Sixth Sunday of Easter Message
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ
This week we prepare for the upcoming feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, two important festivals where we celebrate Christ’s ascension and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. And in this preparation, it is important to look back, to remember all that Jesus did.
Earlier this week I was reading from Mark’s Gospel (chapter 14.32-42) where Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane, to pray, and to prepare for his death, and as we soon see to plead with God. In the garden Jesus shows his most human face. He truly suffers with the choice he has to make, suffers as anyone of us would in that situation. And like any of us, he asks for a way out, a plan B. Anything that doesn’t mean being tortured on a cross, anything that would allow him to remain in his very physical form and continue his very human life where he can remain with his disciples, continue to teach the crowds who so need God’s good news, continue to heal and to love all those people whose lives he’s touched and who have touched him.
So, in Gethsemane he suffers, and yes, he knows he will be obedient, he will do what God wants him to do, but you can see he’s not keen, and it is important to recognize his struggle. When he says to God, ‘not mine, but your will be done’ he acknowledges his trust in the Father. But notice, that he doesn’t at that point, go off to find Judas and the soldiers. Instead, he goes back to Peter, James and John, his most stalwart apostles, his friends, the men he loves, and finds them sleeping. His response seems a bit harsh - the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But perhaps it is better reading this line as a statement of fact, about the apostles and about himself. Jesus knows what he needs to do, he intends to do it, but he is finding it hard.
And so, he goes back to pray some more, always a good thing to do when you are struggling with God’s calling, which what God asks of you. And after more anguished prayer Jesus goes back to his friends and finds them sleeping again! The words he says to them are heart breaking, couldn’t they keep awake a little, longer? They are ashamed, they don’t know what to say. Were Peter, James and John just really bad friends, a bit lazy and thoughtless? I don’t think so. They were exhausted, their flesh was weak, they could not stay awake even though the man they loved was suffering. They were willing but they were too weak.
Jesus goes away a third time to pray, and this is when he comes to realize that he must sacrifice himself to save them, and all of us. They were weak, not because they were bad, but because they were human - with all the physical and emotional problems that make us vulnerable. Jesus knew that only with his act of love, only by embracing his calling as rescuer, could he protect all of us.
Jesus chooses the journey to Calvary and death, not because God willed him to do it, not out of obedience, but because Jesus himself came to will it also. His love for all of humanity helped him to embrace his calling. When his will and God’s will became one, he was able to turn his face towards his Father, Abba, and save the world.
We are weak, we all know it. And that is why Pentecost, and the active presence of the Holy Spirit in us and all around us is so important. Those weak apostles, couldn’t even keep watch for a little while, they were so sleepy. Those weak apostles denied their friend, their teacher, the man they loved as they dragged him off to death. Those weak apostles hid, and doubted. And then these weak apostles, along with the other men and women disciples, were given a Gift. They changed the world because through Christ resurrected they realized and were willing to embrace God’s Holy Spirit and to follow God’s calling wherever it led them. And it led them into a community filled with love for one another. I know we all feel weak during this time, we have little control over our lives. But we do have our calling, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and this calling is what will bring our world through this difficult time. We are strong when we recognize that God’s will is our will, and embrace the Holy Spirit who helps us to keep awake, and work together to bring God’s Kingdom to the places we live.
This Sunday, you are invited to worship together in a live streamed Eucharist service from my home at 10.30. Anadelle, our parish administrator, will send you invitations for the service with a link. This service will be streamed through Zoom. She will also send out a very simple order of service. You are more than welcome to share the link to this service with anyone you feel would enjoy attending, who is not already on our parish e-mail list. But please do not post it more widely on social media.
Other services you may wish to attend are:
Sunday, worship on BBC One at 10.45 will be led by The Very Reverend Dr Sarah Rowland Jones leads the service on the Sixth Sunday of Easter from St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire at:
Here are links to live streamed services in the Leeds Diocese including services from parishes in our area:
God’s blessings pour upon you and those you love, sustaining you with God’s light and power during this time,
Revd Jessica Malay