jesus’ name.

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