Prayer for 23 March 2021

Preparation

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Praise

Gracious Father,
you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Psalm 102.1-3, 16-23

O Lord, hear my prayer
and let my crying come before you.

Hide not your face from me
in the day of my distress.

Incline your ear to me;
when I call, make haste to answer me,

Then shall the nations fear your name, O Lord,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,

When the Lord has built up Zion
and shown himself in glory;

When he has turned to the prayer of the destitute
and has not despised their plea.

This shall be written for those that come after,
and a people yet unborn shall praise the Lord.

For he has looked down from his holy height;
from the heavens he beheld the earth,

That he might hear the sighings of the prisoner
and set free those condemned to die;

That the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion
and his praises in Jerusalem,

When peoples are gathered together
and kingdoms also, to serve the Lord.

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
John 8.21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’ Then the Jews said, ‘Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ He said to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’ They said to him, ‘Who are you?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’ They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’ As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Reflection

Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all?’

How many times have you found yourself speechless with exasperation at the words and actions of others? How many times have you said, of felt like saying: ‘Why do I speak to you at all?’

In the gospel narrative we encounter a wide range of human emotions including, as in today’s reading, sheer frustration. Jesus was born into a human life and, as a human being, he experienced every emotion we experience time and time again. We should not be surprised by this because emotional responses are hard-wired into the way we co-exist with the rest of humanity. Like us, Jesus experienced humour, anger, disappointment and sorrow. Like us, Jesus experienced physical and emotional pain accompanied by feelings of betrayal and empathy. Like us, Jesus experienced feelings of emotional attachment and Christian love.

As the gospels bring us closer to Jesus they show us his infinite capacity to forgive, and to love. The original language in which the gospels were written uses a form of classical Greek. Unlike our language, Greek has the capacity to express the many different types of love in a lexicon of different words. The word that best expresses the love we see in Jesus is agape, an open, honest and accepting love that is centred around the needs of others rather than around the wants of self.

Up to this point in the story of Jesus’ earthly life, Jesus has sought to share the Good News he has brought from his Father in heaven. This Good News is a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. This Good News is a message of love. In the spirit of agape, Jesus has performed signs that have included acts of miraculous healing, and he has shared the new teaching that has the capacity to bring humanity into a closer relationship with God. But, the religious authorities of the day remain obdurate, stubbornly refusing to recognize that which is blindingly obvious … Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.

It is not difficult to imagine the frustration of the fully-human Jesus. As we, in our humanity, become exasperated that others will not listen to us, so it is easy for us to understand Jesus’ frustration when he is treated in the same way. It is a very human Jesus who wonders whether it is worth carrying on but, unlike us, the divine Jesus does not give up. He knows that his message is too important … it has to be shared.

Let us pray that we might hear and share Jesus’ life-changing message. Let us pray that we might not drive him into saying to us: Why do I speak to you at all?

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray to the Lord whose glory has been revealed throughout all ages.

Grant to your faithful people grace so to die to this world that they may obey you in all things to the end. Make your priests and ministers faithful followers of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, and servants of his new covenant.

As so many in the world seek for truth and cannot find the way, in your mercy reveal to them the hope that is in Christ. Write your laws in the hearts of all people, that they may fully know you and find forgiveness for their sins.

Grant to us and to all whom we love the spirit of obedience to the command of Christ. Help us to teach our neighbours and friends truly to know the Lord.

Have mercy on all who suffer, that they may know the sufferings of Christ and find comfort in him. Give light to those who value their worldly pleasures too highly, and lead them to find their true selves in you.

Grant your salvation to those who have died. Draw them to yourself, to be lifted up into eternal life.

We lift our voices in prayer through Christ who was lifted up for our salvation.

Prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God,
whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
triumphed in death on the cross
that he might win life for the world;
help us in the power of his victory
to triumph over evil
and to glory in his cross alone;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Amen.

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

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.

Hymn

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘I am this dark world’s light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all thy day be bright’:
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my star, my sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk
till travelling days are done.

Horatius N. Bonar (1808–1889)