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Worship, prayers and Bible resources

Seventh Sunday of Easter - Year B

Sunday after Ascension Day

Liturgical Colour - White


Introduction

So that they may have the full measure of my joy within them  -  Jesus

Christianity is about good news, that is what the word Gospel literally means. Some folks might think that Christians are against life being good and want to stop the fun, but actually quite the opposite is true. Jesus told his followers that he came so that we could have life and have it abundantly. The Christian story is one of how we can all get more out life. As Christians we are all called by God to let others know that the path to fulfilment and real purpose in life, is found in Jesus.


Opening Verses of Scripture

Psalm 5:11  But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Psalm 16:11  
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Risen, ascended Lord, as we rejoice at your triumph, fill your Church on earth with power and compassion, that all who are estranged by sin may find forgiveness and know your peace, to the glory of God the Father.   Common Worship Shorter Collect  - Seventh Sunday after Easter

Lord of Hosts, purify our hearts that the King of Glory may come, even your Son, Jesus our Redeemer; for he is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

Eternal God, you have given all authority in heaven and on earth to your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Grant that we may never lose the vision of your kingdom but serve you with hope and joy; through him who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

O God the king of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: we beseech you, leave us not comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us and exalt us to the place where our saviour Jesus Christ has gone before, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Collects for Ascension Day  (May be used as an alternative)

Eternal and Gracious God, grant that as we believe  you Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to have ascended with triumph into your kingdom in heaven, so may we also in heart and mind ascend to where he is and with him continually dwell; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  Methodist Worship

Almighty and everlasting father, you raised our Lord Jesus Christ to your right hand on high. As we rejoice in his exaltation, fill us with his Spirit, that we may go into all the world and faithfully proclaim the Gospel. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

Risen Christ, you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven: help us to seek and serve you, that we may join you at the Father's side, where you reign with the Spirit in glory, now and for ever.    Common Worship Shorter Collect

First Bible Reading    Acts 1:15–17, 21-26

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Second Reading   1 John 5:9-13

We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Gospel Reading    John 17:6-19

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Post Communion Sentence


Eternal God, giver of love and power, your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world to preach the gospel of His kingdom: confirm us in this mission, and help us live the good news we proclaim; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 

Commentary

If we were to ask people in the street, 'What are the characteristics of the Christian?'  They would probably come up with a whole range of descriptions, but I am guessing that very few would say that Christians were joyful. It might even be considered by some that the words 'Joyful' and 'Christian' are more like opposites. Christians are sometimes thought of as people who want to actually stop people enjoying themselves. Our traditional image is of a package of 'don'ts.' Do not do this that and the other.....teaching which is geared at stopping people from doing a whole range of things which they often enjoy!

People on the outside might therefore be forgiven for thinking of Christians as 'killjoys'

Millions of people watched the 'Passion of Christ' and we all tend to focus heavily on the 'Passion' the death of Jesus, which is the story of a most unpleasant death. Jesus is remembered by many as a 'Man of Sorrows.' However the reading from John reminds us that even whilst Jesus suffered greatly in the last days of life, he prayed to God that his followers would - 'have the full measure of my joy within them.'

This should not surprise us. Jesus was not a miserable man of sorrow, in fact he was criticised for being too much of a party goer. From even before his birth we are told that the presence of Jesus would bring joy and if we read the pages of Scripture we recognise that Christians should be people overflowing in their joy and delight

The Christmas stories tell us that when Jesus was born it was a time for Joy to come to the earth

So it was that when the Magi saw the baby Jesus they were 'overjoyed.'

The angels went on to make it clear that joy was coming to earth in Jesus

 "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.'

And so we ask the question, 'Is unbridled joy a characteristic of the Christian?' When people think of what Christianity stands for do they think of joyfulness? The answer is surely ‘No’.

Although one of the enduring proofs of the presence of the Spirit is joy, we often fail to show this fruit in our lives.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22


Christians are encouraged by scripture to ‘Rejoice always’, (1 Thessalonians 5:16). But so often we do not and it is as if the writer to the Phillippians knew of our reluctance.  When he wrote his letter he said,  ‘Rejoice in the Lord always,’ then he added ‘Again I will say, rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4) it is as if he wants to make it clear, ‘look I really do mean it, rejoice!’

 
There is so much to rejoice about, but sadly we have a disposition to think of the things which trouble us. As an example, the church has so much to be joyful about but so often we focus on the things which divide us. Is it possible that if churches spent more time rejoicing with one another we might find less time to fall out with one another?

Would more joyful Christians also be more united Christians? It is interesting that in this passage Jesus also prays to God that

'they may be one as we are one.' 

One of the most heartbreaking tragedies of the church is that our history is one of division and condemnation and competition with each other. It is quite remarkable that we can read this passage of scripture today in churches across the world, whilst we still continue to keep divisions alive. We can blame all sorts of people throughout the history of Christianity for the reasons why are churches are divided and yet it is us who perpetuate the wrongs of the past. It is us who cling to our own parties who refuse to move outside our comfort zones. It is us who refuse to allow the power of love to unite us and transcend human differences of opinion. It is a scandal that the body of Christ on earth is divided in the way that it is and those who look to find salvation and who seek after Jesus should find a joyful church and united church. If the church was both joyful and united then it would be a church drawing attention to itself in the right ways, it would be attractive and have a relevant message.

This is important in society today. People are looking for happiness, yet seek fulfilment in things which are disappointing and do not stand the test of time. What passes for life enhancing opportunities are so often the cause of disillusionment. Solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion's children know!

We have solid joy because we know that it is eternal and last forever, it is based on God's promises to us for all eternity 

Jesus said to his followers
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."  Luke 10:20

and then the writer of the Gospel continues by telling us that Jesus himself was
‘full of joy through the Holy Spirit,’

You will remember the parable which Jesus told of the kingdom of heaven being like treasure hidden in a field. We all know that the man went and bought the field with the treasure in it. But remember that he did this because he was filled with Joy

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.   (Matthew 13:44)
 

We have joy because it is part of our future.

We all know the jokes which are told about heaven and hell and whether the people in heaven or the people in hell are having the better time of it. Some are funny, others are not. But they rely upon the questions which all have of what heaven will be like and whether we want to spend our time with
the kind of people who end up in heaven or the people who end up in hell. Nobody wants to go to heaven where everybody is well behaved but miserable. 

The good news is that the future city of God will be a place of Joy. When we sing hymns and songs which speak of Joy, very often the words are taken from Scripture. Think of 'You shall go out with Joy and be led forth in peace and the mountains the hills shall break forth before you.' These words are taken from Isaiah 55:12

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Jesus encouraged us to think of the future as a time of Joy, so that it sustained us now when times are difficult. In the beatitudes Jesus encourages us to know that we are lucky because even if we have to endure mourning, hunger, persecution, nevertheless

"Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven,

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-13

So Jesus encourages us to recognise that we can be joyful when we gain a real perspective and stop seeing this life as the be all and end all of our existence. For the Christian has the promise of Jesus that the best is yet to come. We can be joyful in spite of circumstances
 

This was something recognised in the Old Testament. Listen to these words from Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
 

Is this our perspective? Or are we so engrossed in the here and now that we fail to be able to rejoice in the promises of God?

The writer of 2 Corinthians spoke of this in a very practical way     2 Corinthians Chapter 8:1-2

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.
 

The members of the church in Macedonia had severe trials and yet they had Joy which enabled them to be generous.

It was this power of Joy which enabled Paul to make the following statement

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.   2 Corinthians 6:4

The writer of 1 Peter 1:6-9 expressed the same sentiment.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Hopefully you will see that this is a theme running through scripture. It is all about our focus and getting our lives into an eternal perspective.  Christians are often poor at sharing the Gospel. Perhaps this is because we have lost confidence in the fact that it is 'good news,' not miserable news. Christianity is often considered to be something which makes life more serious, perhaps Christians are thought of as ‘worthy’ individuals, but are we joyful? To what extent are our gatherings as Christians times of celebration and joy, are we happy when we are together. Commitment to Christ is not a chore, his yoke is easy – the burden is light, it makes life better – not worse.

Perhaps we should close with a blessing we sometimes use from Jude. We should hear it again and listen to the encouragement to be joyful

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.  Jude 1:24-25 Charles Royden

Meditation

Joy may be expressed in laughter, yet it draws from a deep spring that keeps flowing long after transient laughter has died. Joy survives the fleeting happiness of this world, and overcomes the tears of our too short lives, because it trusts in the promise of the world to come. Joy enables us to be cheerful even when the world has become tired and grey with grief and worry.

 

Hymns

First Hymn Joy to the world      Tune Antioch

Second Hymn  If you want joy

If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy,
Let Jesus come into your heart.
Your sins He'll wash away,
Your night He'll turn to day,
Your life He'll make it over anew,
And then come in to stay.
If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy,
Let Jesus come into your heart.
Anonymous  96 Junior Praise

Third Hymn Glorious things of thee are spoken Tune Austria

Fourth Hymn Joyful songs, of broken people

Joyful songs of broken people
smiling faces, lilting praise
welcome those who come to worship
in the cauldron of these days.

Listen to the wondrous story
born in poverty and fear,
thousands, now ten thousand voices
ringing out that God is near.

Near because we carry with us
love of God in every heart;
love that holds, that binds, protects us,
love that never will depart.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)
8 7 8 7    Tune Sussex

Fifth Hymn Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
Hail thee as the sun above!
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.

All thy works with joy surround thee,
Earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around thee,
Centre of unbroken praise;
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flowering meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living,
Ocean-depth of happy rest!
Thou the Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals join the mighty chorus,
Which the morning stars recall;
Father-love is reigning o'er us,
Kindred love binds each to all;
Ever singing march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music lifts us sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)  public domain
8 7 8 7 D Trochaic
Tune: Ode to joy

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

Lord, help us to know Joy as a spring always welling up within us and give us power to dance through life, not as men and women who are blind to sorrow, misery or shame, but as those who know your victory over death and who cannot but rejoice.  Edmund Banyard

O Christ, you were called the man of sorrows, and yet you prayed for your disciples that they might have your joy; grant us such sympathy as takes upon itself the burden of the sorrowing; and with it such glad courage as shall turn the way the sadness into the way of joy, because we follow in your footsteps, O blessed master, Jesus Christ. Amen.  Walter Russell Bowie 

 
As the hand is made for holding and the eye for seeing, you have created me for joy, O God. Share with me in finding that joy everywhere: in the violet's beauty, in the lark's melody, in the child's face, in a mother's love, in the purity of Jesus.  Traditional Scottish Gaelic Prayer

My God, I pray that I may so know you and love you, that I may rejoice in you. And if I may not do so fully in this life, let me go steadily on to the day when I come to that fullness...Let me receive that which you promised through your truth that my joy may be full.
 

 

Additional Material

Commentary

A report back to the top?
In chapter 17 of the gospel of John Jesus looks up to heaven and speaks to the Father, summing up what’s about to happen and praying for His disciples and for all believers.
In verses 1 - 5 Jesus reports that he has completed the task of making the Father known and asks to return to the Father’s glory. In verses 6 - 8 He amplifies His report.
He has passed on to the believers that which he received from the Father. This is variously described as the Father’s name or word or ‘everything’ or words. But the focus is not about communicating information but about the establishment of a special relationship with God. In this relationship is life, eternal life. And for all those who have entered into this relationship they are special. Special because they not only belong to the Father through this new relationship, but because they also share in the task which the Father gave the Son, a task we share in today. The task of being sent into the world as the early disciples were sent. And, just as they did, we too may face challenges, the same challenges that Jesus highlights in His report back to the Father; the challenge of a hostile world, the challenge of temptation to give up when the going gets tough, and the challenge of disunity among believers as we try to get on with the task of extending God’s kingdom.

This passage from John is Jesus’ prayer for what the Father will do for the world, through his risen Son, through the church. It is not a declaration of what is, but an intercession for what shall be. It is not a blueprint for how unity will take form or mission take place, but a plea for the Father’s strong name to protect those who are in the world, hated by the world, yet called and open to the task of doing mission with joy and hope. A heartfelt appeal from Jesus to His Father that the believers may withstand the challenges which will lie ahead.
As Jesus ascended into heaven and left the earth in bodily form, the believers must have wondered what the future held. In an uncertain, sceptical and hostile world they must have felt alone and overwhelmed by the task to which Jesus had charged them. Would they be ignored as irrelevant, ridiculed for trying to speak out about their faith, brushed aside as they tried to show God’s love or paralysed by fear and uncertainty? Would the pressure to conform to the prevailing lax attitudes overwhelm them? Would they be split by arguments and dissention? Time would tell.
It did. History shows that through the power of the Holy Spirit they, and countless others through the ages, were more than ready and able for the task. The question is, are we?    Sam Cappleman

Hymns

  1. Rejoice the Lord is king

  2. Jesus put this song into my heart

  3. Thou art the way

  4. Jesus the name high over all

  5. Immortal, invisible, God only wise

Meditation

Jesus says 'Father'
For much of their history, the Jewish people considered God's name, YHWH (Yahweh), too sacred to pronounce, and so they substituted the word adonai. But Jesus not only makes the Father's name known "to those whom you gave me from the world" he also makes it accessible. Not only are we free to speak God's name, but we are free to call God our Father.

Prayers

Saviour Christ, of ourselves we cannot love you, cannot follow you, cannot cleave to you; but you came down that we might love you; ascended that we might follow you, bound us round you as your girdle that we might be held fast to you. You loved us, so make us love you; you sought us, so make us seek you; you found us when we were lost, so be yourself the way, that we may find you and be found in you, our only hope and everlasting joy. Amen
 
Blessed are you, Lord God almighty, who gave your Son, Jesus Christ, to be our redeemer and the author of everlasting life; and exalted Him above all for ever; that at all times and in all places we might be partakers of His power and His glory. Amen
 
We have a great high priest who has passed into the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Amen
 
The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, establish, strengthen and settle you in the faith; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen