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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you call us to fullness of life:
deliver us from unbelief
and banish our anxieties
with the liberating love
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
He appointed a memorial for his marvellous deeds;
the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.
He gave food to those who feared him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He showed his people the power of his works
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are truth and justice;
all his commandments are sure.
They stand fast for ever and ever;
they are done in truth and equity.
He sent redemption to his people;
he commanded his covenant for ever;
holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
a good understanding have those who live by it;
his praise endures for ever.
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 11.15-26
Some of the crowds said of Jesus, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? – for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
‘When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting-place, but not finding any, it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.’
Too often we think we understand. We see or we hear, and then we convince ourselves that we ‘understand’. A child unexpectedly behaves out of character, or a friend seems too preoccupied to give us their undivided attention, or something out of the ordinary suddenly occurs and we convince ourselves that we “understand”. Our need for ‘understanding’ is so great that most of us cannot accept that what we are seeing or experiencing is really beyond our comprehension, outside our influence or control. This is the situation that confronts Jesus in today’s reading.
Those who opposed Jesus could not deny the evidence of their own eyes and ears. They saw and heard Jesus rebuking demons. They saw and heard those demons obeying Jesus as they obeyed no other. Those opponents of Jesus come to the ‘obvious’ conclusion (well, obvious to them!) that one of just two thing must be happening. Either Jesus was the bearer of God’s authority, or he was in some sort of power relationship with the devil. By latching on to the ‘in league with the devil’ option, Jesus’ opponents were seeking to distract people from the wonder of what he was doing, and what he really came to earth to do. Those opponents of Jesus were hinting at dark and sinister motives underlying all that he was doing. Those opponents of Jesus were hoping that the “there’s no smoke without fire” argument would discredit him and give them the victory they craved.
We are all susceptible to the errors of judgement made by those first century opponents of Jesus. We all like to think that we ‘understand’ and that we can control the world in which we live. We all struggle with the fact that we can neither understand nor control God. We are also all guilty of making assumptions about people and situations. Yes, we too often say to ourselves: there cannot possibly be smoke without fire: he or she must be guilty; that situation must be his or her fault.
Today’s reading contains a dire warning for us all. We need to accept that we can neither understand nor control every situation we encounter. Sometimes we just have to accept that God does know best, even when that takes us completely unawares! We should also take note of the way our assumptions can damage others. To ‘assume we know’ is to fall far short of God’s command to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, the source of healing and grace.
Give to your Church grace to be constant in all the duties laid upon her, while looking always to the greater calling beyond this world. Heal her divisions and make her one in love, so that no evil can enter.
Come to the rulers of this world and make them know themselves to be responsible only to you, the Ruler of all. Give to all who desire the good of humanity a shared will and a common purpose to work freely together.
Be close to us in our families, healing the doubts and conflicts that may trouble us. Teach us also to know that all are members of our family, because they are yours.
Have mercy on those who have lost their power to resist the attacks of evil. Bless and enable those who work to relieve their suffering. Empower and protect exorcists and healers of mind and spirit.
As Jesus was raised from the dead, so grant resurrection and new life to those who have died trusting in him. Though their outward bodies have perished, clothe them in the new garments of salvation.
We pray through Christ, by whom we are healed and empowered to be his people.
Prayer for the week
Lord and heavenly Father,
make us mindful of your presence with us;
that we may draw near to you
with holy and humble hearts,
and offer prayers and praises
acceptable in your sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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.
God beyond earth’s finest treasures,
you alone shall have my praise;
I will love your cherished people,
I will serve you all my days;
be my ruler,
be my refuge,
God the guardian of my ways.
Martin Leckebusch (b. 1962)
based on Psalm 16