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Sermon for 29 April

 


Praying for our villages


Easter is nearly over - 10 more days, and then we get the Ascension, when Jesus returns to heaven, and the days of resurrection encounters finish. And then the story pauses for 9 days until Pentecost, when the disciples receive the Holy Spirit in that incredible outpouring of God’s own presence.

And those 9 days between Ascension and Pentecost have always been a time particularly set aside for prayer. 

And those 9 days between Ascension and Pentecost have always been a time particularly set aside for prayer - because they are a time of anticipation as the disciples wait with growing excitement for the promised arrival of the Holy Spirit. They know resurrection has happened, and now they are waiting for something new. It’s like a ramped up version of the time when parents are waiting for their baby to be born; It’s going to happen, it’s going to change everything…but not quite yet. These are 9 days of anticipation, 9 days of waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, 9 days of hope-filled prayer.

And for the last few years Archbishop Justin has invited the whole church - and in fact every church - to make these 9 days a time of particular prayer under the heading ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. This year the dates are 10 May for Ascension and 20 May for Pentecost, and we want to respond wholeheartedly to the Archbishop’s call.

And this is what we’re going to do.

We are going to ask everyone in Goudhurst and Kilndown - and others beyond - if there is anything we can pray for, for them. And then we’re going to pray. And I want to talk about that now. I want to tell you very practically what we’re going to do, and how you can all join in, then I want to talk about intercessions and intercessory prayer. And then next week I want to pick the topic up again, and to offer some ideas about how we can pray for others and what we might expect to happen.

So here’s the practical stuff.

Over the next 7 days we are going to deliver a postcard to every house in Goudhurst and Kilndown. On it is an invitation to tell us if there is anything we can pray for. And we’ll spread the word in other ways too. And we hope that people will respond - and that they will tell us what we can pray for.

And then, for 9 days, as people get in touch, we are going to pray for their needs.

And then, after Pentecost, we will get back in touch with them and ask how they are, if anything has changed and if there is anything else we can do.

We’re going to Ask; Pray; and Follow up.

Later on, when the kids are back during Time Together, we’ll say some more about how everyone can be involved - in essence though you can do three things.

  1. We would love some help with delivering the cards
  2. We’re going to give you all 2 cards of your own to give to someone you know and who you could ask ‘Is there anything I can pray for, for you?’
  3. We invite you to ‘Pledge to pray’ - in whatever way you can during the 9 days of prayer - and you already have a card with that invitation on it.

More about that later on in the service. 

Every Sunday, someone leads our ‘intercessions’ - in a few moments, Rosemary will do that for us. So what is it that we’re doing? And what is it we each do personally, when we pray for situations around the world, or for people who are suffering? What are ‘intercessions’? 

The word ‘intercession’ literally means ‘to come between’, or ‘to go between’ or ‘to be between’. An intercessor is someone who stands between two parties or people and speaks to each on behalf of the other. An intercessor is someone who has the trust of both parties and can speak openly to each of them - perhaps when they cannot speak to one another directly. 

There’s a wonderful story told of a soldier during the American Civil War who has been badly injured and has lost everything, and decides the only thing he can do is to seek the help of Abraham Lincoln himself. So he goes to the White House, but of course, he can’t get in because he isn’t dressed properly, and he doesn’t have the right kind of connections, and the door is guarded, and so he goes to sit on a bench outside, with his last hope gone. And while he is sitting there a young boy comes and sits next to him and they get chatting, and the soldier tells the boy how he needs to see the President, but how it’s never going to happen.

And the boy takes his hand and says ‘come with me’. He leads him back to the White House where, incredibly, they walk straight past the guards, through the outer offices to the Presidential Office itself. There the boy pauses in front of the door, looks at the solider, turns the handle and walks straight in. Inside the room Abraham Lincoln is meeting with senior military officers and staff, but the boy goes straight over to him and says ‘Daddy. I’ve someone who needs you’.

That boy is an intercessor.

So what’s that got to do with us - as we prepare to pray for our villages?

Well the Scriptures tell us that we have an intercessor, just like that boy - someone who has access to the Father. Someone who can take our needs - our deepest needs - and bring them to the Father. And his name is Jesus.

Romans 8:34 - It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 

Into the gap between the glory of God the Father and his broken and sinful creation, steps Jesus Christ who takes our prayers and pleadings and brings them before His Father - the Creator of all things. We have no direct access to the Father, but Jesus does, and as followers of Jesus, as those baptised into his name, he intercedes for us. 

If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish and it will be done for you.’, we heard in the gospel. We, who abide in Jesus, ask him, and he brings our hopes and prayers to the Father, in whom he abides.

As I pray for others - I imagine bringing my prayers to Jesus, who takes them - as the precious things they are - re-shapes them to remove the parts that are not quite worthy of the Lord - and then brings them to his Father. ‘Here you are Abba’, he says, ‘here are the prayers of your people.’ And of course, the Father receives them with joy from the Son he loves. 

Jesus is our intercessor and when we pray in his name and through him, we can trust that our prayers are received at the throne of the Father. That our weak, stumbling words and thoughts and hopes are received in the heavenly throne room where the Father dwells in glory. Imagine that.

There’s more though - Jesus intercedes for us to the Father - but we also have a crucial job to do. As the church, as the Body of Christ, as those who are baptised into Jesus - we also have a critical task. We are the ones called to go between the world and Jesus. That’s the role of the church - to intercede on behalf of the world to Jesus, who in turn intercedes with the Father.

Our task, as Christians, is to take the needs of the world - the desperate needs of the world - to Jesus, so that he can take them to the Father. Paul writing to his friend Timothy says I urge that supplications, prayer, intercessions and thanksgivings should be made for everyone. It is a sacred task and the greatest of privileges.

As Jesus goes between us and the Father, so we go between the world and Jesus.

So when we come to the Intercessions, or when we pray for the needs of the world on our own or in small groups, we are doing a profound thing; a holy thing. We aren’t just doing what it says we should do in the order of service; we are joining in with the unending work of Jesus to bring the world back to the beauty and perfection with which it was first created. We are doing kingdom work. 

And so it is an absolutely central part of who we are, to pray for those amongst whom we live and work and spend our time. Praying for our villages and for the needs of those who ask us is what we are here for.


And next week I’ll say a bit more about that, and about why we need to pray, even though God is sovereign over everything and about what we might actually do when we intercede for the world.

For now, as we prepare for 9 days of prayer for our communities, let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work amongst us; pray for a spirit of anticipation, a spirit that longs to bring the needs of the world to Jesus, asking that he might bring them before the Father. And that the kingdom might come closer as a result.

Amen

Posted: 29-04-2018 at 15:38
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