The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Rev. Peter Neilson
Ascension Sunday - 16 May 2021
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
From time to time, I contribute to an online series of Daily Worship, called Sanctuary First, which is directed by a former Moderator of the General Assembly, The Very Rev Albert Bogle. It so happens that I have contributed reflections for this coming week. I offer you a couple of them before they are dispersed to the internet. They both relate to this Sunday marking the Ascension of Jesus.
Acts 1: 6-11 Re: Calibrate
6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)
Six weeks in the presence of the Risen Christ speaking about the Kingdom of God, and still they default to the old politicised vision of “restoring the Kingdom to Israel.” Old mindsets are hard to recalibrate. The alternative option feels inadequate – “You will be my witnesses” – even with the promised power of the Holy Spirit. What is the social shape of this new Kingdom?
Unless….unless this Jesus is more than we know, embracing heaven and earth, providing the Omega point to history, the one who “holds all things together”. (Col 1:17) Time to recalibrate our vision of Jesus and what he has yet to do in our nation. What if we confess Him as Lord in our time, and let society find in him a new gravitational centre that pulls us together in a new configuration?
In his timely book, Christ in Crisis, Jim Wallis encourages us to lay aside our ideological preferences and begin to re-centre our lives and churches in Jesus. A radical following of this Lord of all, will model community life reset around the values of neighbour, truth, service, courage, justice, and care for the “least of these”. That is the hidden potential of being his witnesses.
Lord Jesus Christ, Risen from the dead,
Ascended to the Father,
To You is given all authority in heaven and on earth.
With the disciples, we stand amazed
At the mystery of You returning to glory.
We take time to gaze in wonder:
To slip the moorings of our limited faith
And let You carry us on the river of the Spirit
Into the open ocean of resurrection possibilities.
Beyond the problems that perplex us, new wisdom.
Beyond the fears that paralyse us, new confidence.
Beyond the ideas that confine us, new visions.
Beyond the cynicism that blinds us, new hope.
Lord Jesus, we offer ourselves to be your witnesses today,
Pointing to You by our faithful living, our life-giving words,
And our caring attitudes and actions,
Trusting You to draw others to follow You. AMEN
Matthew 28:16-20 Re: Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
Go and make disciples of all nations…. (Matthew 28:19)
But we haven’t, have we? In Scotland we seem to have lost the capacity to make new disciples for Christ. Our culture has done a great job of discipling four generations into views of the world that exclude God and marginalise Jesus. I search my own heart for when I last led a seeking person to Christ.
Eugene Peterson said: Jesus spent three years with twelve Jews in order to win all Americans! If Scotland is to be discipled in the name of Jesus, we will begin as small as Jesus started. It will mean going deep with the few and trusting God to go wide with the many. Too often we have focused on going wide with the many and trusting God to go deep with the few.
That means reconfiguring our ministries, our priorities and our church patterns to equip the few to go on apostolic journeys with no mandate to return – sent out to establish new pockets of Christian presence and become salt and light in the culture-shaping sectors of our nation.
In the name of God the Father,
I bless our nation of anxious hearts,
Where old securities have gone
And expected futures have disappeared.
Father, gather to Yourself a fearful generation
Who need the embrace of Your healing grace
And the bracing touch of Your gentle strength.
In the name of Jesus the Son,
I bless our nation of wandering souls,
Where too many choices cloud Your Way,
And stories of fantasy worlds crowd out Your Story.
Lord Jesus, may ears unfamiliar with Your truth
Hear your call with fresh clarity,
And rise up and follow You.
In the name of the Holy Spirit,
I bless our nation of spiritual seekers
Where longings breed unhealthy habits,
And hungers of the soul go hungry still.
Holy Spirit, let light shine on the path of the questioner.
Let the song of heaven stir a new quest for God.
Till “Jesus is Lord” is heard on their lips
And “Abba, Father” is known in their hearts. AMEN
Go forth into the world in peace.
Be of good courage. Hold fast that which is good.
Render to no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the faint-hearted. Support the weak.
Help the afflicted. Honour all people.
Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit
And the blessing of God Almighty,
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Be among you and remain with you forever.