O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God, our judge and saviour,
teach us to be open to your truth
and to trust in your love,
that we may live each day
with confidence in the salvation which is given
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let your faithful love come unto me, O Lord,
even your salvation, according to your promise.
Then shall I answer those who taunt me,
for my trust is in your word.
O take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your judgements.
So shall I always keep your law;
I shall keep it for ever and ever.
I will walk at liberty,
because I study your commandments.
I will tell of your testimonies, even before kings,
and will not be ashamed.
My delight shall be in your commandments,
which I have greatly loved.
My hands will I lift up to your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.
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 11.37-41
While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.’
Yesterday we heard of Jesus inviting us to repent, that is turn around and follow the path God has laid for us to travel along. Jesus wrapped that invitation up in references to well-known figures from the Hebrew scriptures, that collection of writings we call the Old Testament. Today’s reading tells us of the ensuing exchange between Jesus and a Pharisee.
The Pharisees were those who studied and enforced the law, as revealed in Jewish scripture, to the ultimate degree. The Pharisees, throughout the gospel narrative, are at the forefront of those who criticize Jesus’ teaching of a new way of entering into a closer relationship with God. And yet, following his warnings and his references to Jonah and Solomon, Jesus is invited to dine with a Pharisee.
It is not made clear whether the Pharisee’s invitation had the ulterior motive of trapping Jesus in some sort of theological snare, or whether it was a spontaneous response to Jesus’ powerful words. Whatever the intention, the invitation was extended and accepted. But … old habits die hard. The Pharisee could not stop himself from criticizing Jesus for not observing one of the most basic Jewish rites of purification. Jesus, on entering the Pharisee’s home, did not wash before sitting at the table to eat.
Jesus would certainly have known of this ritual, and he would undoubtedly have observed it many times in his life. But, not on this occasion. At this meal he laid himself open to the critical gaze of the Pharisee.
It is at this moment that Jesus directs the searing light of God’s wisdom into the darkness through which he is travelling. Jesus warns against allowing outward signs of piety taking precedence over genuine faith in God. When Jesus speaks of ‘giving alms from within’, he is speaking of us setting aside the spectacle of religious faith and switching our attention to living the ‘real’ Christ life of love and service.
Therein lies our challenge for today … are we ready to set aside the show of religious piety and give ourselves as a free-will offering of Christian love?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray that Christ may be seen in the life of the Church.
You have called us into the family of those who are the children of God. May our love for our brothers and sisters be strengthened by your grace.
You have called us to be a temple where the Holy Spirit can dwell. Give us clean hands and pure hearts, so that our lives will reflect your holiness.
You have called us to be a light to the world, so that those in darkness come to you. May our lives shine as a witness to the saving grace you have given for all.
You have called us to be members of your body, so that when one suffers, all suffer together. We ask for your comfort and healing power to bring hope to those in distress.
You have called us to be the Bride, where you, Lord, are the Bridegroom. Prepare us for the wedding feast, where we will be united with you for ever.
Prayer for the week
Give peace in our time, O Lord:
peace and reconciliation among the nations;
peace and unity within the churches;
peace and harmony in our communities and homes;
peace and love in all our hearts;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our 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.
Blest are the pure in heart,
for they shall see our God;
the secret of the Lord is theirs,
their soul is Christ’s abode.
John Keble (1792–1866) and others