O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.
Psalm 66.7-8, 14-18
Bless our God, O you peoples;
make the voice of his praise to be heard,
Who holds our souls in life
and suffers not our feet to slip.
Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for my soul.
I called out to him with my mouth
and his praise was on my tongue.
If I had nursed evil in my heart,
the Lord would not have heard me,
But in truth God has heard me;
he has heeded the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer,
nor withheld his loving mercy from me.
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 crowd, ‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
At different times in the year the Church’s calendar tells us that we are to mark Ember Days. Ember days are moments in the year when we pray for those who are responding to God’s call in their life. The Ember Days tend to gather around the principal moments when men and women are ordained into the diaconate or the priesthood, but that is not exclusively the case. Ember days are sprinkled throughout the year and they serve to remind us that God’s call is not seasonal and that it is not focused solely upon those who are called to ordained ministry.
Jesus says to the crowd: No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me. The ‘drawing’ of which Jesus is speaking is often expressed in terms of ‘calling’. God calls to each and every one of us. God calls us into his service. As with any call on our time and talents we are not obliged to respond. We may feel that the demands that are already being made upon us are as much as we can bear. The worldly concerns that crowd in upon us are so often used as an excuse for us to enter the realms of ‘selective deafness’ when God comes calling.
We all know how it works. At some totally unexpected moment we ‘hear God’s call’, we sense his presence and we just ‘know’ that he wants us to respond in faith and joy. But … then comes those very human thoughts: it can’t be true! Why would God be speaking to me? God can’t really expect me to believe that he wants me to serve him! Doesn’t God realize how busy I am already? Our human capacity for making excuses seems to know no bounds, and yet God carries on calling.
Many people find great consolation in their Christian faith, but they keep it as a one-sided relationship. Yes, Jesus wants us to believe in him and to follow him in faith, but that is not the end of the story. Jesus also wants us to recognize the magnitude of the call that is coming from his heavenly Father. As the human Jesus accepted and responded to God’s call, so are we called to do likewise.
Of course, accepting the reality of God’s call is a big deal. It can be very inconvenient and it will always be scary. But, Jesus wants us to know that we are not left to make the journey into faithful discipleship alone and without sustenance. Jesus reminds us that he is the bread of life and that if we partake fully of that bread we will live for ever, that is, we will come to be one with Jesus in God’s glorious kingdom.
Let us pray that we might both hear and follow God’s call in our lives, bringing the joy and the light of Christ into the lives of others so that, in our time, we might rejoice in the fellowship of the risen faithful for ever.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to the Father through the Son in whom he has been revealed.
Cleanse the Church from all malice and dissension. Grant to your people the unity of purpose that will spread peace to others. Give to those you have called to your service grace to be ministers of the bread of life.
Look with compassion on the world where anger so often prevails over love, where false speech and evil words destroy human fellowship. Make all know the peace that is in Christ through his death for the life of the world.
In all our words, to families and friends, to neighbours and colleagues, help us to speak gently and with understanding. Bring reconciliation wherever in this community fellowship has been broken.
Have mercy on those whose lives are twisted by bitterness, and on all who cannot forgive others or cannot find freedom from personal guilt. Relieve them with the knowledge of redeeming love.
According to your promise, grant eternal life to those who have died in the faith of Christ. As they were strengthened by the bread of life in this world, grant them everlasting refreshment in your heavenly Kingdom.
We pray through Christ who has called us to himself and will raise us up to eternal life.
Prayer for the week
Eternal God, in whom is all our hope
in life, in death, and to all eternity;
grant that, rejoicing in the eternal life
which is ours in Christ,
we may face whatever the future holds in store for us
calm and unafraid,
always confident that neither death nor life
can part us from your love in 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.
Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my love be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?
John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)