Material for Worship on the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Our Gospel reading today is part of Jesus’ prayer to the Father at the Last Supper, writes the Ven. Peter M. Potter. He prays about his departure from his disciples after his death and after the Ascension.

Blessing them, He withdrew. Jan Richardson

We follow the words of the Ascension hymn, Hail the day that sees him rise, played by David. CP 167

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia,
to his throne above the skies; Alleluia,
Christ, the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia,
enters now the highest heaven. Alleluia!
There for him high triumph waits;
lift your heads, eternal gates.
He hath conquered death and sin;
take the King of Glory in.

Lo, the heaven its Lord receives,
yet he loves the earth he leaves;
though returning to his throne,
still he calls mankind his own.

See, he lifts his hands above;
see, he shews the prints of love;
hark, his gracious lips bestow
blessings on his church below.

Still for us he intercedes,
his prevailing death he pleads;
near himself prepares our place,
he the first-fruits of our race.

Lord, though parted from our sight,
far above the starry height,
grant our hearts may thither rise,
seeking thee above the skies.

Then listen to how the number of apostles was restored to twelve, Acts 1.15-17, 21-26, read by Martin

and then a reading from the Fourth Gospel (John 17. 6-19), read by June

Sometime in the 1590s, the theologian and reformer William Melville addressed King James VI with: “I must tell you that there is two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland …” the one ruled by James and the kingdom ruled by Christ Jesus, “in which Jamie Saxt is but God’s silly vassal.”. At first sight, what Jesus says in these verses from John’s Gospel does sound as if there is a sharp division between earthly kingdoms and the kingdom of God: “They [the disciples] do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”

For reflection: Does this verse apply to you and, if so, how?

Actually, it is rather more complicated: two verses further on he says to his Father “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. At the Ascension, the disciples ask Jesus “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” They had recognised the connection between the fulfilment of God’s promises in the resurrection and the coming of the kingdom. It also leads us to look for connections too.

Now you don’t need me to tell you that we have just had an election and also that we are just coming to the end of Christian Aid Week. Are the aims of Christian Aid part of God’s manifesto and were they reflected in the manifestos of the politicians we have just elected?

To what extent was the way you cast your vote influenced by Jesus’ teachings?

In verse 18 of our reading today, Jesus says to his Father “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. Here Jesus is signalling that the disciples are being given a mandate to carry on his work in the world. At Pentecost the disciples become apostles – the word means one who is sent out – and the embryo Church which comes into being is to be agent of the restored kingdom. As Tom Wright, professor of theology at St Andrews, says we have been saved through the resurrection in order that we might be God’s rescuing stewards over his creation. Salvation does not mean that we are saved by being snatched out of the world but precisely the opposite. We are saved in order to be salt and light in the world.
When Jesus ascended into heaven he was not washing his hands of the world but, again precisely the opposite. The Ascension affirms that he is everywhere present and at all times. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, he proclaimed “The kingdom of God is among you” or “within you”. Our Eucharist Prayer picks this up with words that point to what our response to this should be “Worship and praise belong to you, Father, in all places and at all times”.

Can you think of other parts of the liturgy where the features of the kingdom are illustrated?

The kingdom of God is already here, and we can see signs of it at many times and in many places, often when we least expect it. Yes, when we look at the world today, we can see that there is evil and wickedness – in Yemen, Northern Ireland, racism, the heartless scams people have fallen victim to during the pandemic. But we have to set against this the sheer amount of good there is too – often small, unnoticed. The pandemic has also engendered an increase in good neighbourliness; many churches have embarked on new activities in their local communities. I think too of the acts of spontaneous kindness shown to us by neighbours and complete strangers when they saw that Shareene’s disabilities were getting us into difficulties.
Can you recall some of your own Good Samaritan moments?

These are all signs that the kingdom is among us and we are to be witnesses to them. They are instances that Christ is being glorified in the world today.

So, was Melville right? Or does the fact that James (and we) are “God’s silly vassals” mean that the two kingdoms are one and the same?


We pray:
for the world that Christ came to save ….
May all who exercise authority learn his ways of justice and integrity.

for those you have given us in love to be our family, friends and neighbours …
Guide them with the grace promised to all who are your own.

for those who have heard and sought to follow but have fallen away …
Come tenderly to them and bring them back in the way that leads to eternal life.

for the sick …
Have mercy on them and grant them healing and peace.

for the people of your Church …
Draw them together in unity, inspired by the oneness of the Father and the Son.

for those who in faith have entered into the fullness of eternal life …
May we with them grow into the vision of that glory.

Our closing hymn is an encouragement to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”, the instruction with which we are dismissed at the end of every Eucharist and the proper response to all that Jesus did for us for us.

Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing,
the people of God from this table take leave.
The supper is ended: may now be extended
the fruits of his service in all who believe.
The seed of his teaching, our hungry souls reaching,
shall blossom in action for God and for man.
His grace shall incite us, his love shall unite us
to work for the kingdom, and further his plan.

With praise and thanksgiving to God ever-living,
the tasks of our everyday life we will face,
our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring,
embracing as neighbours all those of each race.
One feast that has fed us, one light that has led us,
unite us as one in his life that we share.
Then may all the living, with praise and thanksgiving
give honour to Christ and his name that we bear.