O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
whose steadfast love never ceases
and whose mercies never come to an end:
grant us the grace to trust you
and to receive the gifts of your love,
new every morning,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem;
Jerusalem, built as a city
that is at unity in itself.
Thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,
as is decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there are set the thrones of judgement,
the thrones of the house of David.
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
‘Peace be within your walls
and tranquillity within your palaces.’
For my kindred and companions’ sake,
I will pray that peace be with you.
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek to do you good.
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 13.1-9
There were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’
Pontius Pilate was not a very nice man. For those who know the story of Holy Week and Jesus’ crucifixion this statement will sound obvious, almost not worth re-stating. However, for those who do not know their Christian history, it is worth saying again: Pontius Pilate was not a very nice man. The Roman historian Josephus gives us several accounts of the abominations carried out by Pilate which could easily leave us wondering why he comes across as being uncertain, and potentially lenient, when it comes to his handling of Jesus.
Having said that about Pilate, we can now turn our attention to Jesus in today’s reading from Luke’s gospel. Jesus is journeying towards Jerusalem. As he journeys he is constantly hearing the news of what is happening on the road ahead. Today’s news is particularly gruesome, with its talk of sacrifices and the blood of Galileans. Surely, those with whom Jesus was travelling were trying to discourage him from going on with his journey.
Of course, Jesus is not going to be deterred from making the journey he knows that he has to make, but as he travels he warns those around him of the dangers they will face if they do not change their ways. For Jesus, crucifixion and resurrection lay ahead, but what about his followers? In the face of Roman violence there was a strong urge within the Jewish community to fight back, to attempt to overthrow their oppressors with the violence that was being used on them. This was a nonsense to Jesus. The Jews stood no chance at all of defeating a highly trained and efficiently brutal military machine, and such violence was in direct opposition to God’s plan for humanity.
The parable of the fig tree emphasizes Jesus’ desire for us all to repent, to turn and follow him, no matter how difficult that may seem. Jesus is saying there is still time for us to change, but that that time in which change can be effected is not without its limits. Jesus will die on the cross and Jesus will rise from the dead. Jesus will ascend to his Father in heaven, and Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. There is the moment when we need to have heard and responded to God’s call. As we heard earlier in the week, we do not know when the moment of Jesus’ second coming will be upon us. So, what are we doing to set aside the ways of this world in order that we might be ready to face our Lord and Saviour on the Day of Judgement? Are we still not ready to face the trials and tribulations of this life in the certainty of the eternal life that is offered to all who are faithful to their Christian calling?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God for mercy upon the Church and the world.
Grant to the Church the spirit of sincere repentance for all offences. Make her fruitful in the service of the gospel for the salvation of God’s people.
We pray that all who hold power in the world shall exercise it with mercy and compassion for those they govern. Bless the labours of all who work to produce and to meet other human needs.
Bless us in our daily work, that it may be done to the glory of God. Bless those with whom we work, and all who work in our community.
We pray for those who toil and see no result for all they do. Have mercy on all who have suffered from accidents and disasters and sustain those who minister to them.
Receive into new life those who have come to the end of their earthly work and are gathered into the company of the departed. Be merciful to those who have died unprepared and without repentance for their sins.
May our prayers be accepted through Christ who tenderly nurtures his children.
Prayer for the week
Most merciful God, we pray
for those who doubt your love;
for those who find it difficult to believe or to pray;
for those who have lost a faith they once possessed.
May the Holy Spirit enlighten their minds
and lead them into all truth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
O Jesus, King most wonderful;
thou conqueror renowned,
thou sweetness most ineffable,
in whom all joys are found!
O Jesus, light of all below!
Thou fount of living fire,
surpassing all the joys we know,
and all we can desire:
Jesus, our love and joy, to thee,
the Father’s only Son,
all might, and praise, and glory be,
while endless ages run.
Edward Caswall (1814–1878)
Jesu, Rex admirabilis, (Latin, c. 12th century)