“Life is a Sonata”
Last Sunday of Easter
June 5, 2011, HCSM
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
Whenever any official holiday falls on a Thursday, the following day will be considered a holiday too, thus extending the days off from work. That’s what we call sandwich holiday.
Today is what some in the liturgical world would refer to as the “Sandwich Sunday.” Such term was used in reference to the fact that this particular Sunday happens to be “Sandwiched” by two great feasts in the Christian year. Last Thursday was the Feast of the Ascension marking the 40th day after Christ’s resurrection. It being the last Sunday of Easter, we will then traditionally extinguish the Paschal candle to mark the beginning of Pentecost. Next Sunday, June 12th, is another great feast, the feast of the Pentecost, marking the 50th day after the resurrection as well as the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Next Sunday also, we will be graced by the presence of the Rev. Dr. Fred Vergara as our guest Preacher for the Philippine Independence Day celebration.
Of the two feasts, Pentecost is the highly celebrated one while the feast of the Ascension unfortunately rarely gets celebrated on its actual date of occurrence especially on smaller congregation like ours. While the feast of Ascension in over, we cannot really let it pass because such feast connects the dots of the grand plan of the whole story of the salvation theology. The Ascension cannot be forgotten. It must not be ignored. For without the Ascension, the death and resurrection of Jesus would carry far less value, if any, in the plan of redemption. It is this glorious Ascension that is the culmination of the atoning work of Christ, the guarantee of his promises, the proof of his claims, and the beginning of his dominion.
You see, we now arrived into the climax of the whole story of the book of salvation. Like a Sonata, it has forms where a song is first introduced, gradually exposed and developed until it reaches its climax then finally a recapitulation where the music is played again until it reaches the end.
At the beginning of the liturgical year, we are introduced to the liturgical cycle in the season of Advent where we await for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and then the birth story is told and celebrated in Christmas. Shortly after that, we arrived to the season of Epiphany, as the exposition of the revelation of God in human form through Jesus Christ. It is gradually developed to the season of Lent as part of our deep search of our relationship with God and each other. The development extends to the Holy Week where we re-enact the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then finally, we arrive to the climax in Easter where the true meaning of the grand plan is celebrated. A plan our Lord Jesus Christ has been telling his disciples even from the beginning of their encounter together; a plan that his disciples still cannot understand even after the resurrection.
In the Ascension story, Luke tells us that the disciples received from their risen Lord additional words of comfort and instructions, part of which was for them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for that which had been promised to them; the gift of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until Jesus Christ Ascended into heaven to seat at the right hand of the Father and finally sent the Holy Spirit of truth in the Season of Pentecost, that his disciples understood the grand plan of the salvation story. In the season of Pentecost, we wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ as he promised to go and prepare a place for us so that where he is, we may be also. This then comes the recapitulation part of the plan when we arrive to the same cycle until the end is reached when our Lord Jesus Christ will finally come back and the Kingdom of God is finally realized.
You see, we have been a part of this entire grand plan from the beginning. This Sonata, this song of redemption is about the Love of God for us. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son as a sacrifice for us so that we may have everlasting life through him. These, therefore, we cannot let them pass and take for granted but rather take them in heart and be empowered by the Holy Spirit that we may be united just as Jesus Christ and the Father are one.
Did you realize that if there are seven last words of Jesus Christ, there is also the last prayer of Jesus Christ? You may well know by heart the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus Christ taught his disciples how to pray, but this one of the 17th chapter of the Gospel according to John is the most beautiful and meaningful prayer I have ever heard from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some call this chapter the real Lord’s Prayer. Here, the Lord is in deep conversation with his Father in Heaven. Glorifying the Father always thinking and praying for us!!! “That they may be one just as I and you are one.” What a thoughtful and loving friend he is.
How is your prayer life? How’s life been treating you? Did you find life like a Sonata where there is a recapitulation of the good tidings you received? Or are you caught in the mud of life misery in the development process?
One day a preacher asked one of the congregation’s leaders to say a prayer in the service. That person stood up and began offering a prayer. As he prayed a guy on the back row yelled, “I can’t hear you.” The guy kept praying. The one on the back row yelled again, “I can’t hear you.” He kept praying and a third time the guy yelled, “Excuse me, I can’t hear you.” Finally the one praying stopped and turned to the man on the back row and said, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Some Christians don’t think they need to pray. “Oh well, God already knows what I need and what I think and what I feel. I don’t need to tell Him.” My wife already knows I love her. I guess I don’t need to tell her. She knows I love her, but she still wants to hear it from me (Otherwise I won’t get it). In the same way the Father already knows what Jesus was going through. But Jesus felt the need to pray. If Jesus needed to pray, then we certainly need to pray!
If in the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Our Father in Heaven, holy is your name, your kingdom come your will be done…” In the same manner Jesus begins this prayer, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Jesus’ first thought is God. You know some people seem to always talk about themselves. They focus on what others are thinking or feeling. Jesus’ first thought is God and God’s will and God being glorified. He is praying for himself, but that he would be faithful so that the Father’s will is done. Too many Christians think first of themselves, “what do I need; want do I want.”
Our attitude in prayer should be God centered, not self centered. Jesus is about to go through the worst ordeal a person could endure. Yet he focuses on God and God’s will. Yes we should pray in the face of trials. But our praying should be done in an attitude of humility before God.
Then finally, Jesus prayed for unity. I guess Jesus knew there would be divisions in the church. On every level Christians manage to divide themselves. We organize ourselves into theological factions and use labels like Liberal or Conservative or Evangelical or Charismatic. We divide ourselves into denominations: Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox… And even within congregations we make divisions between the young and the old and between people who like this ministry and those who liked that program, between those who voted yes and those who voted no, between Miami heat or Dallas Mavericks; Giants of Dodgers? Pacqiao or Mayweather?
But I don’t think Jesus wants us all to think and act alike. He made us different so that we could fulfill different purposes. A team has different groups. You might have the infield and the outfield. You might have the guards and the forwards. You might have the offensive line and the back field. But they are still part of the same team. We Christians may be different, but that doesn’t mean we should be divided.
Jesus prayed, so let us pray with him! We may go through some tough times as well as some wonderful times. Remember Jesus prayed for you and the Bible tells us that Jesus continues to intercede with the Father on our behalf.
Life is a Sonata, but let it be a song where its forms are guided with the Peace and Love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, so that when our time comes to meet God face to face, we may be able to say, “I have done with all my ability the things you wanted me to do, so here I am, please give me my room, I am tired and needing rest!!” “And Lord, please give me the one with a Spa.”