O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing to enter the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young:
at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are they who dwell in your house:
they will always be praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion,
Who going through the barren valley find there a spring,
and the early rains will clothe it with blessing.
They will go from strength to strength
and appear before God in Zion.
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 21.29-33
Jesus told his disciples a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’
Throughout the gospel narrative Jesus speaks of the nature of God’s kingdom. The Pharisees and all the other so-called experts in religious law and practice had, down the centuries, created a system that was meant to draw humanity into a closer relationship with God. Whatever the roots of the Jewish law, down the centuries it became distorted. The irresistible need that human beings have to be ‘in control’ overtook the fundamentals of God’s law. Rather than being rooted in the needs of others, the Jewish law that Jesus encountered was focused very firmly on ‘self’ rather than ‘other’. As we have read throughout recent weeks, Jesus was constantly highlighting the shortcomings of the Pharisees and the scribes, even to the point of calling them hypocrites.
The word ‘hypocrite’ is an interesting word for Jesus to have used. In its origins in ancient Greek it is the word used for ‘actor’. By calling the Pharisees and the scribes ‘hypocrites’ Jesus was accusing them of pretending to be faithful to God. He was suggesting that their religious practices were a façade, a show put on to impress others, a routine they had rehearsed and perfected to intimidate those they deemed to be inferior to themselves.
Yesterday, we read of Jesus speaking of the signs and portents that will herald in the coming of God’s kingdom. Today’s reading offers us the same message, but in simpler terms. Around Jerusalem there are many fig trees growing. All who heard Jesus speak would have understood the life-cycle of the fig tree. Because of the stability of the climate they would have known how the different stages in the growth of all trees would have been a reliable indication of time and season. They would also have understood that at the end of the cycle there would have been a rich and sustaining fruit.
Jesus does not want his followers to misunderstand the importance of his message. He talked of the bigger picture involving the sun, moon and stars, as well as the strife between nations and the raging of the seas. Today he brings the same message to the confines of our own homes. Today Jesus wants us to join up the dots of his message to humanity. Jesus is calling us to stop following the practices and routines of the Pharisees and the scribes, that is to stop being actors or hypocrites. Today Jesus wants us to repent, to turn from our all too human ways, and to really dedicate ourselves to a life of true and faithful discipleship so that we might, in due time, stand before God and testify to how we spread the Good News and the light of Christ in this world.
Prayers of Intercession
Gracious God, fountain of all wisdom, we pray for all Christian people; for our Bishops, for all Christian leaders, and for those who teach and guard the faith. May the word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts, and knit us together in the bond of your love.
We pray for the leaders of the nations, and for those in authority under them. Give them the gift of your wisdom, and a right discernment in all things.
We pray for our community; for those who live and work here, and for those who visit this place. Speak your word of peace in our midst, and help us to serve one another as Christ has served us.
We pray for those who do not believe, and yet who long to know you, the very Word of life. Open their ears to hear your voice,
and open their hearts to the knowledge of your love in Christ.
We pray for those bowed down with grief, fear or sickness. May your living Word bring comfort and healing to all those in need.
We give thanks for all those who have died in the faith of Christ and we rejoice with all your saints, trusting in the promise of your word fulfilled.
Prayer for the week
Lord, you have blessed the world
by sending your Son into our midst
and by making all things new in him.
We ask you to give all people
the courage and power we need
to share fully in his mission to the world
and to further his kingdom in the lives of all,
to the honour and glory of his name.
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.
Thou, whose almighty word
chaos and darkness heard,
and took their flight;
hear us, we humbly pray,
and where the gospel-day
sheds not its glorious ray,
let there be light.
Holy and blessèd Three,
Wisdom, Love, Might;
boundless as ocean’s tide
rolling in fullest pride,
through the earth far and wide
let there be light.
John Marriott (1780–1825)