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SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – YEAR C – 8.5.16

SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – YEAR C – 8.5.16
The Collect
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
The First Lesson
Acts 16:16-34
With Paul and Silas, we came to Philippi in Macedonia, a Roman colony, and, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
The Response
Psalm 97
Dominus regnavit
1 The Lord is King;
let the earth rejoice; *
let the multitude of the isles be glad.
2 Clouds and darkness are round about him, *
righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.
3 A fire goes before him *
and burns up his enemies on every side.
4 His lightnings light up the world; *
the earth sees it and is afraid.
5 The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, *
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare his righteousness, *
and all the peoples see his glory.
7 Confounded be all who worship carved images
and delight in false gods! *
Bow down before him, all you gods.
8 Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice, *
because of your judgments, O Lord.
9 For you are the Lord,
most high over all the earth; *
you are exalted far above all gods.
10 The Lord loves those who hate evil; *
he preserves the lives of his saints
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light has sprung up for the righteous, *
and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, *
and give thanks to his holy Name.
The Epistle
Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21
At the end of the visions I, John, heard these words:
“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
The Gospel
John 17:20-26
Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
SERMON FOR SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – YEAR C – 8.5.16

✠ May I speak in the name of our loving God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Today we come to the end of our series of sermons on the Lord’s Prayer. We have learned to pray to our God not only as King but as Father. We have pondered the implications of asking for His Kingdom to come on earth. We have thought about asking for enough but not too much. We have wrestled with the difficult feelings around needing to forgive in order to be forgiven. We have considered the meaning of asking not to be led into temptation.

“The kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.” Simple fact? Flattery? Even on first inspection, the phrase says several things at once:
that any kingdom, power or glory on earth is a shadow of God’s kingdom, power and glory
that any kingdom, power or glory we have on earth, we owe to God
that the things we have asked for require God’s kingdom, power and glory to bring them about – we cannot arrange them for ourselves
that we have come to the end of petition, and can only praise

So far we have prayed with the reported words of Jesus himself. The concluding phrase of the Lord’s prayer is called the doxology, because it is literally “a word of praise”. It wasn’t part of what Jesus gave to his disciples when they asked for a prayer, but it appears in fairly early versions of Matthew which predate Jerome’s 4th-century Vulgate. Jerome left it out, which is why the Roman liturgy did too for centuries. We have our Protestant forebears to thank for its appearance in the Book of Common Prayer. Certainly in terms of elegance, the prayer reads better if it does not end suddenly with a bald request for deliverance from evil.

But though lovely phrasing helps, we don’t pray for the poetry. What Jesus gave were fairly plain phrases, the basic things we need for physical and spiritual life. They are as telling for what they teach us to pray for, as for what they implicitly expect us to leave out. You might also say that they contain all the things God learned about being human by becoming human. Take a look at the prayer again some time this week, and see if this is true.

If Jesus left out this concluding praise, it is maybe because praise was a strong tradition in Jewish observance already, and the disciples had clearly asked for something new. They must have been a bit surprised that it seemed so simple. Again, Christ didn’t need to praise God for his glory because as he says in today’s Gospel, he has God’s glory within him – he is God’s glory. St. Irenaeus, a 2nd-century theologian, famously stated that the “glory of God is a living human being.” This is often translated as “a human being, fully alive.” The pattern of this is our Lord, Jesus.

Tom Wright suggests that the disciples asked for a prayer not because they heard what Jesus said but because they saw what he did – I would add, “and what he was”. The disciples felt that in Jesus, they could see and feel God’s kingdom, power and glory. What they saw was someone full of abundant life, which he wanted to share with them.

It was pretty compelling while he was alive. It must therefore have been a devastating loss when he died. When the authority, power and glory of the resurrection broke over them they would surely have felt impelled to add a phrase to their daily prayer which recognised that. A phrase giving voice to the surge of praise which made their hearts sing. Because the Jesus who was raised was the same old Jesus, talking about fish and faith, sharing food, stories, life itself – God’s glory expressed in a living man. And if in this man, then also in the rest of creation, even in them, even in you and me.

The doxology is not a soothing add-on, hoping that flattery will get us everywhere – even into God’s good books. The doxology is the resurrection moment in the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus could not give us before his death. When your heart sings and you turn in thanks to God, that is the moment when3 you are most alive, when the Lord’s Spirit moves you. In God’s time, life, death and resurrection are not points on a line but part of his constant dance of love. Each time we pray the prayer he gave us, we acknowledge our human life, face the things that deaden us, and join in that dance of love with our praise.

The kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.

Amen.