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Easter 7 May 28, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
EASTER 7  Year A 
Acts 1:6-14; Ps. 68:1-10, 33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, May 28, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
The Seventh Sunday of Easter
is an in-between Sunday . . .
between the Feast of the Ascension
                    (last Thursday)
          and the Day of Pentecost
                    (next Sunday).
The Ascension commemorates
          the risen Christ’s return to the Father
                   after all his resurrection appearances
          by which he had gathered
                   his scattered and dispirited disciples
                             back together . . .
                   for the work they must do
                             after he was gone.

“Lord,” they said to him,
“is this the time
          when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Can you believe it . . . ?
still clinging to the hope
that he would rescue
Israel from Roman occupation . . .
Instead, the ministry
he gave them
was to proclaim                            
          his message of a different kingdom,
                   any and all national and political interests . . .
God’s Kingdom,
gathering all peoples, all nations
          into God’s reign of justice and peace.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit
has come upon you;” he told them,
“and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”

Then, according to the account in Acts,
without another word
he vanished into the heavens,             
          leaving them gaping and dumbfounded . . .
          as some goofy religious paintings have it,
          staring up at the soles of two bare feet
                   dangling through the bottom
                             of a cloud.
An event impossible to depict or describe . . .
but however it happened,
          Jesus’ return to the Father
meant that
          the resurrection appearances were over.
In a certain era of its liturgical evolution,
in a fit of theologically erroneous literal-ness,
the Church marked
the Feast of the Ascension
by extinguishing the Paschal Candle
after the proclamation of the Gospel.
The Paschal Candle . . .
symbol of the presence of the risen Christ,
a presence not extinguished
          by the Ascension . . .
but made ubiquitus . . .
If we were to be so literal,
then that candle would burn all year round!
For the risen Christ,
by his ascension,
is no longer bound
to the one place and time
          into which he had come
                   in human form. . .
he is now present in all places
in every time
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
          in the life of the Church:
          in the Sacraments,
          in the ministry of his followers,
          in the ongoing
                   creating and sustaining activity of God
                             in the world.  
Gathered in Jerusalem
in a kind of nervous anticipation,
the disciples devoted themselves to prayer,
that small group of women and men,
the very first church,
          a very little church,
                   entrusted with a very big mission.
A mission they have handed
down the centuries to the Church of today,
including us, Christ Church . . .
witnessing to Jesus
and proclaiming God’s Kingdom,
          until his promised return . . .
Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you.”
He could have added
political machination, oppression, terrorism, war,
injustice, abuse of the creation and one another . . .
          all the wounds of the world’s kingdoms,
          in his time,
                    and ours.
Where then do we find the courage,
the strength,
the audacity,
          to continue to proclaim and work
          for God’s unlikely kingdom?
Perhaps in Jesus’ fervent prayer
for his disciples
in John’s account of their last supper together:
“[Father] I have made your name known to those
you have given me from the world.
They were yours, and you gave them to me . . .
. . . All mine are yours and yours are mine . . .”
God chose us from the world,
and like the first disciples,
          gave us to Jesus.

We do not belong to our parents,
our spouses or partners,
our children,
our jobs, our schools, our clubs, our team,
our political party . . .
even our selves.
We belong to Jesus.
“. . . [Father] the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
The words Jesus has spoken to us
were words from God . . .
More than that,
Jesus was the Word from God . . .
          God speaking to us
in Jesus’ being and actions.
Because of what Jesus said and did in the world,
his teachings, his parables,
his healings, his miracles,
his acts of inclusion, forgiveness and mercy,
his passion for justice, for peace,
we have seen and experienced
          God in our midst.

In Jesus, all the fullness
                   of God was pleased to dwell.
We belong to Jesus
God with us.
“And now [Father] I am no longer in the world,
but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Forces in the world would
distance us from the One who made and loves us,
separate us from one another,
destroy the unity
God intends for humanity and all creation,
unity in the image
of the oneness of Jesus and the Father,
unity that is the mark of God’s Kingdom.
We belong to Jesus,
          God with us,
who prays for our unity,
is our unity
with God and one another.

“[Father,] I am not asking you to take them out of the world,
but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.”
Our goal is not to be rescued from this world,
for we belong in the world,
engaged with the world
in all its beauty and possibility,
in all its dysfunction and distress.
We belong in the world,
as Peter warned the community
to which he wrote
          his first letter:
“like a roaring lion
your adversary the devil prowls around
looking for someone to devour.”
If we are not to be
swallowed up by that roaring lion,
if we are to live with hope and determination
the distraction and destruction,
          clamor and conflict,  
                    tumult and terror of this world,
we need God’s help, God’s protection.
We belong to Jesus,
          God with us
          who is our unity,
          and prays for our protection,
          is our protection.

“[Father] as you have sent me into the world,
so I have sent them into the world.”
God sent Jesus into the world
to  proclaim and enact God’s kingdom
in preaching and teaching,
in acts of justice, healing, peace-making,
forgiveness and reconciliation.
Jesus sends us into the world
to proclaim and enact God’s kingdom
in how we live day by day,
in our own small and large acts
of justice, healing, peace-making,
forgiveness and reconciliation;
          the Church, the baptized Body of Christ,
called to be God’s love, inclusion,
generosity, abundance in the world.
We belong to Jesus,
          God with us,
          our unity,
          our protection,
who sends us out into the world  
          to be in our own small lives,
God’s Kingdom.

“Father, I speak these things in the world
so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.”
This is the joy of Jesus:
the fullness of his life
offered on the cross
for the life of the world,
and this is our joy,
to join our lives with his,
to take up our cross
          and follow him.
Again, from Peter’s letter,
“rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings,
so that you may also be glad and shout for joy
          when his glory is revealed. . . .
the God of all grace,
who has called [us] to his eternal glory in Christ,
will himself restore, support, strengthen and establish [us].”
we belong to Jesus,
          God with us,
          our unity,
          our protection,
who sends us out
          to be God’s Kingdom,
does all this for Joy,
          his joy and ours,
          God’s joy and the world’s.

That this is Jesus’ prayer for us
is almost all we need to know
to go about our ministry
with courage and confidence.
But there is one more word,
the word Jesus spoke to his disciples
just before his ascension:
“. . . you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . .”
Pentecost’s promise.
The Spirit of encouragement and of power.
The one who,
working in us,
          can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
It is the tradition of the Church
to devote these days
          between the Feast of the Ascension
          and the Day of Pentecost
to prayer
for the coming of the Spirit
that we may be renewed in heart and mind
for the ministry entrusted to us.

This year Father Torvend
invites us to welcome earth
and its many creatures into our prayer,
in a novena,
nine days of prayer,
for the renewal of Creation.
The invitation looks like this
and you will have found it
tucked into your bulletin.
May this prayer
create in us the will and desire
to pray always, every day,
          for the renewal of Creation,
and to give ourselves always, every day,
to study, advocacy, and action
          for the renewal of Creation.
In how we manage our households,
in how we manage this household of faith,
in how we use and share the creation’s resources . . .
in how we dwell and interact with
          plants, trees, animals, birds, insects, fish,
                   the soil, the waters, the air . . .
Come Holy Spirit,
and renew the face of the earth,
and renew our hearts within us,
that we may be good stewards of your Creation
and fulfill the ministry you have
          entrusted to us.