O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God, our refuge and strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease
and poverty and pain shall end,
that earth may know the peace of heaven
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that fills it,
the compass of the world and all who dwell therein.
For he has founded it upon the seas
and set it firm upon the rivers of the deep.
‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord,
or who can rise up in his holy place?’
‘Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,
who have not lifted up their soul to an idol,
nor sworn an oath to a lie;
‘They shall receive a blessing from the Lord,
a just reward from the God of their salvation.’
Such is the company of those who seek him,
of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
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 17.1-6
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, “I repent”, you must forgive.’
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.’
Today’s reading seems very relevant as we live through these challenging times of renewed lockdown. Having endured three months of restrictions earlier in the year, this second time around seems to be accompanied by many more people asking searching questions about motivations and practicalities. Despite the scientific and medical evidence many of us wonder if this is, indeed, the best course of action.
The reality is, of course, that none of us are in a position to understand. We all have opinions, but we have neither the facts nor the knowledge required to make informed decisions about the best way forward. We are forced to rely on those who are better informed and charged with the responsibility of leadership. But … we are all human beings. We all do have opinions. We all feel that we have the right not only to express our opinions, but also to live our lives in the spirit of freedom that is the blessing of living in this country. But … is that the responsible way forward?
Jesus understands the shortcomings of humanity. Jesus knows that we make mistakes. Jesus knows that, by following our personal instincts and inclinations, we lead others down paths that should not be trod. However, all is not doom and gloom. Rather than condemning humanity out of hand, Jesus offers us a warning. Jesus warns each of us to: Be on our guard! We need to be careful that, by exercising our ‘right’ to follow our personal instincts and inclinations, we are not forgetting that we also have a responsibility to love our neighbours as ourselves. We need to journey through these days with this warning ringing in our ears.
Jesus also offers us another message that is relevant in these times. Jesus wants us to be like him in recognizing that other people do ‘get it wrong’. But … we need also to be like him in giving them the room to repent, that is to turn from their mistaken ways, say sorry and reconnect with the rest of us as we move forward together.
So … as we live under new restrictions, let us not focus on the negative. Let us not decide to ignore the welfare and needs of others. Let us remember that, as well as rights, we have responsibilities. Let us be like Jesus in the way we love and nurture those with whom we share this life. Let us be like Jesus as we adopt a renewed attitude of love, acceptance and forgiveness.
Prayers of Intercession
Gracious God, fountain of all wisdom, we pray for all Christian people, for all Christian leaders, and for those who teach and guard the faith. May the word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts, and knit us together in the bond of your love.
We pray for the leaders of the nations, and for those in authority under them. Give them the gift of your wisdom, and a right discernment in all things.
We pray for our community; for those who live and work here, and for those who visit this place. Speak your word of peace in our midst, and help us to serve one another as Christ has served us.
We pray for those who do not believe, and yet who long to know you, the very Word of life. Open their ears to hear your voice, and open their hearts to the knowledge of your love in Christ.
We pray for those bowed down with grief, fear or sickness. May your living Word bring comfort and healing to all those in need.
We give thanks for all those who have died in the faith of Christ and we rejoice with all your saints, trusting in the promise of your word fulfilled.
Prayer for the week
you have shown us how great is the price of freedom
by giving your life to deliver us from evil.
Teach us to give to the uttermost;
to respect that which others have secured for us;
and to pursue peace in obedience to your will,
until all the kingdoms of this world come to you
as Lord and Saviour of all.
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.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore.
Lord, speak to me, that I may speak
in living echoes of thy tone;
as thou hast sought, so let me seek
thy erring children lost and lone.
O use me, Lord, use even me,
just as thou wilt, and when, and where,
until thy blessèd face I see,
thy rest, thy joy, thy glory share.
Frances Ridley Havergal (1836–1879)