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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 09.05.2024

May 9th, 2024

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

I’m filming today from the spot in the garden where for much of the last year there was a twelve foot hole!

This video is released on Ascension Day, the festival where we remember Jesus ascent into heaven, his crowning as king, and his promise to be with us always. You may remember some weeks ago I filmed in the garden on this spot where the local water company were trying to fix the sewer.  This work continued for some months.  The first few seemed to consist of a series of chaps, arriving, looking down the hole, sucking their teeth, and then going away again.  Several interventions appeared unsuccessful.  In the end it was my Chaplain’s husband, sharing the exasperation of the residents of the Palace Yard at the lack of progress, who broke the log jam.  An email to the head of the company was replied to in 24 minutes on a Saturday night, and before you knew it the A team arrived and we finally reached a resolution.  There is something about going straight to the top that can result in a satisfactory outcome.  (although I hasten to add that doesn’t necessarily work with Bishops!)

I thought of that experience when reading again Jesus great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28.  “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”, says Jesus, “therefore go.” There is a clear sense in the New Testament of the privilege granted to us.  We have access to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. The writer to the Hebrews in chapter 7 verse 25, says, “Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” I afraid I’m too much of a protestant to be entirely comfortable praying to the saints to pray for us, especially as scriptures like this encourage us to go straight to the source.  Although I recognise the Christian understanding of the communion of saints does embrace all Christians both living and dead.  We would ask for our friends to pray for us after all.

But, not only is Jesus earthly ministry seen to continue in an active continued prayer ministry for us, but we are reassured that Jesus authority makes prayer to him a prayer to the one who has authority and power to make a difference. It gives grounds for our confidence and persistence in prayer.  Jesus himself encourages us to do that in a number of parables like the persistent widow.  As with much teaching on prayer, it doesn’t solve the unanswered prayer problem.  But it does reassure us that God is listening and perhaps in the really tough times of silence and seeming inactivity give some possibility to trust that the outcomes may be good ones in the longer term.  “Which Father?” says Jesus, “who when his child asks for bread, would give them a stone.”  In times of personal darkness and confusion, the writer to the Hebrews suggest we are not alone.  Even if our deepest anxiety and pain is unknown to others, it is not unknown to God.  Jesus himself brings these concerns into the presence of God the Father.  Where we have no words, he can articulate our deep groanings on our behalf. And he invites us to share with him in that work.  There is an opportunity to do that between Ascension and Pentecost through the new prayer space in the Palace Chapel.  You can sign up to pray online, just turn up, or experience the space virtually though a link on the diocesan website. I do hope you’ll join us.

So, Christ’s ascension is an important transition in Jesus’ ministry.  One part – our redemption, is finished, as he gasped from the cross.  But the ongoing ministry of our transformation and also our care continues. The Christian understanding of heaven is not of a realm completely divorced from this one, but a place from which blessing continues to flow. Jesus is Lord both of heaven and earth. The ascension vindicates it.

As a postscript to our sewer problem we received the unwelcome news last week that the promise that the repair would last 30 years proved false!  Apparently, there are continued problems and they have to return again to have another go.  I say this as my son is getting married here on June 15th, and if I am arrested lying in front of the bulldozers to stop another destruction of the garden before then, you’ll know where I am!


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