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.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods will I sing praise to you.
I will bow down towards your holy temple and praise your name,
because of your love and faithfulness;
for you have glorified your name
and your word above all things.
In the day that I called to you, you answered me;
you put new strength in my soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
that great is the glory of the Lord.
Though the Lord be high, he watches over the lowly;
as for the proud, he regards them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you will preserve me;
you will stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;
your right hand will save me.
The Lord shall make good his purpose for me;
your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
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, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.
Today’s reading, when viewed alongside the readings for the next two days, is the beginning of a road map. It begins an itinerary that will lead us through the highways and byways of the Christian way of living with and for others.
At first glance it seems a simple instruction to follow: ‘Be nice to people because you would like them to be nice to you.’ But … is it really that simple?
What do we mean when we think of people being ‘nice’ to each other?
We know that we are all individuals with likes and dislikes, preferences and revulsions. Surely, these very human qualities present us with the first stumbling block to mutual and universal ‘niceness’! Even at this superficial level we catch a glimpse of the effort that might be involved in carrying out Jesus’ instruction. It is no good thinking of what we might be happy with and then passing it on to others. We need to develop a sensitivity to the likes and dislikes of those others, and then plan how we might adapt our preferences in order that those others might experience the same level of delight as we do. Even at this stage there is work involved.
Another issue that could give rise to problems as we strive to do to others as you would have them do to you lies in our ability, or inability, to love ourselves.
Over the last year there has been much talk of the mental issues resulting from lockdowns, isolation and sheltering. A symptom of these mental issues has been a growing sense of self-pity, even self-loathing. If we have fallen into that trap we could easily find ourselves struggling to do good for others because we are struggling to remember what it is like to feel ‘good’ ourselves.
Of course, these are just potential problems when it comes to putting Jesus’ words into action. There are so many other negative human traits that might get in the way: greed, anger, apathy … Sadly, the list can go on and on.
But … today’s reading opens with the key which will unlock the door and level the rocky terrain for us. Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.
Jesus makes it clear that if you want to know the true joy of living in mutual Christian fellowship you just have to ask, or search, or knock. The full joy of Christian love and fellowship, for ourselves as well as for others, is available to all … you just have to really want it. You have to take your need, and your inadequacy, to God in prayer. Then you have to work in the way he directs you. Then you can experience the profound joy of doing and receiving according to God’s divine model of love and service to all.
Prayers of Intercession
As children of our heavenly Father, let us pray for the Church and for the world.
Guide your Church, rooted and grounded in Christ, in the way of the Gospel. As you have taught us to pray, keep us constant in prayer. Increase our faith, that we may bring our needs before you with perfect confidence.
Release all people from the selfishness of the closed door and the closed heart. Help them to care for the needs of others, knowing they are children of the same Father.
Give grace to us, our families, friends and neighbours, to be generous in giving. Teach us how to share our spiritual blessings and the good news of the Kingdom.
We pray for all those who feel excluded from the company of others. For those whose please for help in distress have been ignored. Give strength and perseverance to agencies of relief.
Receive the faithful departed who prayed on earth that their sins might be forgiven. As they were buried with Christ in baptism, may they rise with him to eternal life.
We make our prayer in the name of Christ, who has taught us how we should pray.
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.
Inspired by love and anger,
disturbed by need and pain,
informed of God’s own bias,
we ponder once again:
‘How long must some folk suffer?
How long can few folk mind?
How long dare vain self-interest
turn prayer and pity blind?’
God asks, ‘Who will go for me?
Who will extend my reach?
And who, when few will listen,
will prophesy and preach?
And who, when few bid welcome,
will offer all they know?
And who, when few dare follow,
will walk the road I show?’
John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)