On Sunday May 28th I led worship at Wesley Chapel. The call for worship was based on Psalm 68 and the opening hymn was ‘The God of Abraham praise.’ I led the opening prayers, before ‘1 Peter 4.12-14, 5.6-11 was read. I gave a short talk; it is not the burdens of life which bring us down but how we handle the problems. We gain strength to cope as we hope in the Lord. In the chapel we need to care for those in need. We can help those who cannot cope in their difficulties in life by listening, praying with and comforting them. We sang ‘When I needed a neighbour, were you there?’ Acts 1.4-14 was dramatised and then I read John 17.1-11. We sang ‘The head that once was crowned with thorns’ before I preached.
Jesus knew that the climax to his ministry was coming; as he put it; the hour had come for God to glorify him. He knew he had finished the work God had sent him to do. He was obedient when he pointed the way to his Father, the one true God, showing that God had sent him. His understanding of being glorified was to be prepared to go to death on the cross to show the extent of God’s love for people; that there really was no limit to God’s love even suffering for others. Through Jesus’ life and teaching we come to know what God is like and how to have a relationship with God.
The disciples have learnt the importance of obedience to the Father and recognised that they heard God’s voice and had seen God’s actions in the life and deeds of Jesus. Jesus knew that God had given him his disciples and he did not doubt that they would carry on his work. He knew Peter would fail initially but he knew once they were empowered by the coming Holy Spirit they would not let him or God down. He prayed that his Father would keep his followers from the evil one, when he was no longer in the world. He had kept them in his Father’s name so that they might be one with the Father, but they needed to stay in the world as his witnesses. He warned his disciples that they would face hatred and opposition as he had done, but did not belong to the world. Jesus prayed that his Father might keep them in the truth.
When Jesus had come together with the disciples after his resurrection he told them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit. The disciples wanted to know when Jesus was going to restore the kingdom of Israel, but Jesus said it was up to the Father when that would come about and was more concerned about reminding them that they were to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria and the whole world, once they have been empowered from above by receiving the Holy Spirit. They did not realise that God’s kingdom meant a society which was built on love not power leading all to obey God in return for his love.
After that Jesus was taken up out of sight of the disciples behind a cloud, he ascended to be with his Father. The cloud signified the presence and activity of God. The ascension concluded Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after his resurrection; he had returned to the glory from which he had come. The disciples looked up into the clouds being witnesses to his glorification after having witnessed his life, teaching, death and resurrection. Two men in white signifying they were heavenly beings challenged the disciples for standing looking up and reassured them that one day Jesus would return, as they had seen him go. They felt bereft and alone at that time. As Jesus had instructed them the disciples returned to Jerusalem to await the promised Holy Spirit, where they stayed behind locked doors, but they were united with each other and kept on praying together with women including Mary, Jesus’ mother and his brothers. God was still with them but no longer having Jesus with them, God would feel far away. They were obedient but apprehensive. They would be relieved when they received the promised Holy Spirit.
Peter in his letter told his readers to be glad when they suffered as they were sharing in the sufferings of Christ; if they were insulted for being followers of Jesus they should be joyful, as it showed God’s Spirit was with them. If God was with them no opposition would be significant. The testing of their faith would make their faith grow and keep them firm in the faith. God does not ignore us in our suffering; he cares for us. As we give our lives to Jesus our life in his kingdom begins. The God who raised Jesus to new life at his resurrection and to whom Jesus ascended when his earthly ministry was done, offers eternal hope which continues beyond our earthly lives.
We sang ‘We cannot measure how you heal’ before I led the prayers of intercession, when we especially remembered the victims of the Manchester bomb and their families and those injured and traumatised. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘I the Lord of sea and sky.’