O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:
teach us to hear your voice
and to follow your command,
that all your people may be gathered into one flock,
to the glory of God the Father.
His foundation is on the holy mountains.
The Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of you,
Zion, city of our God.
I record Egypt and Babylon as those who know me;
behold Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia:
in Zion were they born.
And of Zion it shall be said, ‘Each one was born in her,
and the Most High himself has established her.’
The Lord will record as he writes up the peoples,
’This one also was born there.’
And as they dance they shall sing,
‘All my fresh springs are in you.’
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.
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’
I have told you, and you do not believe.
What does it take to convince you of something? What do you believe in? Where do you place your faith? Do you believe in those who are nearest and dearest to you, or do you believe only in that which you can hold and possess? Is there anything in which you have faith, something which you can neither hold nor possess and yet which underpins the way in which you live out your daily life?
These are challenging questions because we live in a sceptical age, an age where we have become convinced of the need for incontrovertible proof before we believe, before we have faith. Since our celebration of the resurrection on Easter Day we have been offered a variety of readings from scripture which focus on our belief in Jesus’ resurrection, on our faith in a life-giving and redeeming God.
Throughout his ministry Jesus made it abundantly clear that he was the one who was fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah who was to redeem the world. He foretold all that happened to him during the events of Holy Week, and his subsequent overcoming of the power of death. He did not only say that these events would happen, he also related his words to the scriptures that were supposed to provide the firm foundation for a faithful life. But, he was not believed. People did not have faith. Should we be surprised by this, though?
Let us put ourselves in the position of those who heard Jesus teaching, those who witnessed his miracles and acts of healing. Jesus, the wandering teacher, and his band of faithful followers would not have been an unusual sight in that early first century world. Many ‘messiahs’ offered much to those who would commit themselves to discipleship. The difference with Jesus was that his message was not one of power and wealth, he was not interested in leading an army against the Roman oppressors. Jesus’ intention was to bring a new message of forgiveness and hope to humanity, even if that same humanity had to endure great suffering first.
Put in these terms, Jesus was not offering much to a world in need of relief and joy. Those who travelled with him would have seen inexplicable things happen, but the world of ‘magic’, that which deceives rational observation, would have been familiar. Even the healings may have had a logical explanation! Then Jesus offered a totally counter-cultural message of love for all, even for one’s enemies. How could any rational human being have faith in that? Just as today, everyone knew that it was a matter of the survival of the strongest!
But … Jesus’ message was not for those who struggled to accept that things can and do happen which defy our ability to explain and understand. Jesus’ message is for those who can learn to believe and to have faith in the inexplicably powerful. Jesus’ message is for all who can set aside their worldly priorities and give thanks that he lived and died for each and every one of us.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray for the Church and the world, held in the almighty hand of God.
As our Lord walked in the Temple on the Feast of the Dedication, so may his Church be renewed in dedication to his service. Strengthen her ministers to be good shepherds in their care of his flock.
We pray for those in authority, and for all people. Gather them into one fold, that all nations and all races may live together in peace.
Be close to us, our families and friends, and hold us safely in the hand of the divine protection. Give harmony and mutual care to all who live or work in this community.
Have mercy on those who wander in the world, unsure of their way and not knowing in whom to put their trust. Come with healing love to all who are sick and afflicted in body or mind.
We give thanks for the departed who have heard and responded to the voice of Christ in this world. Grant them the eternal life that is promised to all who follow him in penitence and faith.
We pray in the name of Christ who calls his sheep to be at his side.
Prayer for the week
risen from the dead and alive for evermore:
stand in our midst as in the upper room;
speak your peace to our hearts and minds;
and send us forth into the world as your apostles;
for the glory of your 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.
Thee may I set at my right hand,
whose eyes my inmost substance see,
and labour on at thy command,
and offer all my works to thee.
For thee delightfully employ
whate’er thy bounteous grace hath given,
and run my course with even joy,
and closely walk with thee to heaven.
Charles Wesley (1707–1788)