O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:
open the doors of our hearts,
that we may seek the good of others
and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,
to the praise of God the Father.
Psalm 34.1, 15-end
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous
and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry and the Lord hears them
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted
and will save those who are crushed in spirit.
Many are the troubles of the righteous;
from them all will the Lord deliver them.
He keeps all their bones,
so that not one of them is broken.
But evil shall slay the wicked
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord ransoms the life of his servants
and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.
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.
John the Baptist said, ‘The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.’
The one who comes from above is above us all.
We live in strange times when it comes to matters of authority. We know that society needs structure if it is to thrive. We also know that that structure tends to be hierarchical in nature, that there is a need for generals just as there is a need for privates. In other words, we know that we have an equal need for trained and experienced leaders whom we can trust to exercise authority wisely and for the good of all, and for the many faithful followers who are prepared to be led into creating a healthy and fully-functioning society. Of course, all this sounds eminently sensible to most people but … for this model to work there needs to be both compliance and humility.
Superficial study of world history would suggest that, in earlier times, compliance and humility were not the issue they are today. But … we should never forget that we are reading history as recorded by the powerful and the successful. Ordinary people have always struggled with the notion of meek obedience, particularly when it entails discomfort, pain and self-sacrifice. Sometimes that struggle has led to bloody revolution and ruthless suppression. At other times, a demoralised majority has been cowed into compliance through fear and violence. Humanity was given free-will by God and does not give up that free-will lightly.
In today’s reading we hear John the Baptist guiding us away from the path of disobedience and rebellion. Instead of relying solely on our own wisdom and resources John tells us that there is a better course to steer. John was the herald of the Messiah, the One who existed before this world was created; the One whose rightful place is at God’s right hand; the One who models the perfect way to co-exist in this troubled and divided world; the One who set aside his own glory and power for the greater good of humanity, his own wondrous creation.
We live in times of both great freedom and much constraint. We often speak of our ‘rights’, but we rarely temper such speech with a reflection upon our responsibilities. Today John the Baptist is reminding us that there is One against whom we should never rebel, and whose will for humanity should be our unwavering top priority. Two thousand years ago God himself stepped into our world and gave us the perfect route map to lead us into the closest of relationships with him.
Let us pray for the wisdom, the courage and the strength to don the cloak of humility and faithfully follow where the One who is above all leads.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to the Father who sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
Protect the Church with the whole armour of faith and righteousness. Strong in the Spirit, may your people work powerfully for the coming of your Kingdom. Keep us firm in loyalty to Christ, the Word of eternal life.
Bring peace to the many places of strife in the world. Turn the hearts of those who take the weapons of destruction, and give them a truer vision. Bless all who work for peace.
Grant to our families the security that can come only from faith. Bless us, our friends and neighbours, and be our sure defence against all evil.
Pity and pardon those who have lost the faith which they once held. Come to them with the assurance that, though they have forsaken you, you will never forsake them and will bring them home.
We give thanks for those who, having come to the Father through the Son, have entered into eternal life. Give them rest and peace now that the warfare of this world is over for them.
We offer our prayers through Christ, the Holy One of God.
Prayer for the week
We give thanks, O God our Father,
for the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord from the dead:
for his victory over sin and the grave;
for his risen presence in our daily lives;
for his promise of life immortal with him.
Accept our praise,
and teach us day by day to live rejoicingly
in the faith of him who died for us,
and rose again,
and is alive for evermore,
our Saviour 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.
Help us, O Lord, to learn
the truths thy word imparts:
to study that thy laws may be
inscribed upon our hearts.
Help us, O Lord, to live
the faith which we proclaim,
that all our thoughts and words and deeds
may glorify thy name.
Help us, O Lord, to teach
the beauty of thy ways,
that yearning souls may find the Christ,
and sing aloud his praise.
William Watkins Reid (1923–2009)