O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Eternal God, give us insight
to discern your will for us,
to give up what harms us,
and to seek the perfection we are promised
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sing praise to the Lord, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion;
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates
and has blest your children within you.
He has established peace in your borders
and satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends forth his command to the earth
and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool
and scatters the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts down his hailstones like morsels of bread;
who can endure his frost?
He sends forth his word and melts them;
he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation;
they do not know his laws.
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.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’
What does that phrase, the law, mean to you?
Are you a professional lawyer for whom it means a way of earning your living by striving to bring justice into a corrupt and corruptible society? Are you, or have you been, a police officer, for whom a working knowledge of the law is, or has been, the way by which you have played your part in ensuring the peace and security of the community at large? Are you someone who does not have a professional interest in the law but loves to watch television dramas that focus on the work of the police and the courts? Or, has breaking the law been an unfortunate part of your life, something that has created a distance and a difference between you and those amongst whom you live? However you view the law, it has always been seen as a necessary component of peaceful coexistence in a world where human nature can be very cruel and self-centred.
Today’s reading comes from the Sermon on the Mount, during which Jesus is laying out a completely new way of living the life of faith. Jesus’ teaching is causing people to think of every aspect of their lives from a different angle, usually an angle which undermines the established practices of the day. It is not difficult to imagine people thinking that Jesus’ teaching is, in some way, subverting the law as well as the practices of their religious leaders.
It is in this context that Jesus reiterates and reinforces the need to obey the God-given laws by which they are called to live their lives. At another part in the gospel narrative, Jesus will warn us that we should listen to those who are experts in the laws of God, whilst also warning us not to follow their ways of behaving. Jesus is adamant. The law of God is essential to the good order and eternal destiny of humanity. Jesus also makes it clear that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to adhere to that life-sustaining and life-enriching law.
We all play the game of pushing the boundaries. We even push the boundaries when it comes to obeying the law of the society in which we live. How many of us stick rigidly to the speed limits we see on our roads, especially when there is no one watching? How many of us have stuck rigidly within the legal guidelines that have been in place over the last year? Jesus is telling us that, when it comes to God’s law, that is never an acceptable attitude to adopt. We are called to be faithful and honest in the eyes of God.
That is the challenge for us today and every day. We are challenged to know and to obey God’s law that we might, in our time, come to enjoy God’s nearer presence in his joyful, loving and peaceful heavenly kingdom.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray, as those who seek to be faithful members of the kingdom of heaven.
Keep the Church steadfast in the way of your commandments. Make your people a light to their generation, faithful to the Gospel of love.
Guide all people into the mystery that challenges the wisdom of the world. Show the way of true repentance which does not rest on outward signs but turns back sincerely to obey your will.
Inspire us with your love, to bring light to those with whom we live and work. Open our eyes to see where there is need for relief to the hungry body or the clouded mind.
Have compassion on those who are afraid, who feel inadequate for the demands of life. Grant them confidence in the hidden wisdom of your word.
We give thanks for those who have been faithful to your law and shown as lights in their earthly lives. Grant them the fullness of your presence, where true wisdom is revealed.
Honouring the Law of God and seeking true righteousness, we make our prayers to fulfil his commandments.
Prayer for the week
Lord, we offer you ourselves this day
for the work you want accomplished,
for the people you want us to meet,
for the word you want to be uttered,
for the silence you want to be kept,
for the new ways you want pioneered.
Go with us along the way, Lord,
and enable us to realize your presence,
at all times and in all places,
our loving Lord Jesus Christ.
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.
Put thou thy trust in God,
in duty’s path go on;
walk in his strength with faith and hope,
so shall thy work be done.
Commit thy ways to him,
thy works into his hands,
and rest on his unchanging word,
who heaven and earth commands.
Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676),
translated by John Wesley (1703–1791) and others