God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)
This sermon was preached as part of today's Zoom service.
Bible readings: James 1:22–27; Psalm 46; John 16:23–33
Friends, the words of today's Gospel from Jesus strike us as being immediately relevant to our current situation, don’t they?
Behold the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to your own home.
In the context of this story from John chapter 16, Jesus is speaking to His disciples on Maundy Thursday, the night before His death on the cross on Good Friday. And Jesus knew that His disciples would soon abandon Him. That’s why He tells them: you will be scattered, each to your own home … and you will leave me alone.
Friends, you and I have been scattered to our homes for a different reason: obviously because of the ongoing pandemic. And that has brought with it numerous pressures and a sense of isolation; but in spite of that – and even, in and thorough that - we can still be close to Jesus, we do not have to be isolated from Him.
That may seem to be a very basic and elementary point, but it’s one that has to be made and repeated.
We may be cut off from our church building at St. James and from Holy Communion, and from one another in person, and that is indeed difficult, but we can still draw near to God - and to one another - in prayer. In fact, this is an opportunity for all of us to be intentional about cultivating our own prayer lives, much like many of you are now cultivating your gardens.
And that is the main point Jesus wants to make in today’s Gospel: We can indeed deepen our prayer lives because we all have direct access to God in prayer when we pray in Christ’s Name.
For Christians, prayer is nothing less than asking God the Father in the Name of Jesus the Son by the power of the Spirit.
What does it mean to pray ‘in the Name of Jesus’? Praying in the Name of Jesus gives us access to the heavenly throne-room, the control centre of the universe, where Jesus has ascended in glory and ever lives to make intercession for us. Praying in His Name also transforms us to ask for those things that are acceptable in God’s sight. Praying in the Name of Jesus means to pray in harmony with His character.
The more we pray in harmony with the words, teachings and example of Jesus, the more we become like Him; and the more we can draw on His strength and peace to get through this difficult time.
I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (‘pressure’). But take heart (‘be confident and courageous’); I have overcome the world.
This leads into our theme verse for these next few months here at St. James: Romans 12.12-13: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
I encourage you to say this verse daily, repeat it, meditate on it, memorize it, write it on a note and put it on your fridge, think about it when you’re gardening - and you can find some suggestions on how to do that in our newsletter.
Here are some more specific suggestions:
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.