O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
whose steadfast love never ceases
and whose mercies never come to an end:
grant us the grace to trust you
and to receive the gifts of your love,
new every morning,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the Lord God will say,
for he shall speak peace to his people and to the faithful,
that they turn not again to folly.
Truly, his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth are met together,
righteousness and peace have kissed each other;
Truth shall spring up from the earth
and righteousness look down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give all that is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him
and direct his steps in the way.
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 12.35-38
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.’
Yesterday we read of a rich man whose foolishness and greed meant that he was far from ready for the time when he would be called to stand before God and account for his words and actions in this life. Today Jesus continues this theme. Today we are being challenged to be ever ready for that unforeseen and unpredictable moment.
Many of you will have watched the series Downton Abbey on television. Some of you may have watched an earlier depiction of the master/servant relationship in Upstairs, Downstairs. In those popular television stories that contrasted the life of the rich and their servants there was an underlying sense of the servants having to be in a constant state of readiness. Despite the similar stories of conflict and love being played out in the lives of both rich and poor, the servants had to be ever-ready to drop everything and wait on the whims and fancies of their employers. The servant/master relationship is one that has existed throughout history. It is a relationship that Jesus knows his listeners will understand when he speaks to us in today’s reading.
Jesus’ ministry on earth was short. We know that it ended in the most violent of ways. We also know that Jesus conquered broke the chains of death and rose again before ascending to his rightful place in heaven. What is sometimes forgotten is that Jesus promised to come again. The early followers of Christ expected that second coming to be in their lifetime. Two thousand years on we are still waiting. Of course, Jesus knew and knows when the moment of his return will be, but we do not.
After such a long period of waiting, we should not be surprised that people have watered down this aspect of Jesus’ teaching. Many of us will have encountered those who predict the second coming on a specific date only to be shown up by the inaccuracy of their predictions. However, that teaching is still there, it has not gone away, and today’s reading reminds us of that.
There will come a time for every one of us when our earthly lives will draw to a close. At that moment we will stand before God and be judged for the lives we have led in this world. This is not the cosy theology that some like to peddle but it is firmly rooted in scripture. We are challenged to be like the servants in those popular television series – constantly ready to serve our Lord and Master. The difference, of course, is that our Lord and Master is God himself, not a human whose whims and fancies serve no purpose other than to ensure his comfort. So, let us live this and every day, not in fear of meeting God, but in joyful expectation and always ready.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray that God will guide us, and bring us through obedience to his Kingdom.
Keep the Church always ready to respond to the call of God and to serve with zeal and humility. Grant that her ministers shall be faithful stewards of the spiritual treasures entrusted to them.
Give healing to the world where many are oppressed by concern for material things. Guide those who command and those who serve, that each shall live in harmony and seek the good of all.
Be with us in our daily work and bless those who work with us. May all who serve our community be watchful to give help where there is most need.
We pray for all whose work is hard, who toil for little reward and grow weary. Sustain them in their tasks, bring them hope, and give compassion to those who have power over them to ease their burdens.
Have mercy on those who have been called from this world. Grant them peace and a share in the unfailing treasure of heaven.
We offer our prayers through Christ, the Master who became the servant of all.
Prayer for the week
Most merciful God, we pray
for those who doubt your love;
for those who find it difficult to believe or to pray;
for those who have lost a faith they once possessed.
May the Holy Spirit enlighten their minds
and lead them into all truth,
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.
The Lord will come and not be slow,
his footsteps cannot err;
before him righteousness shall go,
his royal harbinger.
For great thou art, and wonders great
by thy strong hand are done:
thou in thy everlasting seat
remainest God alone.
John Milton the elder (c.1563–1647)
based on verses from Psalms 82, 85, 86