O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Lord of creation,
whose glory is around and within us:
open our eyes to your wonders,
that we may serve you with reverence
and know your peace at our lives’ end,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Where can I go then from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me,
your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will cover me
and the light around me turn to night,’
Even darkness is no darkness with you;
the night is as clear as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike.
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 10.13-16
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’
Yesterday we reflected upon Jesus commissioning seventy believers to journey in love and peace as they spread the Good News of the gospel. Jesus assured his followers that the harvest is plentiful, in other words, that there are many who want to hear the message he brought to earth. Of course, Jesus was not a starry-eyed idealist. Jesus knew that there would be those who would reject him and his messengers. As he sent out the seventy he told them that where they were rejected they should wipe the dust of such communities from their feet. Jesus knew that the Christian mission to the wider world would not be easy.
As the centuries have passed, different interpretations of how the love, peace and forgiveness of God might be experienced in this world. For some, the heresy of universalism provides a level of comfort that contradicts the message of today’s reading. Those who espouse universalism believe that to profess a faith in Christ is sufficient to earn God’s forgiveness for ever. For those who hold on to such a doctrine there is nothing else to do. For such people we just have to feel that we are able to commit ourselves to Christ and then go on living the same old life, because God has, once and for all, forgiven our sinful ways. Put in these terms it is not difficult to see why universalism is a heresy. If it were the truth we would never have to pay any attention to passages from scripture such as that which describes the sending out of the seventy.
Today’s reading ends with a stark warning. If we do not heed the message that Jesus has brought to us, we will be subject to the harshest of judgements. To profess the Christian faith is to accept a challenge. To live the Christian life is to set aside our self-reliance and to travel the path of love, peace, service and self-sacrifice that was modelled for us by Jesus himself. Entering into a relationship with God is not a one-off moment in our lives. As we seek to journey closer and closer to God we need to accept that we are called to take risks and to suffer the inconvenience of putting the needs of others before our own.
I pray that we might all find the strength and the courage to avoid the condemnation that awaits those who cannot separate themselves from their own desire for comfort and self-satisfaction.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to the Lord who has appointed us to serve him as his disciples in our time.
Keep the Church faithful, to trust only in the Cross of Christ. Fill your people with love for one another and with zeal to spread the Gospel to all people.
Bless those who travel. Keep them safe as they journey and guide them on their way. Guide and protect all missionaries and bless those who support them.
Give us the grace of hospitality, that our homes shall be places of welcome. Give us power to speak of the good news which we have received to those with whom we live and work.
Visit and relieve the homeless and the wanderers who have no place to rest. Be merciful to all who find doors shut against them because society has rejected them. Bless those who try to reach out to them in their need.
Look with mercy on those who have come to the end of their earthly journey. Receive them into their true home, to share the joy of the heavenly feast.
We pray in the name of Christ to be his faithful labourers.
Prayer for the week
we pray for all who are any way troubled at this time,
and especially for those known to us.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We ask it in Christ’s name.
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.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief and pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Stille meine Wille, dein Jesus hilft siegen
Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel (1697–after 1768)
translated by Jane Laurie Borthwick (1813–1897)