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.
Psalm 51.1-5, 17-18
Have mercy on me, O God, in your great goodness;
according to the abundance of your compassion
blot out my offences.
Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
So that you are justified in your sentence
and righteous in your judgement.
For you desire no sacrifice, else I would give it;
you take no delight in burnt offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
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 crowds, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!’
The word ‘hero’ used to be used as a way of distinguishing between the ordinary and the extra-ordinary. We could be certain that someone acclaimed as a ‘hero’ had exceeded the bounds of what might reasonably be expected of him or her. To be called a hero meant that others recognized just how far one had gone in the selfless service of others.
Today things are different. The word ‘hero’ seems to be defined in an alternative way. ‘Hero’ used to describe the personal, now it describes the general. So often, those whom the media herald as heroes are merely doing their jobs, they have not made a specific personal contribution that has taken them through the boundary that might reasonably justify their newly declared heroic status. Of course, the jobs that many of these people do offer many opportunities for heroism. But … there still has to be some sort of personal stepping out from the confines of the ordinary into the unknown depths of the personally extra-ordinary.
In today’s reading we hear reference to two ‘heroes’ of Jewish history, Solomon and Jonah. The wisdom of Solomon lives on to this day in our common language. It has been translated from the Hebrew and has become renowned down the ages as a wisdom that was exceptional and self-sacrificial.
A similar sense of self-sacrifice is associated with Jonah. Many of us know the story of Jonah and the whale … or we think we do. In reality, Jonah was called to be a prophet by God. He was called to go to a sinful land and proclaim God’s judgement on those people. Not surprisingly, Jonah was reluctant … but he went anyway.
Solomon’s wisdom came to him because he did not ask for worldly wealth and power. Instead, Solomon stepped away from what might have been his in order that he might claim a gift from God that could be used for the benefit of all. Jonah could not have been a more reluctant prophet, but he took God’s message into a strange and dangerous land, despite his reluctance, uncertainty and fear. Solomon and Jonah were heroes.
As we read today’s reading we are reminded of what we are called to do that is ‘out of the ordinary’, and that may indeed be truly heroic. We are also reminded of the extra-ordinary model we see in the earthly life and death of Jesus Christ.
The Son of God, the one who was with God in the very beginning of everything, stepped away from his heavenly power in order that he might share in the daily mess that is human life. Jesus is the ultimate hero. No one has or will offer us a greater role model or heroism than the one who gave everything to save the whole of humanity, for the whole of time.
Let us not get trapped in the superficial glory of mundane heroism. Instead, let us pray to God that he may choose us to step into the extra-ordinary and share his love, light and joy with others.
Prayers of Intercession
In the power of the Spirit let us pray to the Father through Christ the saviour of the world.
For forgiveness for the many times we have denied Jesus, let us pray to the Lord.
For grace to seek out those habits of sin which mean spiritual death, and by prayer and self-discipline to overcome them, let us pray to the Lord.
For Christian people, that through the suffering of disunity there may grow a rich union in Christ, let us pray to the Lord.
For those who make laws, interpret them and administer them, that our common life may be ordered in justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord.
For those who still make Jerusalem a battleground, let us pray to the Lord.
For those who have the courage and honesty to work openly for justice and peace, let us pray to the Lord.
For those in the darkness and agony of isolation, that they may find support and encouragement, let us pray to the Lord.
For those who, weighed down with hardship, failure, or sorrow, feel that God is far from them, let us pray to the Lord.
For those who are tempted to give up the way of the cross, let us pray to the Lord.
That we, with those who have died in faith, may find mercy in the day of Christ, let us pray to the Lord.
Holy God, holy and strong, holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.
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.
O worship the King, all glorious above;
O gratefully sing his power and his love;
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendour and girded with praise.
O measureless might, ineffable love,
while angels delight to hymn thee above,
thy humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
with true adoration shall sing to thy praise.
Robert Grant (1779–1838), based on Psalm 104