‘…leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us…’
A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley
by Andrew McKearney on 13 May 2018
We’re now drawing to the end of the Easter season at church. Soon the Paschal Candle will be moved and the vestments we wear will change from white back to green. Last Thursday was Ascension Day and the Feast of Pentecost or Whitsunday is next Sunday.
During the Easter season we’ve heard how the risen Christ restored and forgave his disciples, recalling them to their vocation as his witnesses.
Now, Christ is no longer visible in the way that he had been. On Thursday when we met to celebrate the ascension we heard from Saint Luke who wrote in his gospel that at the ascension Christ ‘disappears from their sight’.
The disciples now know Christ in their hearts as Lord.
The process has been one of interiorising, assimilating the spirit of the risen Christ, so that now the disciples don’t need Christ’s physical presence, nor do they need the appearances of the risen Christ.
Rather the spirit of Christ lives on in their lives. Or as we have come to know it, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, is now their guide.
There’s a parallel process that all of us as Christ’s disciples are invited to enter into as we grow and mature in the faith and make the Christian faith ours.
No longer do we recite the Creed or read the Scriptures as texts on a page or in a book; rather we interiorise them, make them our own, assimilate them, ensuring that the spirit of Christ lives on in our hearts and lives.
William Law, an English spiritual writer from the C18th, wrote:
‘It is the language of scripture that Christ in us is our hope
of glory, that Christ formed in us, growing and raising his
own life and spirit in us, is our only salvation.’
And more recently Rowan Williams has written:
‘If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you are not
just believing an odd fact from 2,000 years ago; you are
trusting that there is a kind of life, a kind of love and trust
and joy that is the very essence of Jesus’ identity which is
now coming to life in you….You are alive with a fuller
and deeper life than just your own.’
This short period in the Church’s year between Ascension Day last Thursday and Pentecost next Sunday is a time of prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, working not just in the lives of the first disciples, but in us too!
As we prayed in today’s collect:
‘…leave us not comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit
to strengthen us…’