Evangelism Series 4

The Rev’d Billy Graham told a story about a time early in his career when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to post a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the lad told him, Billy Graham thanked him and said, ‘If you come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.’ ‘I don’t think I’ll be there,’ said the boy ‘you don’t even know your way to the post office.’

 

So even the greatest evangelists can occasionally get unstuck! Today we’ve coming towards the end of our sermon series on sharing our faith. One of the clearest and greatest passages about living as a Christian witness is the Epistle reading we’ve just heard, Colossians 4:2-6. It’s a very practical passage, so today’s sermon is very applied.

 

The passage starts with prayer. – in v.2 ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving’. Before we talk to people about God, we talk to God about people. The wonderful thing about praying for people by name is that God draws us closer to them. Maybe I begin to see things from that person’s point of view and get some empathy with them, maybe something she mentioned to me comes to mind, perhaps I get a sense for what to say when I next see them.

 

Perhaps you don’t know what to pray for – well make that a subject for prayer: Lord I’m praying for Bill but I don’t know what to ask, give me some guidance please. Like the guy in the Mikado, you could have a little list – of those you pray for. There’s something effective about praying regularly for someone and in time you can see what God does. If you want to be committed to it, then having a prayer triplet of two other people you meet up with monthly can be a great way to be accountable. If there’s only one thing you do out of this evangelism series, please do this –pray for someone you know to find faith.

 

Paul then asks his readers to pray for him. V 3 ‘Pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains’. He’s in prison – I’m told that important prisoners might be chained to two guards, one on each hand – imagine being the guard chained to St Paul. No getting away from that evangelist!

 

Seriously though, both the epistle and the gospel remind us of the cost of following Jesus and witnessing to him. Paul was in chains for proclaiming the gospel, and many are imprisoned for sharing faith now, others suffer just for being Christians. We’ve all heard of the tragic case of Meriam Ibrahim, sentenced to death in Sudan, for apostasy from Islam even though she has been a Christian all her life. Her story has caught the headlines, but there’s many more that go unreported. North Korea, Pakistan, some former Soviet republics – in many parts of the world people are imprisoned, beaten or even killed for following Christ.

 

Compared to them, Christians in Britain are not troubled by persecution. And yet the fear of what people may think of us, concern over their reaction, can hold us back from sharing our faith. Jesus addresses that fear.

 

In the gospel, Matthew 10, Jesus tells us that trouble is bound to come. If they persecuted him, the teacher, the master, then we the students and servants can hardly expect to be exempt. But in verse 26, ‘Have no fear of them’. For their power is limited – in v 28 they can kill the body but not the soul. Even the hairs of our head are counted. Our eternal destiny is secure with God – temporary security pales in comparison with that and it is not worth jeopardising eternity for the sake of an easy life here. So do not let fear overcome you, says Jesus, but speak boldly: ‘proclaim from the housetops’ and in v 38 be prepared to take up the cross.

 

So turning back to St Paul, he not only asks that he may have courage to proclaim the gospel, but also that he may proclaim it clearly. We may have a sense of what we believe, but explaining it to someone who hasn’t got any background in Christianity, or who’s misunderstood, can need a lot of patience and some thought. That’s why it matters to really listen to what the other person says, and keep in the conversation even if we seem to be floundering – remember God is there too and he can use our efforts.

 

Our actions need to be consistent with our words, otherwise what we say will be undermined, so Paul says in verse 5 ‘conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders’.

 

‘Make the most of the time, or opportunity’ – pray that opportunities to share our faith will come our way, that we may have the spiritual awareness to spot them, and the courage and wisdom to grasp them when they come. Be warned though, only pray for opportunities if you mean it! If you ask for opportunities to share your faith, God will send them. Dangerous but exciting!

 

In v.6 ‘Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt’. A pinch of salt when cooking brings out the flavour, makes a dish interesting. This is not pious conversation, full of dull religious platitudes, but engaging and personable, gracious in the sense of generous and kind. Seasoned with salt though, not salty!

 

‘So that you may know how to answer everyone’. Everyone? Really? The guy in the pub watching the football? The 8 year olds doing wheelies on their scooters? The Regius Professor of Geology? Mrs Tibbs next door? Knowing how to answer everyone seems a pretty impossible task, but actually there’s nothing like a personal story.

 

I once heard about Thomas Henry Huxley, the great Victorian evolutionist who was also vehemently anti-religion. He got into a conversation with an ordinary woman and set about trying to demolish what she believed. Her response: ‘Your arguments are clever, but I know God and I know who I have believed.’

 

There was no answer to that. I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that our faith depends on suspending our critical faculties. Nor would I think that it’s a waste of time putting forward arguments in favour of Christianity. But a personal testimony allowed an old lady to hold her own with a great scientist and a well told story can carry real power. If we can tell a testimony in our own words about what faith means to us or how we found it, it can be very effective. If there’s only two things you do out of this sermon series on evangelism, make prayer the first, and make this the second: think about your story, what would you say?

 

Part of being ready to answer everyone may also be to know what’s going on in the world around us. We all talk about the news – so maybe rather than reading through the newspaper quickly, you could occasionally take a few minutes thinking about one article – what’s your view on the issue? Is there a Christian angle on this? How would Jesus respond? You may find you get a new perspective to share.

 

There have been lots of idea in this passage from Colossians, and to some extent this sermon has been lots of hints and tips. But if there was one unifying idea, I’d say it is this: Be intentional. By which I mean: recognise that at some point you will need to nail your colours to the mast; sometime someone will ask you a direct question. It will happen, and Jesus calls us to do it, so you might as well be ready. Make a decision to be prepared. Be deliberate about sharing your faith.

 

The things Paul describes in this reading are all positive decisions to act, speak or pray. Most of them involve some prior action. In other words they are all intentional. Sharing our faith can just happen to us, but so much better to be open to making it happen?

 

So as we draw to the close of this sermon series, here’s three steps. If you only do one thing: pray for someone you know to find faith. If you do two things, think about your story so you can share it. If you want to go to the next stage, be intentional. Be prepared, ask God for opportunities, and see what comes your way. And when you do, please let me know, I’d love to be encouraged by what you’ve been doing.

Evangelism Series 4, Father’s Day, Trinity and baptisms

I wonder where your favourite place is? It may be somewhere real or perhaps a fantasy place you go to in your mind when you get stressed! Mine is a sunny beach, sloping towards a gentle surf, there is sand and rock pools. Bracken covered hills encircle the bay and a stream running off them can be made into a dam. This ideal beach really exists – we found it in mid-April in North Devon, a place called Croyde. What’s more it had something you’d never imagine by a beach – it would sound too far-fetched. It even had a National Trust café!

I say ‘we’ because I don’t think that the perfect place is somewhere I’m alone. It wouldn’t be perfect without people; family and friends. When first married, my ideal holiday was the Swiss Alps – but that doesn’t suit toddlers or wheelchairs. Now the seaside works for us and our friends– it’s their presence and enjoyment that makes the joy complete.

Of course there is value in solitude, we all need time alone to an extent. But human beings are social animals, we live and thrive in relationship. Christians believe this is because we are made in the image of God – we are God’s children, created to be like him, and he has relationship at the very core of his being.

Today, as Father’s Day and Trinity Sunday combine (with a baptism), we remember that God himself exists as one God but three persons in relationship with one another. Our affirmation of faith that we’ll say later in the service has three parts: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Although the word ‘Trinity’ is not itself used in the Bible, Scripture reveals this mysterious threefold nature of God, as in the readings, and we may also see the pattern in our experience of life.

We are asked ‘Do you believe in God the Father, source of all being and life, the one for whom we exist?’ As the Isaiah reading reminded us, God is the creator of all that is, he brought us into being out of pure love, not to meet any need or lack in himself. He is the ultimate example of Fatherhood, a perfectly loving father who cares for us.

 

Being a parent is a great joy. There’s nothing quite like returning home and being greeted by the smiles and hugs of the children. Sometimes you may find you need reminding of that – at something past five o’clock in the morning as two small children bounce on the bed, or that particular scream tells you that someone has pulled someone else’s hair.

That is a reminder of human brokenness. It’s part of the human condition that none of us manage to attain the ideals we set ourselves, let alone God’s perfect will for us. More seriously, many people’s experience of an earthly father has been bad so that it can be difficult for them to think of God as a ‘Father’. Our relationships with one another and with God fall short of what they could be. So our next question asks ‘Do you believe in God the Son, who took our human nature, died for us and rose again’.

There’s an old Indian saying that if you want to get alongside someone you first have to walk a mile in their shoes. That is what God did. Rather than try and help from a distance, God enters the world in Jesus, becoming one of us and sharing our life. He shows us the way to live.

Jesus also bears the pain of forgiveness. As any parent knows, love involves sacrifice. Anything worthwhile does. There is cost, in time and labour, children grow up and you have to let go. I’ve heard it said that the hardest thing is watching them make the same mistakes you made – and even if you try and advise them you may be brushed off. And inevitably there is the need to forgive. God’s love for us is freely given, but there is a cost to it. The cost of love given without limit in forgiving. We see that cost on the cross as Jesus bears human rejection and dies for our sin.

But he rose again at Easter and in the gospel reading we hear how Christ returns to God promising the Holy Spirit to those who accept him. So the final question in the affirmation of faith is ‘Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God and makes Christ known in the world?’ God wants us to be in a relationship with him, and the Holy Spirit makes that possible. He is God present within us.

It’s an amazing thing, that God seeks relationship with us. God doesn’t want servants, or converts or our good deeds. He wants us. Sandy Millar, who was the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, home of the Alpha course, wrote this:

 ‘Some years ago I was at a conference in California. We had a wonderful evening and when it was over I went for a walk along the ocean. I was caught up with the excitement of all that lay ahead and just the thrill of the spirit of God. I was praying ‘I will give you anything you want…I will do anything you want me to do’ And I confess I was rather immodestly listing one or two of the things I thought he might want me to do.

Sandy continues: ‘I can honestly claim to have only heard the Lord speak about three times in this way, but as clearly as I have ever heard him speak, he said ‘All I want is you’.

‘All I want is you’. What can we offer God who made the universe? All he wants is you. God calls us to know him, and through us he calls others to know him. Those of us who have found God have a duty to tell others. It’s natural when we’ve found something wonderful to share it with others – as I mentioned at the beginning when thinking of the beach at Croyde.  

In the gospel reading, Jesus tells us to pass on our faith which is what we’re doing today in the baptism. He tells the apostles: ‘Make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’

I just want to spend a final couple of minutes thinking about that and how we put it into practice. Jesus says ‘make disciples’ and then goes on to explain what that means. Firstly, he says ‘Baptise’ and this is important because it’s a visible commitment. Not everyone chooses to get their children baptised nowadays, I think it’s about one in five, so it’s a positive choice when a family does. Perhaps you are saying ‘This is important to me, I want my children to be brought up this way, and later on they can make their own decision.’

But let’s not just apply it to children. Is there a challenge here to adult Christians to be willing to stand up and be counted? How do we continue to live out our baptism promises today?

Secondly, Jesus says ‘Teach’. We take it for granted that children need to be taught. They might learn about Christianity at school, but I don’t think you can rely solely on that. School can only supplement home, which is the most important place for learning and living out faith. The example and teaching given by the adults in their lives are crucial – parents and godparents are vital…

Teaching is not just for children either. Adults learn throughout our lives. A disciple is always learning. Our Christian growth should not stop at confirmation, and it may be that many of us have questions we would like to ask. That’s why I’m running a Foundations course this coming Autumn for anyone who wants to find out more about faith.

Thirdly, Jesus says ‘Obey’.  G K Chesterton once said ‘It’s not the parts of the Bible I can’t understand that trouble me. The parts of the Bible that trouble me are the parts I understand only too well.’ A faith that’s lived out is a faith that’s real. Faith has to make the transition from something we believe in our minds, to something which affects our hearts and is lived out. It needs to make a difference when you go out that door.

But one thing is absolutely essential: the focus on God and his love. Whether we are bringing up a child in the Christian faith after baptism, or sharing our faith with someone we know, it is about helping them to know God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. And that God is a God who wants to know them.

Evangelism 2 – Pentecost and a service giving thanks for Don’s 55 years as Churchwarden

‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. Those words beautifully sum up much of the message of Pentecost. The Father sent Jesus to be our Saviour, and now Jesus sends his followers throughout the world. As Jesus has been sent, so they will go and share his good news.

The Acts reading shows this wonderfully. The Holy Spirit comes, giving the apostles the ability to speak in all sorts of different languages. The noise and excitement draws a crowd, who are intrigued to hear these multilingual Galilean peasants. Peter explains what is going on, how it is a sign that Jesus has been vindicated by God, and on that day over 3000 people are baptised. The church is born.

Today we celebrate being part of that story. The people who heard the gospel almost 2000 years ago told others, who told others and so on all the way down to us. We are only here today because someone shared the good news with us. This lovely church stands because someone plucked up the courage to go to a tribe of pagan Anglo-Saxons, despite the danger, and tell them about Jesus. If the church is to continue, then we too must play our part in telling others.

When God sends, he also equips. He never asks us to do anything without also giving us the ability to do it. So the Holy Spirit falls on the apostles on the day of Pentecost, enabling them to bear witness to Christ. He gives us strength when we step out in faith today – I find it’s not a case of waiting until I feel ready to do something for God. Instead I have to step out into the unknown, even if I’m nervous and God gives the strength and ability that’s needed.

The Holy Spirit drew a crowd at Pentecost, and today he draws people through our words and actions. Sometimes people come to faith through the miraculous: dramatic healings for instance. Often though they are drawn by the example of a Christian life well lived, by the loving service of Christians, by belief in action. A true faith is faith that makes a practical difference.

St Francis once said: ‘Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary use words’. There’s a lot of truth in that. A church which is active in the community and looks beyond itself can be a wonderful example and speak volumes of the love of God. But it can work the other way too:  My Grandmother was often invited to church by a neighbour – unfortunately the neighbour was also quarrelsome and gossipy and her actions spoke louder than her words. Supposedly St Francis tells us that we need to live the Christian lifestyle with integrity ‘Preach the gospel at all times’

‘If necessary use words.’ If necessary? Sometimes that’s been misunderstood, as if speaking about the faith is an optional extra. Given that St Francis founded an order of wandering preachers, I don’t think he can have meant that, if indeed he said those words, about which there seems to be some doubt! It is necessary to use words, otherwise how will people understand what motivates us? Loving service and practical action is great, words interpret and explain it. We see this in the reading, as Peter tells the crowd what is going on. In a similar way, at times we may have to stand up for what is right, or explain what we believe. And a little bit of thought beforehand can help a lot…

So our actions and our words can be a witness to Christ. The reading from Corinthians says that we all have a part to play. Just as the different parts of the human body have different functions, but combine to make the whole, so we individually have our gifts, which we contribute to the greater good. Those gifts may be gifts of evangelism, or teaching, or administration, or being a churchwarden. Each brings something to the table, each instrument has a part in the symphony.

There is a caricature of Pentecost which goes a bit like this: the Early Church started with explosive, dynamic growth. It was a wonderful time, fill of freedom and energy. In the beginning great things happened. But in time the church evolved a structure, and as it did so it began to stiffen up and lose momentum. The exciting start slowed down and everything became a bit institutional.

Max Weber called it the routinisation of the charisma – the idea that a movement based around a strong leader has to make a transition to something more stable – but without losing its dynamism. That caricature has been very influential but it is inaccurate and misleading. Worse than that, it can lead us to undervalue organisation; to be dismissive of the jobs which keep the show on the road. We tend to see them as a burden, not a privilege.

Just a few chapters on in the book of Acts we see an example which dismisses the caricature. In Acts Chapter 6, the early church is running a kind of food bank. Greek widows complain that they are not receiving as much food as the Jewish widows. Conflict has arisen.

Churches do not have a great record on conflict. It can be painful, we don’t like it. So sometimes we brush it under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist. Other times people take on entrenched positions. Neither of those works and just makes the situation worse. The early church was a great example. They brought the issue out into the open, they talked about respectfully and come up with a creative solution.

They appointed seven deacons, whose names suggest they are Greek, to administer the food distribution. These men get on with the job, and the final verse of that passage tells us that the ‘Word of God continued to spread, their numbers increased greatly and many priests (who had a charitable role in Judaism) became obedient to the faith (presumably when they saw the effectiveness of the church)

So a conflict situation which could have crippled the church instead led to growth. The administrative role of the deacons enabled the whole community to increase. Organisation is not contrary to the Spirit. The evangelistic impulse is not the opposite of structure, but there is a creative flow. One without the other is incomplete. The day to day faithful care given by a servant of the church can bring people to faith.

Just take our visitors book as an example – quotes from it…

This building has an immense ministry and prayerful presence. People encounter God here. And that has happened, to a large degree, thanks to Don. He has made a wonderful contribution over the years and we are immensely grateful to him. In his service, the spiritual gifts of stewardship, faithfulness and diligence have borne fruit.

As Don steps down, sadly no-one else has yet been found to step up and serve alongside Sue. It’s as if Don has been running a relay race, it’s time for him to pass on the baton, but there’s no-one there. (I can’t imagine what that feels like –to give so much, to reach the point where you cannot carry on, but there be no-one there). Don has done so much over the decades – more like a marathon than a relay race! It’s right that he lays the role down now and it presents the rest of us with a challenge – how will we step up into responsibility?

We’re here to pay tribute to Don and his work. There will be lunch, gifts and speeches. But perhaps the greatest tribute to Don would be to carry on his work. To have another churchwarden serve alongside Sue.

Now it doesn’t have to be done the same way or style – there’s only one Don after all! And the warden’s role takes on different forms in different churches. It doesn’t have to be done alone – Sue is experienced, the ministry team is supportive and the PCC are learning how to take it in turns setting up for services. And it certainly doesn’t have to be for 55 years! There’s much to be said for 3 year terms in which everyone takes a turn.

We’re not looking for the next Don – we know he’s irreplaceable. But together surely we can share the responsibility to pick up where he has left off and to honour him by continuing his legacy. On the day of Pentecost a tongue of flame rested on each of the apostles; St Paul wrote of the body being made up of many members. We here today are a great diversity, we all have much to give, so may many gifts grow in the service of Christ and this community. Amen.

Evangelism Series 1

Evangelism…Evangelism – go on, be honest, what’s your reaction? Now there may be some who are thinking ‘brilliant – I enjoy sharing my faith and I’d love to listen to a sermon all about it’. Great. I don’t know if we’re all like that though.

 

I’ll tell you what my first reaction was at the Churchwardens’ visitation when Bishop Lee stood up and said he was going to talk about evangelism. I thought ‘Oh no, even if he does this really well, which being Bishop Lee he did, I’m still going to end up feeling guilty.’ Actually, I didn’t end up feeling guilty, but I think I just expected to! So let me just get this clear at the beginning of this sermon series – I’m not speaking as an expert or enthusiast. Like many of us, I have some deeply mixed experiences of evangelism, which colour my view of it.

 

I think of the guy in Bristol who shouts at shoppers as they scurry past. I wince when I recall how the members of the university Christian Union were encouraged to knock on doors giving a loaf of bread as a pretext to invite new students to the CU – I never did work out how you were supposed to do that well. There is a sort of evangelism which is unhelpful. Bad evangelism makes a noise, goes in where there’s no pre-existing relationship, and so sees little success other than fulfilling a guilty Christian need to be doing something.

 

But it needn’t be like that. When I’ve worked through my initial reaction, I can think of examples of good evangelism. I can remember as a curate delivering copies of Luke’s gospel house to house in Stourbridge, and getting a sense as I delivered one that it really mattered, praying as I delivered it. The couple in that house rediscovered their faith. I remember a chap called Brian who hadn’t been to church in years until his daughter got married. Something was triggered inside him during the preparation – he came to a Foundations course and was confirmed.

 

So there is a good way of doing evangelism. Good natural evangelism which makes real relationships and builds on them, which shares the good news of Jesus with integrity – that kind of evangelism is a wonderful thing. It’s great to be part of it.

 

The mere fact that we’re here today proves that once upon a time, someone shared their faith with us. The fact this building stands shows that someone came to a tribe of Anglo-Saxons and talked about Jesus. Evangelism, or sharing our faith is the life-blood of the church.

 

And it is so natural for us to enthuse – about the beach we discovered on holiday, the restaurant you must go to. How many times have you seen teenagers or grown up men getting techi about what their phones can do? If you’re looking for a new car I’ll happily share my experiences of what’s worked for me. We naturally share good news.

 

I know the life of faith is so much more profound and personal. And yes, it is somewhat counter-cultural to talk about it. But I hope that as we go through this sermon series in June we will dispel some of the myths and become more confident and capable in sharing our faith.

 

In Acts Chapter 1 v8, as Jesus returns to heaven, he tells his disciples ‘You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.’ Here, Jesus commands them to join in his mission – and that’s really important. This is not something we do by ourselves, on our own initiative, in our own power. Properly understood, evangelism is part of joining in with God in his love for the world. Often we find he is already at work in people’s lives, and he calls us to build on it. Our prayer should be ‘Lord help me to join in with what you are doing’.

 

Now, If I’m looking to buy a new car – which I might well be given the bill for the last service – if I’m looking to buy a new car I do research online, I think about what I need, I look up prices and so on. All that though gets put to one side if I speak to someone who says ‘oh you don’t want to buy that, I had one of them, complete disaster’. On the other hand, if they say ‘Lovely car, good drive, very reliable’ it’s worth looking at. Personal experience counts for so much.

 

That is why the idea of witnesses is so important. In that verse from Acts 1 Chapter 8, Jesus says ‘You will be my witnesses’ The disciples will speak of what they have seen and heard – the miracles, the crucifixion, Easter. Their personal experience will carry weight, because they have been with Jesus.

 

The same is true for us. Each Christian has a story to tell. Why we are what we are. What difference faith makes. Perhaps there are particular times when God has been very close or carried you through hardship. Your own witness or testimony can be very powerful, often more so than words of explanation. So don’t undervalue your story, be confident in it, willing to share.

 

Most people who come to faith do so, not because of a Vicar or a missionary, but because of a friend. Stories like ‘I was a drug-addled murderer in a top security prison until I did Alpha’ are hugely inspiring but I guess unless your non-Christian friend is a drug-addled murder in a top security prison it doesn’t tell them what God can do in their life. Much more relevant is the day to day example of the friend or work colleague – people like us. Our experience counts for a lot.

 

So it’s worth spending some time thinking about your story and how you might tell it. You could use a before and after structure: Was there a time when you weren’t a Christian? How did you come to faith? What difference did it make? Or if you’ve been a Christian all your life maybe draw a life-story path with the big events on it – how was God involved at different points? The idea is that you don’t then regurgitate this story verbatim, but reflecting on it helps put your thoughts in order.

 

When Jesus tells his disciples to go ‘to the ends of the earth’ he’s setting up a chain of events which includes all Christians. The apostles told others, who told others, and so on all the way down to us. We don’t have to be an apostle, a vicar, a missionary or specially authorised to share our faith – we just have to be a follower of Christ.

 

It is a big task, and the reading also shows the resources that are available. In v. 8 Jesus says that you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. As it is God’s mission that we’re joining in, God gives us the power we need. I usually find that God equips me as I set off to serve him. It’s not so much that I wait around until I feel ready and then I go and do something. If I do that, I never feel fully up to the task! Rather it’s as I go and step out in faith that the ability comes.

 

We may have all sorts of blockages, things which hold us back from the idea of evangelism. Someone might be thinking ‘it’s all very well sharing faith, but I’m not sure what my faith is. I wouldn’t know how to answer their questions.’ ‘Sharing faith is fine if you’re an extrovert with the gift of the gab – that’s not me’ or ‘what would people think of me if they knew I was a Christian?’

 

It’s fine to feel like that. Honesty is important – because if we’re not honest about where we are in all of this we can never make progress. But let’s not stay there. Acknowledging our reactions gives us a starting point from which we can explore and learn – we will address those issues over the course of this sermon series.

 

The other key resource is prayer. For ourselves and for others. In v.14 the Acts reading describes how the apostles return to Jerusalem where they spend their time in prayer in the upper room. In our gospel reading we heard Jesus’ prayer for his disciples – and much of the meaning of Ascension Day is that Jesus has returned to be with God, where he prays for us constantly. When we pray, we join our prayers with the perfect prayers of Jesus, which can give us confidence that they are heard. He will give us the abilities and opportunities that we need.

 

We talk about prayer a lot, but sometimes we need a little nudge to make it happen. So as we finish, I want to challenge you to identify someone you can pray for. Let’s be silent together and I’ll lead us in prayer. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to show each one of us someone that we can pray for – someone we want to hear the good news. In the silence, just be aware of anyone God brings to mind – it might be someone quite unexpected. And then in the coming week, pray for them. That they might hear about Christ, that God might give you opportunities gently to share your faith with them. Let’s see what God can do!

 

Father, we thank you for the good news of Christ. Thank you that when you call us you equip us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit now and give us courage to step out in faith. In this silence we ask you to lay on our hearts someone you would like us to pray for – Lord we are open to you