Today is the sixth Sunday after Easter – it’s easy to forget we’re still the Easter season which lasts until Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and includes Ascension Day which will be marked this Thursday.
That’s why the words of Jesus in the Gospel reading for today are so significant:
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” St John 14: 15,16 NIV
These words were said at the Last Supper, when Jesus not only prayed for himself and his disciples, but also commissioned his followers to continue what had been begun as he prepared to leave them. After his crucifixion, the disciples were too scared to do that at first and locked themselves away in fear. The resurrection and later ascension of Jesus changed that: not only was God made visible here on earth, humanity was also raised to new heights too in Jesus’ return to the glory whence he came. That meant that the disciples were then left without their leader and had to wait and trust in his words telling them of love, obedience and the Spirit which would come when the time was right – but hadn’t yet.
That waiting can’t have been easy and, as we hear of these events so long ago, we now know the outcome and sometimes forget how challenging it must have been for those first followers of Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that they waited prayerfully and actively, eventually rising to the challenge of a new way of life when they were inspired by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the good news of resurrection hope through God’s love and the obedience of Jesus began to be shared more widely.
As Covid-19 continues to spread amongst us, we also have to wait – we’re told that there is a timetable for the restrictions eventually to be lifted, but that hasn’t fully happened yet. Perhaps it’s making some of us afraid, like the first disciples initially, and anxious about whether or not to wear face masks, what may happen when we go out or if it might be a risk to hospital for an assessment. Others may be impatient, wanting more to happen and sooner – but, for now, the time is not yet right. The risk may be diminishing but restrictions remain.
Perhaps the example of those first disciples will enable us to take heart from the words of Jesus today. For these are not just words – Jesus showed the truth of what he said through his obedience to what was asked of him. He endured great suffering and a terrible death, followed by a time of waiting before a new way of being was revealed at the resurrection. The truth of this was shown in the transformation of those frightened followers who emerged from their fear and found the trust and obedience to let themselves gradually to be transformed into people who believed in God’s love and shared it. A new way of being began then – and it can do for us, too, as we try to rise to the challenges before us. Just as those first disciples were not left alone, neither are we – may the Counsel of the Holy Spirit strengthen us also to wait prayerfully and hopefully until the time is right.
With my prayers,