The Rector’s Message for the Week of May 16, 2021

Rector Turner
The Reverend Canon Carl Turner

Happy Ascensiontide! The feast of the Ascension used to be considered the official end of Eastertide which was then followed by nine days of prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – a kind of waiting period which echoes the account in Luke’s Gospel. This is the origin of a novena – nine days of prayer, which is common across church traditions. However, for a long time now, that period of prayer has been incorporated into the season itself, with Eastertide coming to a natural end with the Day of Pentecost.

In John’s Gospel, something remarkable happens on Easter Day, which is quite different from the other synoptic gospels. In the Fourth Gospel, when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, he says, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17). Then, just two verses later we read, “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week…Jesus came and stood among them.” John is saying something very important by repeating the words, ‘the first day of the week’. Jesus then breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

We are used to the chronology and geography of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles which is reflected in our liturgical calendar, but the Fourth Gospel is less interested in a chronological and geographical account of the life of Jesus and, instead, an entering deeply into the mystery of the Word made flesh and the new creation – a theological reflection if you wish. John’s gospel begins with an echo of the creation narrative of Genesis – “In the beginning…” It is, therefore, not surprising that on the first day of the week (the day that God began his creation) that Jesus should rise from the dead and then echo the creation of humankind by breathing on his disciples the breath of life – God’s Holy Spirit.

What this means is that John’s Gospel links the death, resurrection, ascension, and giving of the Holy Spirit with the mission of the Church – “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” For John – these events apparently happen on the same day because they all relate to each other and the glory of Jesus. When Jesus greeted his disciples with his gift of peace, he showed them his hands and his side – the reminder of his Passion and Death; Easter is the culmination of Calvary, not a reversal of it; the Ascension is Christ’s sovereignty over the whole created order; Pentecost is the empowerment of the Church which proclaims the Lord’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension until he comes again. As Michael Ramsey once said, “John is drawing out with vivid symbolism the dependence of the mission of the Paraclete upon the death and the resurrection of Jesus.” (From his book, ‘Holy Spirit’ page 110).


Pilgrimage

Some of you have been attending focus groups to assist the Friends of the Anglican Pilgrim Center in Santiago; they have been informative, inspiring, and energetic gatherings. I am hoping that a group of us will walk the Camino sometime in 2023-2024 – our bicentennial year.

Our parish also supports the Anglican Center in Rome with a small grant each year; you can read their latest newsletter here.


Finally, please pray for peace in Israel and Gaza. As violence escalates, and mistrust becomes ever more rooted in the hearts of young people, let us pray that common sense will prevail along with justice and freedom. I just received an update from the Order of St. John. The American Priory supports the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem and the Eye Hospital in Gaza. The CEO of the St. John Eye Hospital Group, Ahmad Ma’ali, is extremely concerned as more and more casualties come to the hospitals. The Prior writes:

“Unrest in both Gaza and Jerusalem, as well as the wider area, has led to much suffering. Ahmad reports that the casualties received at the Hospital have sustained severe and irreparable damage to the eye tissue. He also conveys, without surprise, that the clinical staff has been extraordinary in its response to the crisis. These dedicated professionals are receiving and managing casualties at the Hospital as well as working with their colleagues at other East Jerusalem hospitals to provide urgent ophthalmic care to casualties.”


A Prayer for the whole human family from our Prayer Book

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Affectionately,

Your Priest and Pastor,

Carl