On Sunday May 17th I led worship at Kirk Hammerton Chapel in the village just off the York Road. We began worship as we read Psalm 1 responsively. We then sang ‘God is love his the care,’ before I led the opening prayers of thanks, praise, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. The first reading was 1 John 5v9-13 before I gave a short talk about the experience of an elderly clergyman wondering whether his witness to the Lord has made any difference. We then sang ‘Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord.’ We then had a dramatised reading based on Acts 1v12-17, 20b-26 and followed by John 17v6-19. We sang ‘Will you come and follow me’ before the sermon.
Psalm 1 teaches that life is a journey through time. There are 2 ways for the journey to take, the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked. The first way shows the tree with fruit on the way to life with God. The wicked are like chaff blown in the wind as they rely on themselves instead of God. Those who seek to live their lives serving God with all their hearts and minds, even when they make mistakes, will be serving others rather than themselves.
John in his letter reminded his readers of the need for 2 witnesses to verify an incident. 3 witnesses especially proved something true. John explained that John the Baptist was a witness to Jesus. Jesus’ life and acts verified who he was. The writers in the Old Testament had also pointed the way forward to Jesus. The Father who had sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit were also witnesses to Jesus. Those who refused to accept these witnesses to Jesus and the prompting of the Holy Spirit were rejecting Jesus and the way to abundant life. John reassured the readers that they, as they believed in Jesus, had eternal life. Jesus shows us the nature of God and brings us daily into his presence as we learn to walk in his way with him.
Jesus in John 17 had just had his final conversation with his disciples and now he was praying for them as he knew his time was short. Soon he would be leaving them and he asked God to protect them when he was no longer there with them. He knew the world hated him and would hate his disciples just as much. As God had sent him he was sending the disciples out into the world to be witnesses to him, just as he had been the witness to his Father. After Jesus had ascended into heaven the disciples continued to meet together in the upper room in Jerusalem. They were praying with some women, Jesus’ brothers and many other believers, about 120, to choose a replacement for Judas. The person chosen would have to have been an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, from his baptism by John to his ascension into heaven. It was important that the replacement apostle had known Jesus and seen him after he was risen,to be an authentic replacement. Out of the followers suggested Peter chose 2, Barsabbas and Matthias; they cast lots and Matthias was chosen.
We are all called to be witnesses to Jesus and Jesus still prays for us. We might question why if Jesus is praying for us, do Christians still get killed for being Christians, by people like the Islamic State. However Jesus prays for our protection from denying the faith in face of persecution and death, rather than protecting us from suffering for our faith. We are empowered through the Holy Spirit to witness not in our own strength but in Jesus’ strength.
We sang ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One is here’ before I led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Lord, your church on earth is seeking.