O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
teach us to be faithful
in change and uncertainty,
that trusting in your word
and obeying your will
we may enter the unfailing joy
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
As the deer longs for the water brooks,
so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, even for the living God;
when shall I come before the presence of God?
My tears have been my bread day and night,
while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’
Now when I think on these things, I pour out my soul:
how I went with the multitude
and led the procession to the house of God,
With the voice of praise and thanksgiving,
among those who kept holy day.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul,
and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God;
for I will yet give him thanks,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
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 14.1, 7-11
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Just as the Pharisees watched Jesus when he dined with them, so Jesus was observing the behaviour of his fellow diners. There was, however, a difference between what the Pharisees were looking for and what Jesus actually saw. The Pharisees hoped to observe Jesus committing some faux pas that would prove his unworthiness and contempt for Jewish religious rules. Jesus was simply seeing people as they are. He was observing their behaviour, which demonstrated their disregard, even contempt, for God.
I am often told by those I am speaking to just how much they enjoy ‘people watching’. Writers and journalists often say the same. So many people are fascinated by observing the minutiae of the behaviour of other people. But, I often wonder when I am told of someone’s love of this pastime: what is it that you are actually looking for?
Sadly, the honest answer to that question would so often be a hope that someone else ‘might get it wrong’; that they might embarrass themselves by sitting at the place of honour and then having to move to make way for someone else.
Most human beings demonstrate an alarming propensity for awarding themselves a dignity to which they are not entitled. Such a sense of importance may be rooted in wealth or upbringing, or it may stem from a strong and distorted competitive streak. Whatever its origins, such behaviour can only be described as the sin of pride. Pride, the sin which erects barriers between us and God because it involves putting ourselves in the seat of honour, the place that really belongs to God alone.
When Jesus came to earth he did not only bring a message of love. Jesus also brought a message of humility and service. That is the message that, alongside love, should be at the heart of all we say and think and do.
So, where are you sitting right now? Is it at the head of the table, or is it on the floor, alongside Jesus, as he washes the feet of those who call him Master?
Prayers of Intercession
In penitence and humility, let us pray to the Lord.
Strengthen your Church in the assurance of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever. May she continually offer through him the sacrifice of praise. Keep your people in love and fellowship with one another, but always ready to receive and welcome strangers.
Come with power into the world where so many live in suspicion and distrust. Heal the old hostilities that still divide races and nations. Come to those who are proud in their power or wealth, and show them that all things are from you alone.
Bless us in our families with the grace of hospitality. Keep us always open to those who call upon us for help, whoever they may be. Give us good will towards all our neighbours.
Have mercy on those who are deprived and rejected through poverty or disability. Help all who are working towards a more just society.
We give thanks for those who have died secure in the faith of Christ. We pray too for those whose hearts were closed to him in this world, that they may receive mercy at the last.
We make our prayers through Christ, who has called us to share the eucharistic feast.
Prayer for the week
We thank you, Lord,
for calling us to be your witnesses:
grant us the courage and the love
to be obedient and faithful to that calling.
We pray that our lives may bear witness
to your love shown in Jesus Christ,
and that our witness may reflect your light
in the communities in which we live and work,
to 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.
Blest are the pure in heart,
for they shall see our God;
the secret of the Lord is theirs,
their soul is Christ’s abode.
The Lord, who left the heavens
our life and peace to bring,
to dwell in lowliness with men,
their pattern and their King;
Still to the lowly soul
he doth himself impart,
and for his dwelling and his throne
chooseth the pure in heart.
Lord, we thy presence seek;
may ours this blessing be;
give us a pure and lowly heart,
a temple meet for thee.
John Keble (1792–1866) and others