O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
O Lord our governor, how glorious is your name in all the world!
Your majesty above the heavens is praised
out of the mouths of babes at the breast.
You have founded a stronghold against your foes,
that you might still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have ordained,
What is man, that you should be mindful of him;
the son of man, that you should seek him out?
You have made him little lower than the angels
and crown him with glory and honour.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands
and put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen, even the wild beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea
and whatsoever moves in the paths of the sea.
O Lord our governor, how glorious is your name in all the world!
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 and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
A man with an unclean spirit … cried out: What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Notwithstanding the many different facets of our current national situation, we all find ourselves, at some time or other saying: ‘What is that to do with us?’ Despite living in a rural situation, the rural mentality of ‘communal responsibility’ has been largely overtaken by a sense of urban self-interest. That may sound a sweeping statement, but … it is a fact that in most contemporary rural communities over seventy per cent of the residents are people who have moved into the ‘rural life’ from urban and suburban settings. The self-sufficient and mutually co-operative ways in which villages worked in earlier times have been superseded by those who are still engaged with communities that have no true understanding of the rural situation. It is in such a context that many will see and hear of issues that elicit the response: ‘What is that to do with us?’
As in the concept of the rural ‘idyll’, so with our understanding of the concept of ‘Church’. The rural ‘idyll’ of everyone knowing and getting along with each other is a confused misunderstanding of how, in earlier times, mutual cooperation and support was essential for a complex and often underprivileged social dynamic to work. Similarly, the idea of the Church being a beautiful building in which ‘nice’ people gather to sing hymns and say prayers is based on a profound misunderstanding of what it means to belong to a Church. The false impression many have of the ‘rural idyll’ is based on a lack of understanding that the historically concerted approach to rural life grew from necessity, not from naivety. The false notions surrounding the meaning of ‘Church’ is also based in an historic dis-connect. The ‘Church’ is about community, it is about people sharing in a Christian faith and a desire to live out that faith with those amongst whom they live and work. A church building is important, but only as a focal point in which Christians can gather to be fed and inspired to carry on their true task of proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom.
The situation through which we are all living at the moment has had a polarising effect on many communities, including ours. Many people have ‘rallied round’ and provided a genuinely moving level of support to those who are most vulnerable. But, it has also pushed some to the other extreme, the extreme of seeing need and then saying: ‘What is that to do with us?’ Whilst we must thank God for those who have put themselves out to provide help and support, we must also question the motivations of those whose panic buying has created bizarre shortages, for example. The problem is, you see, that the question: ‘What is that to do with us?’ is closely associated with the exact opposite of Christian love.
In earlier times the word used instead of ‘love’ was ‘charity’. In more recent times, the word ‘charity’ has become loaded with inferences and undercurrents that have served to separate us from its true meaning. Sometimes the only way in which Christian love can be demonstrated is in the way the Good Samaritan tended the man who had been brutally attacked. He did not seek recompense, he just gave kindness and care. He did not walk by as he asked: ‘What is that to do with me?’ In today’s reading we need to take especial note that this destructive question was asked by the unclean spirit that was being exorcised by Jesus. As we look at the community in which we live, let us not join with that unclean spirit in distancing ourselves from the good and the loving. Rather, let us marvel at the new teaching of Jesus Christ and bring his light and love into the lives of others.
Prayers of intercession
For deliverance from evil, let us pray to the Lord.
Grant to the Church the grace to resist evil and to bring release to those who are in its power. In the authority of the Lord, may she do his present work on earth.
We pray for the healing of the nations from all strife and violence. May those in authority, made free from greed and the love of power, rule with justice and mercy. May the darkness be dispersed and the glory of God revealed.
Be close to us, with our families and friends and in all our relationships. Keep them free from all that would harm them. Forgive the faults and imperfections in this community and fill it with your good Spirit.
We pray for the mentally ill and ask that patience would be granted to those who care for them. Grant that all who through folly or intention have fallen into evil ways may be made whole.
Have mercy on those who have died unreconciled and in fear. Grant them the peace that here they did not know and the vision that they have lost.
We offer our prayers in the name of Christ, the name which casts out all evil.
Prayer for the week
Loving Father, we pray for all
who are any way troubled at this time.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ,
our loving Lord and 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.
God with humanity made one
is seen in Christ, God’s only Son:
in you, Lord Christ, the Son of Man,
we see God’s reconciling plan.
Then give us strength, great Lord of life,
to work until all human strife
is reconciled, and all shall praise
your endless love, your glorious ways.
David Fox (1956–2008)