O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
whose steadfast love never ceases
and whose mercies never come to an end:
grant us the grace to trust you
and to receive the gifts of your love
new every morning,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Happy the one whose transgression is forgiven,
and whose sin is covered.
Happy the one to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
and in whose spirit there is no guile.
For I held my tongue;
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all the day long.
Your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
my moisture was dried up like the drought in summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and my iniquity I did not hide.
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all the faithful make their prayers to you
in time of trouble;
in the great water flood, it shall not reach them.
You are a place for me to hide in;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with songs of deliverance.
‘I will instruct you and teach you
in the way that you should go;
I will guide you with my eye.
‘Be not like horse and mule which have no understanding;
whose mouths must be held with bit and bridle,
or else they will not stay near you.’
Great tribulations remain for the wicked,
but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord;
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.
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.
When the crowd gathered in thousands, so that they trampled on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.
‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.’
We live in a world that seems to change on a daily basis, a world that leaves us confused and ever-seeking something different, exciting and new. The still comparatively new phenomenon of social media drives us on in our quest to be up-to-date in all that we say and think and do. That same social media has a more sinister side, though. It is not just informative, it also seeks to be influential. By that I mean that social media seeks to influence our thoughts and actions in a way that separates us from the reality in which we live out our daily lives. It gives us expectations that are not only unrealistic, but can also be self-destructive. And, very often, those expectations, which are rooted in self-obsession, are also destructive of our relationship with God.
Jesus warned the clamouring crowds of the yeast of the Pharisees, which he described as hypocrisy. ‘Hypocrisy’ is an interesting word because the Greek word ‘hypocrite’ is the word for ‘actor’. Jesus is saying that the Pharisees are actors, playing out the role of religious leaders whilst having no real faith of their own. These are powerful words, but they do resonate with the world we know, the world dominated by the power and influence of social media.
The teachings and strictures of the Pharisees were just as compelling and controlling as the effects of social media. Both centres of authority and power tell us how we should be living our lives; both centres of authority and power undermine our true worth. Jesus reminds us of that worth when he speaks of the lowliest and most plentiful of creatures being known to God and being valued by God. Jesus urges us to be strong in our faith, resisting the malicious influence of those who would weaken and, ultimately, take away our ability to decide for ourselves.
Let us pray that we might resist the power and influence of those who are rooted in this world. Let us pray that we might never forget our worth in the eyes of God. Let us pray that we might remain strong as we follow God’s way through this life, turning our backs on all that distracts and threatens the life of faith which is God’s gift to us all.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, the ruler of all, the beginning and the end.
Keep your Church free from temptation to conceal or darken the truth that she should proclaim. Shield us from error and false doctrine and from compromise with ways that are not yours.
Come with power to a world where many are led astray as they seek in other ways the assurance that you alone can give. Bring order to the confusion of their lives, and hope in their fears.
Give us gentle spirits, to help and comfort those with whom we live. Keep us, our families, friends and neighbours, in continual trust, not fearing what the future may bring.
Have compassion on refugees and all who have been force to flee from their homes. Protect especially the mothers and the little children. In your mercy, shorten the time of their distress.
Receive and pardon the souls of those who in this world followed the wrong paths and lived in error. Save them through the mercy of Christ who loved them although they did not know him.
We pray in the name of Christ.
Prayer for the week
Give peace in our time, O Lord:
peace and reconciliation among the nations;
peace and unity within the churches;
peace and harmony in our communities and homes;
peace and love in all our hearts;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
The Lord’s Prayer
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. Amen.