O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Lord of creation,
whose glory is around and within us:
open our eyes to your wonders,
that we may serve you with reverence
and know your peace at our lives’ end,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 88.1-6, 11
O Lord, God of my salvation,
I have cried day and night before you.
Let my prayer come into your presence;
incline your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles;
my life draws near to the land of death.
I am counted as one gone down to the Pit;
I am like one that has no strength,
Lost among the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
Lord, I have called daily upon you;
I have stretched out my hands to 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.
Reading: Luke 9.57-62
As Jesus and his disciples were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
I will follow you wherever you go. How often have you made a promise on that scale? You have, in the heat of some highly charged emotional situation, committed yourself to a course of action that could bring about profound changes for the rest of your earthly life. Many people make just such a commitment when they exchange their marriage vows with the person they are committing to love, honour and protect for the rest of their earthly lives. But, many make such life-changing promises in other less carefully considered situations.
In this short passage from Luke’s gospel, we are being warned of the danger of making rash promises, and we are being warned that following Jesus is not an easy path to travel. Yesterday we considered the disciples’ argument over status, today we are being presented with other pitfalls that can hinder our journey of faith.
The making of promises is something we all do all of the time. Sometimes they are promises that will change our lives for ever, if we can bring ourselves to honour them. Other times they are minor commitments that may give us a moment’s peace from feelings of guilt or inadequacy. Far too often, when we look back, we will see that we are like those who made their excuses to Jesus for not immediately following him. In the fifth chapter of Luke’s gospel we hear of the call of Levi. In that brief account we read of the tax collector’s response to Jesus’ words: Follow me. Levi, we are told, got up, left everything, and followed him. Whether you read these words in the original Greek or in a modern English translation, they are the same. Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. Today we read of a very different reaction to the call of Jesus; we read of the making of excuses, of the erection of barriers, of doing anything other than fully committing to faithful discipleship.
As when we make excuses for not fulfilling promises that we have made, the excuses sound completely reasonable. In fact, Jesus paints such an unattractive picture of discipleship that, perhaps, we should not be surprised at the reactions of those he has called. However, we are in a different position from those in the gospel narrative. We know what will happen to Jesus. We know of the reality and the power of the resurrection. We know what our reaction should be to Jesus’ words: Follow me!
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to the Father who loves all races and nations of the world that he has made.
Bless the Church with growth in the pure liberty of the Gospel. Raise up in this and every generation true ministers of the faith. Grant that your people, walking in the Spirit, may be agents of love and peace to all.
Come to a world of much strife and envying, to set men and women free from all that makes them slaves of sin. Give peace between nations, that the power of destruction may be turned to power for good.
Preserve us, our families, friends and neighbours from anger and disputes. Let us live together in love and trust. Keep us firm in the faith to which we have been called.
Have compassion on refugees and others who have lost their homes. Be with all whose work brings them into dangerous and hostile places, and shield them from harm.
We commit to your mercy those who have died in the flesh, now to be united with Christ in the spirit. Comfort those who mourn at this time for parents or other loved ones.
Looking ever forward in the service of Christ, we make our prayers through him.
Prayer for the week
we pray for all who are any way troubled at this time,
and especially for those known to us.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We ask it in Christ’s 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.
Take up thy cross, the Saviour said,
if thou wouldst my disciple be;
deny thyself, the world forsake,
and humbly follow after me.
Charles William Everest (1814–1877)