Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, Duccio di Buoninsegna
between 1308 and 1311, Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena, Italy
O GOD the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven: We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
1 St. Peter 4.7-11
THE end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God: if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
St. John 15.26-16.4
WHEN the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that, when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.
Sunday after Ascension Day.
THE WAITING CHURCH.
The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.
A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year,
the Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D.D.
S.P.C.K., London, 1902.
THIS Sunday, intermediate between our Lord’s Ascension and His promised gift of the Spirit, is well described by its ancient name of “Dominica Expectationis,” or Waiting Sunday, in reference to the command (Acts i.4) to “wait for the promise of the Father,” and with a second reference to our time of waiting ” till He come ” Who has ascended into the Heavens.
THE EPISTLE 1 S. PETER 4:7-11 – THE WAITING CHURCH
From the Ascension of Christ we took at once for His return at the “end of all things”. Between Christ’s departure and his return lies the whole history of the Church. The faithfulness of the Church of Christ to her absent Master, and in view of His return, is the lesson for the day. We are taught how to behave till our Lord comes again, in regard to those within the Church, and in regard to those as yet outside.
The Epistle teaches internal duties of the Church.
A. A Vivid Sense of Christ’ Speedy Return.
This is the teaching of the various parables dealing with the absent masters recorded in the Gospels, and ever present to the memory of S. Peter. It is all the same to us individually whether our Lord comes to us or calls us to go to meet Him, and this thought should keep us “sober,” not plunging too deeply into the business cares and pleasures of the quickly passing world, and ever watchful against temptation and looking for the signs of His coming — watching on our knees — “unto prayers’.
B. An Intense Mutual Love.
Those who look for one Lord must draw closer together, encouraging one another, “and this so much the more as they see the day approaching” (cf. Heb. 10:24, 25). Love is the great preparation for that day, and the loving are always ready. Our Lord will not find great faults in a loving Church, for “love covereth a multitude of sins”. He will forgive those who forgive others, for “if we have fellowship one with another the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sins”. Love, which gathers in all outcasts, keeps the flock from straying, feeds the sheep and tends the lambs, is dear to the Good Shepherd, Who at His coming will not ask our faith, but our love. This love must be practically shown in hospitality. The open heart must keep an open door. No differences of rank, wealth, or culture must separate those who are one in their relation to Christ as members of His Church. Still less must varying degrees of cause the stronger to separate themselves from the weaker.
C. An Intense Sense of Responsibility.
“Every member of the Church in his vocation and ministry” must regard himself as a steward, i.e., a person who stands in two relations, the one in respect on the Master to whom he is responsible, the other in respect to the fellow servants for whom he is responsible. All are stewards, “for every man has received a gift,” and our gifts are not intended to be marks of distinction, but opportunities for service, and not give absolutely, but in trust, for the good of others. Some have received gifts of position, education, leisure, or wealth. Some have received gifts of speech, attractiveness, a power of persuasion to move the hearts of men. Some have received gifts of practical ability and capacity to arrange, organise, and direct. None must spend his time in amusing himself, or even in refining himself in luxurious intellectuality, or in a selfish use of his powers for display or for wealth, but, finding his gift and his sphere, use the one for the other.
THE GOSPEL — S. JOHN 15:26-16:4 — THE WITNESSING CHURCH
As in the Epistle we have considered the Church of Christ as the body of Christian people always expectant, loving, and attentive to duty, so in the Gospel we consider the Church in relation to the world as bearing witness for Christ.
A. The Power for Witness.
The witness of the Church is not only for Christ, but from Christ. The disciples, indeed, were to have part in it as qualified by their knowledge of Christ, and by what they had seen and heard from the beginning of His ministry. They would testify by their truthful evidence as eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses. But the Spirit sent by Christ from the Father would give force to their evidence, would give utterance and convincing power to their words, and support their testimony by miracle. Of this enabled witness the New Testament is the summary.
As the work of witness is for all ages, so in all ages the great defender of truth will be the Holy Spirit, raising up effective witnesses for Christ, and giving Divine force to their testimony. In every age He will give the assurance of supernatural power manifested in our lives as love and holiness, and in our minds as truth and wisdom.
B. The Difficulties of Witness.
These were evident in the first age of the Church, when the witness was the martyr. The Christian’s position is easier now, for the world is partly Christianised, and true Christianity has its admirers even among those who do not possess it. Yet it is easy to confess Christ in every company and occupation, and to be His witnesses by what we are, by what Christ has done in us, and by what we do for Christ.
The Christian must not lose faith in Christ because success comes slowly, for this was foreseen and foretold by Christ. He must remember that opposition may be due to one of two causes —
(1) Because men “have not known the Father”. This is ignorance of the very meaning of religion, and we cannot be surprised when men who hate all religion hate Christianity most of all.
(2) Because men “have not known” Christ. We must not be surprised at the opposition of those who are really ignorant of Christianity. Their ignorance may be due to their only having met merely nominal Christianity and having noted its inconsistency, in which case the fault is not so much theirs as ours. We need not think Christianity a mistake because men mistake Christianity. It is the work of the Spirit to make us such that we can so recommend our religion that men acknowledging that we have been with Christ, and He with us, may seek Him for themselves.
The prayer of the waiting Church asking Him who has taken away our Master from our head not to forget those whom His absence has left defenceless and poor.
A. For Comfort while we Wait.
We are “orphans” as separated from Christ, and ask for the help and presence of “the other Comforter” to supply to us the presence of Christ, to guide, protect, and save. Without the Spirit we are orphans indeed, and are as the disciples before Pentecost. The work of the Spirit is so through Christ to connect us with the Father that we are no longer fatherless.
B. For our Waiting soon to End.
We pray that we may be re-united to our Lord and “exalted to the same place where He is gone before”. This also is a work of the Spirit, and the blessing of His comfort will prepare us for the blessing which is to come. He who gives us the Father’s comfort will prepare us for the Father’s home.