O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
our beginning and our end:
bring us with the whole creation to your glory,
hidden through past ages
and made known in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 40.7-10, 17-19
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire
but my ears you have opened;
Burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you have not required;
then said I: ‘Lo, I come.
‘In the scroll of the book it is written of me
that I should do your will, O my God;
I delight to do it: your law is within my heart.’
I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation;
behold, I did not restrain my lips,
and that, O Lord, you know.
Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad;
let those who love your salvation say always,
‘The Lord is great.’
Though I am poor and needy,
the Lord cares for me.
You are my helper and my deliverer;
O my God, make no delay.
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 departed with his disciples to the lake, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted: ‘You are the Son of God!’
Today’s reading opens with Jesus needing space, physical space. He has been bringing healing into the lives of many; his fame has spread far and wide. Wherever he goes he is confronted with crowds of people jostling for their moment of healing and renewal. The crowds had become so big that Jesus had to plan for his own space and for the safety of those who accompanied him.
It must have been so exciting to have the opportunity of coming into Jesus’ physical presence, of feeling his healing touch, of knowing the profound joy of being ‘renewed’. But, as we seek to place ourselves in the midst of those crowds we have to be careful. Jesus’ healing touch was not about ‘ahead of its time’ medical practice. Jesus’ healing touch was about the miraculous removal of physical ailment and disability, and it was also about an engagement with spiritual healing, and that can be a very dangerous engagement indeed.
It is not uncommon to hear people cry out to God when they are in great need. However, when God answers their prayers they quickly return to the secular. Rather than seeing their desperate prayers as having been answered, they talk of good luck and other non-divine and superstitious interventions. With the completeness of God’s healing touch comes the opening of those dangerous paths which can be so easily exploited by unclean spirits.
Human beings constantly find themselves being faced with temptations which, if followed, will distance them from God. This confrontation with temptation, this encounter with unclean spirits, becomes all the more real when we have experienced the true presence of Christ in our lives. Those unclean spirits will do all they can to cause us to behave in a way that is untrue to both our divine and our human calling.
Having recognized the danger we all face in the form of unclean spirits we also need to observe that they are the ones that see Jesus for who he really is: the Son of God. The challenge for us today comes in different stages: we need to invite God into our lives in order that he might heal us; we need to rejoice in that divine healing; we need to be aware of the unclean spirits who know Jesus for who he really is and that are gathering to tempt us away from him; we need to close the circle by remaining steadfast in our faith. Not an easy circle to close, but one that will bring us the true joy of knowing the completeness of Jesus’ healing touch in our lives.
Prayers of intercession
Gracious God, fountain of all wisdom, we pray for all Christian people; for our Bishops, for all Christian leaders, and for those who teach and guard the faith. May the word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts, and knit us together in the bond of your love.
We pray for the leaders of the nations, and for those in authority under them. Give them the gift of your wisdom, and a right discernment in all things.
We pray for our community; for those who live and work here, and for those who visit this place. Speak your word of peace in our midst, and help us to serve one another as Christ has served us.
We pray for those who do not believe, and yet who long to know you, the very Word of life. Open their ears to hear your voice, and open their hearts to the knowledge of your love in Christ.
We pray for those bowed down with grief, fear or sickness. May your living Word bring comfort and healing to all those in need.
We give thanks for all those who have died in the faith of Christ and we rejoice with all your saints, trusting in the promise of your word fulfilled.
Lord of life, hear our prayer, and make us one in heart and mind to serve you with joy for ever.
Prayer for the week
To your keeping, O Lord God,
we commend all whose enjoyment of life
has been taken away by sickness,
by tragedy, or by the sin of man.
May your love sustain them in their suffering,
and may your people care for them
in the name of 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.
Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
one here will constant be,
come wind, come weather;
there’s no discouragement
shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent
to be a pilgrim.
Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
can daunt his spirit;
he knows he at the end
shall life inherit.
Then, fancies, fly away;
he’ll not fear what men say;
he’ll labour night and day
to be a pilgrim.
John Bunyan (1628–1688)