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.
Blessed are they who have not walked
in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.
Their delight is in the law of the Lord
and they meditate on his law day and night.
Like a tree planted by streams of water
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,
whatever they do, it shall prosper.
As for the wicked, it is not so with them;
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked shall not be able to stand in the judgement,
nor the sinner in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall perish.
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 11.42-46
Jesus said to the Pharisee, ‘Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’
One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.’
This week we have been challenged by Jesus, in the most direct and uncompromising of ways, to set aside human wisdom and show, and to become bearers (prophets) of God’s message in this dark and confused world. Today, there is no let up in that message.
To put the readings of today and tomorrow into context, we need to ask: ‘Who are the Pharisees in today’s world?’ First century Pharisees were certainly experts in Jewish law and practice, but they were more than that. First century Pharisees formed a socio-political pressure group that used its specialist religious knowledge to oppress and control others. It was the whole picture of what it meant to be a Pharisee that Jesus was criticizing.
The theologian Tom Wright sums up what Jesus is criticizing in these words: the detailed outward observance that left the heart untouched, the piety that boosted self-important, the pollution that appeared as clean and wholesome. In his critical observations of the Pharisees and the lawyers, Jesus was depicting a world of total devastation, a world totally devoid of God’s hope and joy.
In the face of this message we need to ask ourselves where Jesus would place us in the grand scheme of world affairs? As we go to church services, do we allow our hearts to be touched by God, or are we too busy being offended by the words and actions of other people? As we pray to God, do we try to enter into a deeper and deeper relationship with our Creator, or do we just want to be recognized as a ‘prayerful’ and ‘pious’ person? As we celebrate and rejoice in the wonder of God’s creation, do we value and honour that creation, or are we happy to squander and waste so much of what God has given us, even if that means others will go without?
So, where are we in the world? Are we with the Pharisees and lawyers, or are we with Christ? It is time we made up our minds and did something about it.
Prayers of Intercession
For his blessings on all that he has made, let us pray to the Lord.
Strengthen the Church to flourish like a tree planted by the water, bringing forth fruit to the glory of your Kingdom. Keep your people steadfast in trouble, always trusting in your promises.
Change and heal the inequalities and injustices of the world. Guide the rich that they may help the poor, and the well fed that they may relieve the hungry. Teach the powerful not to trust in their own strength but only in your love.
We pray for grace that we, our families and friends and neighbours, may hear and receive your word and walk in your way. Make us more worthy to be members of your Kingdom.
Grant healing to the sick in body or mind and empower those who minister to them. Be with those who are near to death and give them the assurance of resurrection.
Receive the souls of the faithful by the power of Christ, the first-fruits of those who have passed through death. Confirm our hope in him when we come to die.
We offer our prayers as those who come to Christ that they may be healed.
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.
In Christ now meet both east and west,
in him meet south and north;
all Christlike souls are one in him,
throughout the whole wide earth.
John Oxenham (William Arthur Dunkerley) (1852–1941)