Seventh Sunday of Easter



Today’s Readings

Psalm 1, Acts 1: 15-17, 21-end, 1 John 5:9-13, John 17: 6-19


Last Thursday was Ascension Day, and next Sunday is Pentecost, so this Sunday is a brief interval between the two.


Where does this morning’s gospel reading fit in?


In St. John’s gospel, there is no sequence of the events of resurrection, ascension and outpouring of the spirit at Pentecost. Instead they all blend into one - in what John calls the ‘ glorification’ of Christ.


This morning’s reading is part of the prayer of Jesus before these final events.


The reading begins ‘ Jesus looked up to heaven’, and then we are given his parting words in this world before returning to the Father. And his words remind us that there can be a closeness between heaven and earth, which we don’t always appreciate.


Prayer brings us close to heaven, and there are others moments too, such as when we come to receive the life of the Lord himself in Holy Communion, which is just that, ‘ Holy Communion’, and you can probably think of other precious moments when you feel heaven comes near, when the veil between heaven and earth is thin.


‘ Jesus looked up to heaven’. Do you raise your eyes to heaven?. Well we may gaze at the heavens - look at stars and planets, but you won’t see heaven.


When St. John says, ‘Jesus raised his eyes to heaven,’ he wasn’t saying that Jesus was simply looking upward to the skies. Remember, the 4th gospel is the least literal of all the gospels; it is full of symbolic and figurative writing. Here, John is saying that Jesus was looking where his heart already was - in communion with his Father in heaven.


We come to church to raise our eyes and look towards heaven. Now there are many lesser reasons why people come, and I’m sure it has always been so - to see our friends, out of strength of habit, perhaps out of some need. Sometimes we’ll be glad we came, and sometimes the whole thing may leave us cold, but in the end, there is no other reason for being here than joining with the marvellous and sometimes maddening company of those who have their sights set on heaven. When we forget that, we lower our sights and look around rather than looking up; and instead of praying with Jesus, praying and blending our voices with angels and saints and the whole company of heaven, we see only a handful of people, sometimes more conscious of who isn’t here than who is, and distracted by anything than catches our eye.


Occasional glimpses of heaven aren’t enough; they vanish all too easily in a fleeting moment. We long for something more lasting, more solid, something which holds us fast to the hope of heaven for all those times we’ve lost sight of it.


In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us that we are already in heaven or at least we have one foot in eternity; that’s what it means to be ‘ in Christ’.


To be ‘ in Christ’ is to be held and embraced by him not just now and then, but for all eternity. And this deep union with Christ means we belong to a new order, a new creation, which in its fullest form is heaven. That what St. Paul means when he says.


‘ When anyone is in Christ, there is a new world; the old order has gone, and a new order has already begun.’


You and I already have a foothold in heaven, because we belong to the new creation which Christ offers, and the point at which we receive and accept this offer is when we were baptised.


Belonging to Christ means we not only share in his life but in his work too. There are some well-known words which put it like this.


‘ Christ has no body now on earth but yours,


no hands but yours, no feet but yours.


Yours are the eyes through which to look with Christ’;s compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is able to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless people now’.


To be ‘ in Christ’ gives us a part in his reconciling work. St. Paul says he has enlisted us in this service of reconciliation - reconciled with ourselves and with others. Reconciled with ourselves is about acknowledging the areas of brokenness or weakness as signs of being incomplete people; reconciled to others, healing the wounds we may have inflicted on others, sometimes unconsciously, through injury, hurt or simply foolishness. Unless we do all we can to heal and reconcile and restore, then the harm done may remain.


Here is an analogy. Like all analogies in the spiritual life, it is limited.


Imagine the pull of the earth is downwards - the force of gravity is an example - decay, brokenness, disintegration, whereas the pull of the new creation is upwards towards God, who draws all things to himself, by reconciling, by healing, by loving, by restoring. Scripture has a lovely image of God as the master potter, and the world is his pot, his work of art. But the pot is cracked, and flawed in some way; but instead of discarding it, he is re-casting, re-shaping the pot with his loving, skilled hands into a vessel of his making, his hands around the clay to draw it gently upwards towards him. That is a parable of your life and mine.


God’s love for you is a perfect love - unconditional, unwavering, complete, and so he longs for us to find our home in him. And the love given and received on earth is a reflection of God’s love from above, so to speak.


When we pray with an open and sincere heart and come to renew our communion with the Lord, which is one of those points at which we come close to heaven on earth, thank him for the love of any and all who make your life worth living, and if we are estranged from anyone, or we have caused some wound or hurt to someone, knowingly or unknowingly, ask that God in his own time, and in his own way will bring about the healing and forgiveness that you seek.


Christ calls us to be part of his new creation and entrusts us with his ministry of love and reconciliation.


Nothing could be more worthwhile - it is a taste of heaven on earth.


I said at the outset, in terms of the church’s year, we are at an interval between the Ascension and the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. Like the disciples we are in a time of waiting, and for St Luke’s and the Barn, waiting expectantly for a new chapter to begin with the arrival of Melanie Harrington as your parish priest, after these long and Covid weary months of interregnum.


The arrival of a new incumbent to lead the ministry and mission is a significant moment in the life of any parish, for which you have been waiting and preparing.


And like the most profound experiences of life generally - birth, love, healing, bereavement, and sometimes death itself, such things require time, a time of waiting.


There are some lines from T S Eliot which capture the mood of waiting for God to act, and how the disciples must have been at this point, poised expectantly between Ascension and Pentecost.


‘ I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope,


for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.


Wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing. There is yet faith, but the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought.


So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.’Last Thursday was Ascension Day, and next Sunday is Pentecost, so this Sunday is a brief interval between the two.

Where does this morning’s gospel reading fit in?

In St. John’s gospel, there is no sequence of the events of resurrection, ascension and outpouring of the spirit at Pentecost. Instead they all blend into one - in what John calls the ‘ glorification’ of Christ.

This morning’s reading is part of the prayer of Jesus before these final events.

The reading begins ‘ Jesus looked up to heaven’, and then we are given his parting words in this world before returning to the Father. And his words remind us that there can be a closeness between heaven and earth, which we don’t always appreciate.

Prayer brings us close to heaven, and there are others moments too, such as when we come to receive the life of the Lord himself in Holy Communion, which is just that, ‘ Holy Communion’, and you can probably think of other precious moments when you feel heaven comes near, when the veil between heaven and earth is thin.


‘ Jesus looked up to heaven’. Do you raise your eyes to heaven?. Well we may gaze at the heavens - look at stars and planets, but you won’t see heaven.

When St. John says, ‘Jesus raised his eyes to heaven,’ he wasn’t saying that Jesus was simply looking upward to the skies. Remember, the 4th gospel is the least literal of all the gospels; it is full of symbolic and figurative writing. Here, John is saying that Jesus was looking where his heart already was - in communion with his Father in heaven.


We come to church to raise our eyes and look towards heaven. Now there are many lesser reasons why people come, and I’m sure it has always been so - to see our friends, out of strength of habit, perhaps out of some need. Sometimes we’ll be glad we came, and sometimes the whole thing may leave us cold, but in the end, there is no other reason for being here than joining with the marvellous and sometimes maddening company of those who have their sights set on heaven. When we forget that, we lower our sights and look around rather than looking up; and instead of praying with Jesus, praying and blending our voices with angels and saints and the whole company of heaven, we see only a handful of people, sometimes more conscious of who isn’t here than who is, and distracted by anything than catches our eye.


Occasional glimpses of heaven aren’t enough; they vanish all too easily in a fleeting moment. We long for something more lasting, more solid, something which holds us fast to the hope of heaven for all those times we’ve lost sight of it.


In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us that we are already in heaven or at least we have one foot in eternity; that’s what it means to be ‘ in Christ’.

To be ‘ in Christ’ is to be held and embraced by him not just now and then, but for all eternity. And this deep union with Christ means we belong to a new order, a new creation, which in its fullest form is heaven. That what St. Paul means when he says.

‘ When anyone is in Christ, there is a new world; the old order has gone, and a new order has already begun.’


You and I already have a foothold in heaven, because we belong to the new creation which Christ offers, and the point at which we receive and accept this offer is when we were baptised.


Belonging to Christ means we not only share in his life but in his work too. There are some well-known words which put it like this.

‘ Christ has no body now on earth but yours,

no hands but yours, no feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which to look with Christ’;s compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is able to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless people now’.


To be ‘ in Christ’ gives us a part in his reconciling work. St. Paul says he has enlisted us in this service of reconciliation - reconciled with ourselves and with others. Reconciled with ourselves is about acknowledging the areas of brokenness or weakness as signs of being incomplete people; reconciled to others, healing the wounds we may have inflicted on others, sometimes unconsciously, through injury, hurt or simply foolishness. Unless we do all we can to heal and reconcile and restore, then the harm done may remain.


Here is an analogy. Like all analogies in the spiritual life, it is limited.

Imagine the pull of the earth is downwards - the force of gravity is an example - decay, brokenness, disintegration, whereas the pull of the new creation is upwards towards God, who draws all things to himself, by reconciling, by healing, by loving, by restoring. Scripture has a lovely image of God as the master potter, and the world is his pot, his work of art. But the pot is cracked, and flawed in some way; but instead of discarding it, he is re-casting, re-shaping the pot with his loving, skilled hands into a vessel of his making, his hands around the clay to draw it gently upwards towards him. That is a parable of your life and mine.


God’s love for you is a perfect love - unconditional, unwavering, complete, and so he longs for us to find our home in him. And the love given and received on earth is a reflection of God’s love from above, so to speak.

When we pray with an open and sincere heart and come to renew our communion with the Lord, which is one of those points at which we come close to heaven on earth, thank him for the love of any and all who make your life worth living, and if we are estranged from anyone, or we have caused some wound or hurt to someone, knowingly or unknowingly, ask that God in his own time, and in his own way will bring about the healing and forgiveness that you seek.


Christ calls us to be part of his new creation and entrusts us with his ministry of love and reconciliation.


Nothing could be more worthwhile - it is a taste of heaven on earth.


I said at the outset, in terms of the church’s year, we are at an interval between the Ascension and the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. Like the disciples we are in a time of waiting, and for St Luke’s and the Barn, waiting expectantly for a new chapter to begin with the arrival of Melanie Harrington as your parish priest, after these long and Covid weary months of interregnum.

The arrival of a new incumbent to lead the ministry and mission is a significant moment in the life of any parish, for which you have been waiting and preparing.

And like the most profound experiences of life generally - birth, love, healing, bereavement, and sometimes death itself, such things require time, a time of waiting.


There are some lines from T S Eliot which capture the mood of waiting for God to act, and how the disciples must have been at this point, poised expectantly between Ascension and Pentecost.


‘ I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope,

for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.

Wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing. There is yet faith, but the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought.

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.’ Rev Canon Nick Darby