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.
Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong
and bread to those who hunger.
The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;
he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
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 17.20-25
Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’
Then he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or “Look here!” Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.’
We all like to think that we are ‘in the know’. We like to think that we know something of which those around us are ignorant. We like to use this ‘knowledge’ as a way of gaining superiority over those with whom we share our lives. As I speak to people, I often hear people use such language … the language of ‘knowing’ something that others don’t … the language of ‘if you knew what I know then you would be as “powerful” as me’. As we live through the current pandemic we are constantly bombarded with opinions and ‘expertise’ that presents itself as the ultimate in ‘knowledge’. Sadly, all that knowledge is really just personal opinion, usually based on flawed or incomplete data. Today, the Pharisees are seeking knowledge from Jesus. They are seeking knowledge that would enhance their authority and their status … they want to know when the kingdom of God is going to become manifest in this world.
Just imagine what such knowledge could do for those who attained it. Imagine being in a position of really knowing when Jesus would return and God, in all his glory, would be revealed in this world. Yes, you would probably be viewed as some sort of crank if you were tempted to share that knowledge but … just imagine if you really, really knew! That is the position the Pharisees want for themselves. Those who already dominated society with their expert knowledge of Jewish history and law now wanted the last piece of the jigsaw, they wanted Jesus to tell them the very moment. Imagine the power that would give them, because that was how they were thinking!
Of course, the question really reveals the ignorance of those religious experts. To ask Jesus such a question is to ask the silliest question imaginable. In Jesus himself the kingdom of God has come. In Jesus himself the divinity of God has become manifest in this world. Jesus spent much of his earthly ministry teaching about the true nature of the kingdom of God, and yet the Pharisees did not understand. From the moment of his Incarnation in a lowly stable until the moment he hung on the cross and subsequently conquered death through his resurrection, the kingdom of God was revealed in this troubled world. But … the Pharisees could not recognize that there scriptures were being fulfilled in their own times. Their scepticism and their grasp of worldly power distanced them from the divine kingdom they sought to understand.
Jesus knew that they were journeying through life wearing blinkers. Jesus also knew that the day would come when those blinkers would be removed and they would realize what they had missed. Jesus also knew that it would not be until he suffered the ignominious death of crucifixion that people would come to realize the message that he had been sharing with them throughout his earthly life.
Where are we in this encounter between the Pharisees and Jesus? Are we wanting to gain that scrap of knowledge that will give us power of others, or are we certain in the knowledge that the kingdom of God is around us, and that it is our duty to share that knowledge in order that many may come to know and love Jesus as we do?
Prayers of Intercession
We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.
You sent your Son to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to captives, and salvation to your people: anoint us with your Spirit; rouse us to work in his name.
Send us to bring help to the poor and freedom to the oppressed.
Send us to tell the world the good news of your healing love.
Send us to those who mourn, to bring joy and gladness instead of grief.
Send us to proclaim that the time is here for you to save your people.
God of mercy, you know us and love us and hear our prayer:
keep us in the eternal fellowship of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
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.
‘The kingdom is upon you!’
the voice of Jesus cries,
fulfilling with its message
the wisdom of the wise;
it lightens with fresh insight
the striving human mind,
creating new dimensions
of faith for all to find.
The kingdom is upon us!
Stirred by the Spirit’s breath,
we glory in its freedom
from emptiness and death;
we celebrate its purpose,
its mission and its goal,
alive with the conviction
that Christ can make us whole.
Robert Willis (b. 1947)