O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days
to grow in wisdom and prayer
that we may witness to your saving love
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure
and gives wisdom to the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure
and gives light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever;
the judgements of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold,
sweeter also than honey,
dripping from the honeycomb.
By them also is your servant taught
and in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can tell how often they offend?
O cleanse me from my secret faults!
Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins
lest they get dominion over me;
so shall I be undefiled,
and innocent of great offence.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
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 his disciples, ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
‘Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
‘Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
When did you last buy a copy of the Big Issue? Have you ever bought a copy of the Big Issue? Do you know what the Big Issue is?
When did you last contribute to the Food Bank? When did you last go to a shop with the express intention of buying supplies for the Food Bank? Do you really know what the Food Bank is?
When did you last make any sort of sacrificial contribution to help a stranger less fortunate than yourself?
In Stamford I regularly see a homeless lady offering the Big Issue for sale. I see her sitting on the ground, even in the pouring rain and bitter wind wishing people ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’ as she proffers her magazine to passers by. She is never aggressive or offensive. In fact, she is just quietly polite and hopeful. But, so often, I see those passers-by doing just that … passing by! In fact, many of them go to extraordinary lengths to pretend that that poor lady is not there.
Despite the generosity of many, I am often told that those who are so desperate that they have to ask the Food Bank for their next meal are nothing more than ne’er-do-wells and scroungers. I hear talk of their desperation and hunger being part of some deceitful charade that is being acted out to feed some sort of addiction.
I have sat through many Church Council meetings and listened to endless fatuous reasons why that group of ‘worthy Christians’ should not give food to the hungry or drink to the thirsty. Just as I have heard those same ‘committed Christians’ refuse to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, or visit those who are sick or in prison.
Thankfully there are many who do follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as we receive them in today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel. Comparatively few of those people think of their actions as being truly Christian … but they are.
So often I hear those avoiding the Big Issue seller, those who refuse to give to the Food Bank, and those who sit on parsimonious ‘Christian’ committees speak of charity beginning at home. They are, of course, correct, but not in the way they think. They have turned this beautiful adage into a weapon of mean-spiritedness. Charity begins at home is not about hoarding riches for ourselves! Charity begins at home is about us giving from our home, our hoarded riches, to those in need.
Whatever excuses and justifications we may concoct to justify our lack of compassion, Jesus Christ makes it absolutely clear what path we should be treading through this life.
Jesus Christ makes it absolutely clear that every act of generosity and kindness to those less fortunate than ourselves should be at the very heart of our commitment to him. The hope of those in need lies in our capacity to love and serve, just as Christ loves and serves us.
Prayers of Intercession
For the spirit of love and service, let us pray to the Lord.
Grant to the Church light to know the will of God and grace to perform it. Make all Christian people true followers of Christ in their lives day by day.
Fill the world with the spirit of compassion, that the powerful may use their power to help the weak. Break through the barriers that divide people and nations, and draw all together for the common good.
Give us deeper compassion, open our eyes to see the presence of Christ in all people. Grant us insight to know where we can give help in the needs of friends and neighbours and in all our community, and grace to offer it.
We pray for all who suffer, for the poor and hungry, for the sick and the homeless, for prisoners and those who have no one to care for them. Bring them relief in their misery and strengthen all who as individuals or organisations work for relief.
Have mercy on those who have passed from this world and come to judgement. Pardon their failures and receive then in the compassion of Christ. Grant mercy to us all when we are called to account at the end of our lives.
May our prayers be accepted in the name of Christ, our Judge and our Redeemer.
Prayer for the week
Most merciful God and Father,
give us true repentance for our sins.
Open our eyes to recognize the truth about ourselves;
so that acknowledging our faults,
our weakness and our failures,
we may receive your forgiveness
and find in your love the encouragement
to make a new beginning;
for the sake 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.
Hope of our calling: hope through courage won
by those who dared to share all Christ had done.
Saints of today, Christ’s banner now unfurled,
will bring his gospel to a waiting world.
Hope of our calling: hope with grace outpoured,
from death’s despair the gift of life restored;
our call to serve, to wash each other’s feet,
to bring Christ’s healing touch to all we meet.
Ally Barrett (b. 1975)