Sunday 8th

1ST SERMON     

HOLY COMMUNION            SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION            Preacher: Fran Powis 

 

Acts 16 verses 16—34                   

John 17 verse 20—end

Opening Prayer

 

Recently we went on holiday with our family, there were six adults and three children; Gary and myself, two sons, two daughters- in-law, three grandchildren and two dogs. We went for a week, long enough to appreciate each other and to share time together but not long enough to fall out or irritate each other!

The cottage we stayed in had more than enough room for us to be together but spread out so that when we came together it was because we wanted to not because we were living on top of each other. There was a garden for the dogs, a hot tub, a large kitchen with so many cupboards we didn’t empty them all when we packed up to come home; a dining room, a conservatory and four lounge areas, all very comfortable with room to relax.

With slightly better weather we could have felt ourselves to be in paradise, but not I am sure, as good a place as the paradise guaranteed by Jesus to the criminal hanging on the cross next to him at Calvary, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”. Luke 23:43

John 14 tells us of the father’s house where there are many rooms or dwelling places which are prepared for us, our own special place and space where we will want to gather together to praise God. That promise is secure, Jesus has prepared the way to eternal life, as we trust in him.

In our gospel reading Jesus is praying for future believers, for all those who came after his death and resurrection, for all those who did not witness the risen Christ personally, all those who believe because they have heard the good news, that means you and me..

Jesus prayed for unity, v11, protection from evil, v15 and for holiness, v17. Knowing that Jesus prayed for us should give us confidence as we work for his kingdom.

As the disciples unified and worked together and witnessed in the name of Jesus to demonstrate God’s love, so others saw and wanted to join with them and share in their happiness. As we work together and pray for others and give of our time and talents, whether money or other gifts, in humility, so we are building up others as workers for God’s kingdom.

Paul and Silas in Acts 16 had been witnessing to different people, and as we look around us here today we see folks from different backgrounds, who are working or retired from working at different jobs. We come together regularly to join together in worship, we also join together at social events for outreach, supporting and encouraging each other in friendship and fun, as we shared yesterday at Sacred in the morning, and at tea in the afternoon.

So, in the preceding verses, Paul and Silas met with Lydia, a trader in purple cloth, v14 , purple dye was extracted drop by drop from shell-fish so was expensive to produce, therefore the cloth dyed purple was costly, Lydia was a wealthy business woman. The opposite end of the social spectrum tells of Paul and Silas ministering to a poor slave girl, they healed her in the name of Christ which was good news for her but not for her owners who made money from her ability to tell the future.

The owners complained and Paul and Silas were flogged and thrown into prison. They were not silenced however, they spent their time in prayer and singing, they were given another opportunity to witness and preach the gospel, this time to their jailer.

After a sudden earthquake he thought they had escaped. The jailer was saved in more ways than one, firstly by being stopped from killing himself, then they told him  “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved  -  you and your household.” v31

After washing their wounds and tending to them the jailer and his family were baptised, they had all come to believe. Let us pray that God will use us to introduce Jesus to all our family members and that they will come to believe in him, because this message breaks down barriers of all kinds of diversity, race, gender, wealth and education, all can receive salvation by believing in the Lord Jesus.

On Thursday we celebrated the Ascension of our Lord into heaven, the day when the disciples saw Jesus for the last time on earth. Jesus spent a long time preparing the disciples for his death and eventual departure, praying for them and for us. He prayed for our understanding of the power and might and love of God for us, his children.

Psalm 97 is the psalm reading for today, it begins and ends with the exhortation for all to rejoice because the Lord reigns. V1 declares, ‘The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.’ and v12 says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name. ’The Lord reigns, he is sovereign, therefore he can accomplish all things.

God reigns in heaven and Jesus is with him, although we no longer see him he is alive and reigns with the Father. Next week, at Pentecost, we will hear how we are to cope without his physical presence.

Many of us worry about things that we cannot understand or fix or accomplish, we know that worry is useless, that we should leave our concerns in God’s hands, but how many of us in the night can’t sleep because we worry? That time is better spent in prayer, praising God for his power and might and rejoicing in what he does accomplish.

One day we will all stand before God in his glory and see how powerful he is. Read Psalm 97 when you get home, read how mighty is his glory that if the clouds that obscure our vision of him were to be removed then we would be blinded by his glory but we would understand that he is in control and does accomplish all.

A further reading for today comes from the book of Revelation chapter 22 which concludes the whole Bible with the promise of Christ’s imminent return (22:6-21) and John breathes a prayer that has been echoed by Christians through the centuries, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (22:20)

In a vision John was told (v12) “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done”.

And v17 says, ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

So we can come and receive that free gift of the water of life and so experience the joys of the salvation in Christ. Can we extend that invitation to everyone we meet?

And the final verse of the final chapter of the final book gives us a further free gift, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.’

Revelation closes the Bible and human history as Genesis opened it—in paradise. The difference Revelation offers is that evil is gone for ever. Genesis describes Adam and Eve walking and talking with God.

Revelation describes people worshipping God face to face. Genesis describes a garden with an evil serpent. Revelation describes a perfect city with no evil. The Garden of Eden was destroyed by sin, but paradise is re-created in the new Jerusalem.

Revelation is a book of hope, our efforts to better the world are important, but their results cannot compare with the transformation that Jesus’ Second Coming will bring.

Revelation is a book of hope, it depicts the wonderful reward that is waiting for all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

Amen.