O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God, our judge and saviour,
teach us to be open to your truth
and to trust in your love,
that we may live each day
with confidence in the salvation which is given
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvellous things.
His own right hand and his holy arm
have won for him the victory.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness
towards the house of Israel,
and all the ends of the earth
have seen the salvation of our God.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 11.47-54
Jesus said, ‘Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute”, so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’
When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
Today’s reading adds to the list of ‘Woes’ that Jesus levels at the Pharisees and lawyers. Today, Jesus is charging the Pharisees with hypocrisy and the lawyers with a degree of obfuscation that actually prevents others from drawing into a closer relationship with God. Jesus’ warning in today’s reading is stark. Jewish tradition had placed the whole community in a difficult position. They built tombs for the ancient prophets and they honoured the prophets in those places. However, it was the ancestors of those tomb builders who persecuted and killed the prophets in the first place. Their action of building tombs carries the implicit message of support for the actions of their forebears. How can this be viewed as anything other than hypocrisy? The lawyers also come in for a greater degree of criticism today. They are accused of preventing people from entering into a deeper relationship with God by locking the relevant knowledge away, by placing it out of the reach of people who are not in their clique.
Religious hypocrisy is a terrible thing. To intentionally embrace or deny a love of God whilst following the opposite path is to deceive not only others, but ourselves. How can we be true to God if we cannot be true to ourselves? If what we say of our faith is clouded and unsure, then how can anyone, including ourselves, or God for that matter, trust what we say we believe? Similarly, building up barriers between God and other people is to take a burden of responsibility on our shoulders that none of us is strong enough to bear.
Today we are being called to be honest in our dealings with God and with others. God wants us to enter into a relationship with him, but that must be a relationship of honesty and openness. Let us pray for the strength to persist as that relationship develops and not be diverted by the opinions of others that lead us towards hypocrisy and obfuscation.
Prayers of Intercession
United in the company of all the faithful and looking for the coming of the kingdom, let us offer our prayers to God, the source of all life and holiness.
Merciful Lord, strengthen all Christian people by your Holy Spirit, that we may live as a royal priesthood and a holy nation to the praise of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Bless all ministers of your Church, that by faithful proclamation of your word we may be built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets into a holy temple in the Lord. Lord,
Empower us by the gift of your holy and life-giving Spirit, that we may be transformed into the likeness of Christ from glory to glory.
Give to the world and its peoples the peace that comes from above, that they may find Christ’s way of freedom and life.
Hold in your embrace all who witness to your love in the service of the poor and needy; all those who minister to the sick and dying; and all who bring light to those in darkness.
Touch and heal all those whose lives are scarred by sin or disfigured by pain, that, raised from death to life in Christ, their sorrow may be turned to eternal joy.
Remember in your mercy all those gone before us, who have been well-pleasing to you from eternity; preserve in your faith your servants on earth, guide us to your kingdom, and grant us your peace at all times.
Hasten the day when many will come from east and west, from north and south, and sit at table in your kingdom.
We give you thanks for the whole company of your saints in glory, with whom in fellowship we join our prayers and praises; by your grace may we, like them, be made perfect in your love.
Prayer for the week
Give peace in our time, O Lord:
peace and reconciliation among the nations;
peace and unity within the churches;
peace and harmony in our communities and homes;
peace and love in all our hearts;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Faint not nor fear, his arms are near;
he changeth not, and thou art dear;
only believe, and thou shalt see
that Christ is all in all to thee.
John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811–1875)