21st May 2023 10.30am – Seventh Sunday of Easter Eucharist

The Readings

Acts 1.6-14

So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

John 17.1-11

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.


Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Catherine, a Reader at St. Mary's

Some years ago I was pottering around at home when I became aware of a tentative rattle of the letter box.  Looking out, I saw an elderly lady on the drive looking rather hesitant.  I opened the door and asked if I could help.  She had lost her way home.  I offered to walk with her and asked her where she lived.  She was a bit vague, but gave the impression that it was a little further up the hill.  So we walked very slowly up the hill and chatted.  She was most grateful for my help and offered to make me a cup of tea when we got there.  But she’d only got slippers on her feet, and it was clear she didn’t have much energy for the hill.  After about half an hour of stop-start walking, we made it to the top, and I asked her again where she lived.
“Ooh, you’ve got me there!” she said, after a few moments’ consideration.  I began to wonder if I’d done the right thing walking her up such a steep hill.  She didn’t recognise the houses at the top.  So I asked someone sitting outside one of the nearby bungalows if she was one of their neighbours.  They weren’t sure. She was exhausted, so they found her a chair and a glass of water whilst I rang the police on my mobile.  The lady was able to tell us her name, and about 20 minutes later a car pulled up, a slightly exasperated, but relieved relative or carer helped her into the back seat, and off they went.
The lady had quite advanced dementia.  It wasn’t immediately apparent how advanced it was, because she could hold a conversation and knew vaguely where she was. I was hopeful that once we got nearer her home, something would click and she’d find it.  She was friendly, and it was clear she was hospitable and liked having people round for a cuppa and a chat.  Despite the obvious confusion, there were glimpses of clarity revealing the person she was behind the illness.
About a year later I heard by chance that she had since died.
My aunt also lived with dementia for many years.  As I had known her all my life, long before the illness took hold, it was even easier to see that the person she had been was still there somewhere.  And through the fog and confusion of the illness, there were moments in her advanced illness when she too had glimpses of clarity, for example, becoming alert and raising the alarm when she saw an unattended small child heading towards an open fire escape at a family party.
Glimpses of clarity.  Glimpses of who the person had once been.  Of who the person still was inside somewhere.
Following Easter, Jesus appeared several times to his followers.  It struck me that these resurrection appearances were a bit like those fleeting moments of clarity experienced by those living with advanced dementia.
With the disciples on the Emmaus Road, a long period travelling together, talking together, without fully understanding, then a sudden recognition. With the women at the tomb, confusion, fear and joy; with Thomas doubt, then recognition.  The appearances would be fleeting, with Jesus disappearing as mysteriously as he had appeared.  Then came the final appearance as together they climbed Mount Olivet, before Jesus ascended from their sight forever.
Even during his earthly ministry, there were moments of heightened awareness when Jesus gave his disciples a glimpse of the glory of God.  His baptism, when the Spirit came down and rested on him, the voice from God declared who he was.  His transfigured appearance with Moses and Elijah.  His healings, the calming of the storm, feeding of thousands and walking on water.  Glimpses of God whilst Jesus was alive.
And then Glimpses of Jesus again following the empty tomb on Easter morning.  Jesus was still there.  Not in quite the same way as before, but still there among them.  Pointing beyond all the troubles of this world with illness and death, to the God who is Everlasting.
These glimpses were enough to stir Jesus’ followers into action.  First to return to their upper room in Jerusalem to pray with their wider community of friends and family.  And then, 10 days later, having been filled with the Holy Spirit, to go out into the world to share the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of God’s Kingdom with all who would listen.
When accompanying a friend or relative through the later stages of dementia, it can sometimes be hard to see the person they once were.  Where has our loved one gone?  And then for a moment there they are with us again!
It is hard too, for the person living with the confusion and scariness that the illness causes.
There are times on our Christian journey when life is also confusing and scary.  When we do not know if God is there.  And yet those fleeting moments still come.  Simple things, perhaps a sunrise, a rainbow or a bird singing.  Perhaps a child laughing, or a kind word from a loved one or stranger.  Moments that reflect the love of God.  Moments that encourage us when the challenges of life are great.  Moments that spur us into sharing that love of God with others, including those living with brain disease.

The Prayers
Prepared by Kath

God our Father, hear us when we pray to you in faith.
We give you thanks for this day, for our lives and the amazing world you have given us to live in. Help us to be good stewards and to look after it for this generation and the generations to come.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
In the week when we have marked Christ’s Ascension into heaven, we pray for the church throughout the world and for all who worship God. Father, may we know your near presence in our lives in good times and in troubled times.
At this time we pray especially for those involved in building good safeguarding standards and practices and all those affected by safeguarding issues. Lord helps them as they navigate these difficult and painful issues.
We give thanks for all who give their time, talents and money for the benefit of this church and all the other churches and the communities they serve. We pray and give thanks for the work of Christian Aid and its supporters who help so many people throughout the world.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for the world and all peoples, especially those who live in troubled places because of wars, oppression, natural disasters, political strife, economic problems and great need for food, shelter and safety. Father help us to find ways to live peaceably together, sharing the earth’s resources fairly and working together for the good of all. Bless all who strive for these things. Especially we pray for the peoples of Ukraine and Russia, Sudan and Bangladesh.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for all who are ill and those who are nearing the end of their lives. May they receive the care, comfort and compassion they need. We pray also for those who accompany them on their journey who also need to be supported.
We pray for Roberto and his family.
In a moment of quiet let us think of anyone known to us who is in special need of our prayers at this time.
Let us also pray for ourselves and our own concerns and needs.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Today is the last day of Dementia Action Week and we give thanks for the additional funding for research and recent advances in diagnosis, potential treatments and care. I’d like to share with you the Dementia Awareness Prayer.
Heavenly Father, at the end of this Dementia Action Week we pray for all those who travel the dementia pathway, and carers who journey with them. Be with them, merciful Lord, that despite all the problems that they encounter, they may truly know your love and your support, which can bring hope and light in even the darkest of times and during the most difficult of journeys.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We remember all who have died, some recently and some long ago. We pray that they are at peace and that those who love and miss them will be comforted and cared for in their grief.
Especially we pray for Violet who have died recently.
Again in a short time of quiet let us remember those special to us who are no longer with us.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.          
Merciful Father, 
accept these prayers, 
for the sake of your Son, 
our saviour, 
Jesus Christ. 


Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council 2000