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,
for he has done marvellous things.
His own right hand and his holy arm
have won for him the victory.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness
towards the house of Israel,
and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Sound praises to the Lord, all the earth;
break into singing and make music.
Make music to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the voice of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sound praises before the Lord, the King.
Let the sea thunder and all that fills it,
the world and all that dwell upon it.
Let the rivers clap their hands
and let the hills ring out together before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.
In righteousness shall he judge the world
and the peoples with equity.
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 21.12-19
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘They will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.’
Do you remember the school bully? The person who engendered fear in the hearts of those he or she perceived to be weaker than themselves. Perhaps you were the victim of the school bully or, perhaps, you were the school bully yourself. Do you remember the times in your life when you would say or do anything to be accepted by the fashionable crowd, the ones who seemed to carry a charisma and popularity so easily? Do you recall the moment when you finally saw those ‘influential’ people for what they really were? The moment when the scales fell from your eyes and you gained the sense of proportion that led you down the path of wisdom and integrity?
Today Jesus is continuing his warnings of the signs and persecutions that await those who profess a faith in him. Yesterday, Jesus spoke of those who would lead others astray. He was warning us not to blindly follow those whose charm might be described as magnetic, but whose integrity and faith would definitely be described as superficial or even non-existent. Today, Jesus is warning his followers, both present and future, of the persecution that will come from those who perceive them to be weak and ineffectual.
As in other passages from the gospel narrative, Jesus is not painting an attractive picture of discipleship. He speaks of his followers being arrested and persecuted, of imprisonment and betrayal. In fact, Jesus is portraying discipleship in a way that reminds us of the totalitarian state invented by George Orwell in his novel 1984, a state in which everyone is prepared to betray and persecute each other if it means a little more time of security and influence. How could anyone wish to be a follower of Jesus when confronted with the prospect of such a dire future?
If we read this short passage through to its conclusion, we come across a justification for our faith and our discipleship. Jesus promises that, for those of faith, not a hair of your head will perish. Yes, the bullies and the politically astute may persecute you to the end of your earthly days but, Jesus says: by your endurance you will gain your souls. As Jesus’ earthly life draws to its end, Jesus is not pulling his punches. He is warning us that we may well be called to follow him, even to the bitterest of ends. But, he is also promising that, for those who remain steadfast in their faith, there will be salvation and there will be a ‘coming home’ into God’s nearer presence.
It may not sound very attractive, it may sound intolerably daunting, but we are all called to remain steadfast and faithful and, if we do, there is the joy of eternal life awaiting us. So, let us stand up to the bullies and let us see the insincerity and shallowness of the fashionable and let us journey on as faithful disciples of Jesus.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God for protection and guidance in all dangers and perplexities.
Grant to your Church stability and peace, that she may faithfully guard the treasure for this present time yet always remember that at the last the things of this world will pass away. Keep all Christian people strong in faith, never weary in doing good.
Into a world where many exploit the labours of others, bring a new spirit of co-operation and mutual respect. May there be less concern for material riches, and a vision of your greater purpose for all.
Bless us in our families with shared love and loyalty at all times. Give us patience and wisdom in meeting neighbours and colleagues who are hostile to us. Make us more considerate of others, and more appreciative of those who work for the good of this community.
We pray for the victims of disaster, for the regions of the world where there is famine and epidemic disease. We pray too for those unjustly accused, who are in peril of suffering and death.
Have mercy on those who have died violently and unprepared. Grant them peace and new life in your Kingdom where there is no more pain or suffering.
Trusting in the mighty power of God revealed in Christ, we offer our prayers through him.
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.
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.
Rop tu mo baile, a Choindiu cride (Irish, 8th century),
translated by Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880–1931),
versified by Eleanor Henrietta Hull (1860–1935)