O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God, our refuge and strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease
and poverty and pain shall end,
that earth may know the peace of heaven
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed are those whose way is pure,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies
and seek him with their whole heart,
Those who do no wickedness,
but walk in his ways.
You, O Lord, have charged
that we should diligently keep your commandments.
O that my ways were made so direct
that I might keep your statutes.
Then should I not be put to shame,
because I have regard for all your commandments.
I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,
when I have learned your righteous judgements.
I will keep your statutes;
O forsake me not utterly.
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 17.26-37
Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them – it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
‘On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.’ Then they asked him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’
Today’s reading provides us with more words from scripture that speak to the situation we find ourselves in at the moment. Jesus’ words are speaking of the end of the world, the apocalypse. These words paint a bleak picture of despair and confusion. They tell of a time when we will be going about our ‘normal’ everyday lives and suddenly there will be confusion, even chaos. The ‘normality’ we have created for ourselves will be overturned even to the point of us being confronted with what we can only describe as ‘the end of the world’. Bleak words indeed!
But … there is also hope in these words. Jesus is certainly giving us a warning of a moment that is inevitable, even if it is not imminent. He is warning us of the suddenness and the unpredictability of the end of times. He is warning us that how and when such a time will come is totally outside our control and our comprehension. Our notions of human order and structure will be swept aside as God’s glorious kingdom finally makes itself manifest to all.
So, in this bleak ‘end of the world’ scenario, where are the words of hope? First, we have to understand that this world is the creation of God, and that it is a gift to humanity. We have been created in the image of God, and yet we assume too much. God made us in his image, he did not make us to take his place. The wonders of creation were created for our nourishment, both spiritual and physical. Those wonders were not created for us to exploit and abuse. The way humanity has misunderstood its place in creation has made the end of the world more obvious in its inevitability. So, we need to remember our place and see the hope and joy that God put in this world at the moment of creation.
Secondly, as we come to terms with our relationship with God, we need to understand that nothing in this world is more important. At the coming of God’s kingdom, as when the moment comes for us to die in this world, we are powerless to change and control the end. There is no point trying to dash back into the flood or the fire to retrieve our earthly treasures, because they are no longer of any importance, just as they are of no real importance in the daily lives we carve out for ourselves.
At the moment people speak as though the world has come to an end. Whilst there doesn’t seem to be much talk of ‘apocalypse’ there is talk of devastation and destruction. Today’s reading helps us put that in perspective. Our lives may be fraught with unexpected challenges and difficulties, we may feel isolated and helpless, but … God is there. We have to let go of our very human need to be ‘in control’ and let God take our hands and lead us. Then we will know true peace and joy.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray, as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.
May the Church be faithful and vigilant, ever on guard against evil, and a good servant ready for the Master’s call.
Speak to a heedless world where many have ceased to learn from the past the signs of future danger. Be merciful to those who fail in the duty laid upon them for the guidance of others and open their eyes to follow the right path.
In all we do, in all our work, in our homes, in our times of quiet, let us so live that we are ready without fear for the call of God. Grant to those we love the grace of lives fitly offered.
Have mercy on those who have no future hope, those who value the passing moment beyond its worth, those who through pain and sorrow have ceased to care for what is to come. Give them the assurance that this present world is not the end.
We pray for those who have already been called to the future judgement and the future peace, for those who came with joyful expectation into the divine presence, and for those who came bewildered and unprepared. May the love of God enfold them all.
May our prayers be acceptable through Christ the Lord, who has come, is present here and will come again.
Prayer for the week
Lord Jesus, you have shown us
how great is the price of freedom
by giving your life to deliver us from evil.
Teach us to give to the uttermost;
to respect that which others have secured for us;
and to pursue peace in obedience to your will,
until all the kingdoms of this world come to you
as Lord and Saviour of all.
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.
Father, Lord of all creation,
ground of being, life and love;
height and depth beyond description
only life in you can prove:
you are mortal life’s dependence:
thought, speech, sight are ours by grace;
yours is every hour’s existence,
sovereign Lord of time and space.
Stewart Cross (1928–1989)