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.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
for it is good for the just to sing praises.
Praise the Lord with the lyre;
on the ten-stringed harp sing his praise.
Sing for him a new song;
play skilfully, with shouts of praise.
For the word of the Lord is true
and all his works are sure.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the loving-kindness of the Lord.
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
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 12.49-53
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
Chapters 11 and 12 of Luke’s gospel make difficult reading. Chapter 11 opens with Jesus giving us the perfect model for our prayer life, and then a challenging journey begins. Jesus criticizes Pharisees and lawyers for their superficial and self-interested attitude to the responsibility of spiritual leadership. Then, Jesus turns his attention to us. This week we have been warned about the dangers of worry, greed and selfishness with our God-given gifts and talents. Today, Jesus’ presents us with the starkest of warnings in relation to the way we view the various allegiances we feel we have to our fellow human beings and God.
There are many who portray their Christian faith as a comfortable journey with a dear friend and companion. They go to church, when it is convenient, and they occasionally read their bibles and pray. They do their best to get along with other people, but regularly fall short of loving and forgiving enemies and neighbours. Sometimes they give time, talents and treasure to worthy causes, but they remain very judgemental of many who need their help the most. In fact, they wrap up their Christian faith in a reasonably sized box and make sure that it only gets opened when the challenges aren’t too great. One thing is certain of such comfortable Christianity – it comes nowhere near facing the stark reality of true discipleship.
Today, Jesus presents us with a picture of what such discipleship might well look like. Jesus spells out that his Incarnation was intended to shake things up. Over the last six months we have constantly encountered Jesus teaching us a new way of living. Jesus came to show us how we should be striving to shape our relationship with God, he did not come to pat us on the back and say: ‘Well done!’ This is thrown into sharp relief when we read of how even the closest of families may be split asunder over matters of faith. So often I see good Christian people do anything to avoid ‘offending’ friends and family by speaking about their faith. Such people often believe that, by avoiding conflict and criticism, they are treading the path of peace and goodwill. Today, Jesus is telling us that that is wrong. Today, we are being told, in no uncertain terms, that even if it causes division, it is our Christian duty to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ whenever and wherever we can.
So, when was the last time we avoided speaking of Jesus? When was the last time we stood up for the Christian message even though the result was contempt and conflict? Be assured that God will be with us through the difficult times, but also be assured that keeping quiet and not following the path of discipleship does nothing other than distance us from God.
Prayers of Intercession
For peace and unity in the Church and in the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Grant unity to the Church, healing the divisions which hinder her work and witness. Guide her people to discern the signs of the present time and give them strength to persevere in the service of the gospel.
Bring the leaders of nations to a common purpose and a desire for peace. Give them wisdom to avoid conflict while there is yet time, that all people may live in security without fear of war.
We pray that love and harmony shall prevail in our homes and in the homes of our friends and neighbours. Make us channels of peace when we meet anger and disputes in our work and with any whose lives touch our own.
Look with compassion on broken families. Grant reconciliation in the quarrels that have severed those who were once united in love. Bring back to their homes those who have left them in anger.
We remember all who have departed this life. Have mercy on those who died unreconciled, and give them the peace which they could not find on earth.
May our prayers be accepted in Christ.
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.
We have a gospel to proclaim,
good news for all throughout the earth;
the gospel of a Saviour’s name:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.
Now we rejoice to name him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth.
This gospel-message we proclaim:
we sing his glory, tell his worth.
Edward Joseph Burns (b. 1938)