O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord and bless his name;
tell out his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations
and his wonders among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
he is more to be feared than all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are but idols;
it is the Lord who made the heavens.
Honour and majesty are before him;
power and splendour are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples;
ascribe to the Lord honour and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name;
bring offerings and come into his courts.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is king.
He has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it;
Let the fields be joyful and all that is in them;
let all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord.
For he comes, he comes to judge the earth;
with righteousness he will judge the world
and the peoples with his truth.
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 21.5-11
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
The disciples asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.’
Following on from yesterday’s account of the widow’s offering, Jesus turns his attention to the Temple in Jerusalem and the danger of being led away from God. Everyone who belongs to a church grows to love that church. As they become used to its ‘feel’ they fall in love with the comfort and reassurance it provides for them. On a much greater scale, that is what Jesus witnessed in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple, the holiest place of worship in the Jewish world, had much love and appreciation lavished upon it. As with many of our local churches, people cared for it and people endowed it with money. The glorification of the Temple became an end in its own right, just as is the case for some people in respect of their own local churches. It is in this context that Jesus speaks today.
As Jesus hears the proud statements of those who are admiring the Temple, he utters those words which would strike fear into the hearts of all who worshipped the magnificence of the building rather than the magnificence of God: not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down. Jesus then goes on to warn of the dangers of following those who worship the preservation of the building over the preservation of our relationship with God. He knows that those who promise ‘continuity’ rather than change will tempt people away from the unpredictable path that God has laid for us.
Over the years I have heard many people talk of the ‘threats’ that confront the church. When those comments are carefully considered, they often boil down to a threat to someone’s personal view of the church building. Our church buildings are important, but they are not the Church! They are buildings where Christians can gather in prayer and worship, buildings where they can recharge their spiritual batteries, buildings where they can be fed with the holy food that will sustain them as they journey in the outside world. But, a beautiful building is not essential for any of that.
When Jesus spoke of the destruction of the Temple he was not only speaking of the demolition of an impressive building, he was also talking about the fate that he was to face in just a few days. Jesus knew that humanity would not be able to face up to the challenge, or ‘threat’, that he posed to their preferred way of going on. Jesus knew that the voices of others, those who wielded the linguistic flexibility of politicians, would lead the crowds to cry out for his destruction. But, Jesus also remained certain of the path that humanity should be taking. We are called to follow the teachings of Jesus as the true word of God. We are not called to follow the person whose slick words appeal to our selfish ways. We are called to value that which is of true worth, rather than that which is the largest and most impressive. We are called to understand that the Church (the real Church) is a community of believers who find consolation in each other’s company and who are then prepared to risk their worldly power and wealth to spread the word and the love of God. I wonder where we fit in all this?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray for the peace of God in the Church and among the nations.
As your people come together for worship, fill them with your love and keep them faithful in that holy fellowship. Protect the Church from false doctrine and all that is contrary to your world.
Give to the world freedom from war and fear of war. Grant true judgement where there is injustice. Let all human endeavour that is wasted in limited aims be turned to your eternal purpose.
Protect this community from all false rumours and damaging gossip. Grant to us, our families, friends and neighbours, the full assurance of faith.
We pray for those who suffer from war and live in fear of violence. Have mercy on the victims of famine and natural disasters, and give strength to those who work for their relief.
Have mercy on all who have died and come to judgement, that in your mercy they may receive everlasting life. May the Blood of Christ make them clean from all their sins.
Trusting in Christ, the one true Messiah, we pray in his name.
Prayer for the week
Lord, you have blessed the world
by sending your Son into our midst
and by making all things new in him.
We ask you to give all people
the courage and power we need
to share fully in his mission to the world
and to further his kingdom in the lives of all,
to the honour and glory of his name.
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.
The kingdom of God is justice and joy,
for Jesus restores what sin would destroy;
God’s power and glory in Jesus we know,
and here and hereafter the kingdom shall grow.
God’s kingdom is come, the gift and the goal,
in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole;
the heirs of the kingdom shall answer his call,
and all things cry ‘Glory!’ to God all in all.
Bryn Rees (1911–1983)