O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you know our struggle to serve you:
when sin spoils our lives
and overshadows our hearts,
come to our aid
and turn us back to you again;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
They made a calf at Horeb
and worshipped the molten image;
Thus they exchanged their glory
for the image of an ox that feeds on hay.
They forgot God their saviour,
who had done such great things in Egypt,
Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham
and fearful things at the Red Sea.
So he would have destroyed them,
had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,
to turn away his wrath from consuming them.
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 said to the Jews, ‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.
‘You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?’
I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.
Throughout the twentieth century, and up to the present day, there has been a steady growth in the culture of ‘fame’. With the development and increasingly easy transmission of recorded sound and the moving image there has been a parallel growth in the register of ‘famous’ people. For some the fame is justified, but not so for all. Some of those famous men and women have made a significant contribution to the evolution of the human intellect or to the social and economic security of the totality of humankind. Others are famous because large numbers of people have been manipulated into believing that their fame is both inevitable and justified. This latter definition of fame has the potential to bring about great harm to those who fall for its charms; it is also a definition of fame which Jesus warns against in today’s reading.
To those who believe, Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord and Saviour of us all. But, despite these grand titles by which he has come to be known, and despite the miraculous signs he performed during his earthly life, Jesus is not ‘famous’ in the contemporary sense of the word. Jesus’ life was simple and one of obedience. Jesus’ life was lived out as a servant to others and as an obedient child of his heavenly Father. Then, for those who may feel called to follow him, he speaks of self-denial and self-sacrifice. Jesus definitely does not sit easily in the modern world of celebrity culture.
Jesus’ path through this world is austere but, for those who cannot stomach the challenge, other ways are available. There are many men and women who offer much, even though they have nothing to back-up their promises. Even if the promises of contemporary celebrity culture are not spelt out in words of one syllable, there is an implicit false promise of ‘all that you see could be yours too’. The pop star, the fashion guru and the overtly self-confident base their fame on everyone else’s gullibility, just like the confidence trickster who defrauds the vulnerable out of all that makes their lives bearable.
Jesus does not promise fame, rather he promises a close relationship with his Father in heaven, that is God himself. Jesus does not promise great wealth, but he does assure us of eternal life in God’s nearer presence, if we can bring ourselves to share the little we have with those who have less than us. Jesus’ promises may not be wrapped in glamour and razzamatazz, but they are the greatest gift any of us can be given … ever!
Prayers of Intercession
In thanksgiving for the holy Scriptures, let us pray to the Lord.
Fill the Church with faith to live as the Bible teaches, and to proclaim the good news of salvation. Bless her ministers with the word of power through which all people may be brought to fulness of life.
Bless the work of missionaries and evangelists in all parts of the world. Keep them safe from harm and turn the hearts of those who receive them with hostility and suspicion.
We pray for grace so to read and to hear holy Scripture that our lives, and those of our families and friends, shall be rightly ordered. May the word of the Father, revealed through the Son, abide in us.
We pray for all who are persecuted for their fidelity to the word of God. Pardon those who through ignorance or ill-will turn the words of the Bible to false purposes, and restore them to the way of truth.
Receive the souls of those who have searched the Scriptures and followed their teaching through the paths of this world, finding in them the glory of God revealed. May they enter into the promise of eternal life.
We offer our prayers in the name of Christ, sent by the Father for our salvation.
Prayer for the week
be with us in our search for peace,
in ourselves and in the world you have made.
Diminish pride and increase humility;
weaken suspicion and nourish trust.
Deepen true love and understanding in every heart,
and unite us all as members of one family;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
I am the Light whose brightness shines
on every pilgrim’s way,
and brings to evil’s darkest place
the glorious light of day.
I am the Way, the Truth, the Life,
and truth shall set you free
to seek and find the way to life
and live that life in me.
Robert Willis (b. 1947)