O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God for whom we watch and wait,
you sent John the Baptist
to prepare the way of your Son:
give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord,
and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you have I hoped all the day long.
Remember, Lord, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions,
but think on me in your goodness, O Lord,
according to your steadfast love.
Gracious and upright is the Lord;
therefore shall he teach sinners in the way.
He will guide the humble in doing right
and teach his way to the lowly.
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 Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
As a species we are obsessed with authority, by which we mean influence and power. We like to be in charge. Even when we are lacking the basic knowledge and skills needed to exercise the authority we crave, we like to be in charge. This, of course, puts us on a collision course with others, and with God. Our desire to be recognized and ‘obeyed’ works in direct opposition to one basic fact that rules human life … God is the one in charge. It is for us to have the humility to acknowledge God’s omnipotence, and to seek, through prayer, the path that God wants us to follow … and no other.
As we journey through the liturgical season of Advent we are constantly reminded of two people who showed this humility: Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John the Baptist. These two great figures in the history of the Christian faith did not hesitate in giving themselves over to God’s will. Both Mary and John put themselves in considerable danger by their obedience to God’s will, and their standing in opposition to the religious and social norms of their day. They are the two first disciples; they are the two people we should be emulating in our daily lives.
In our places of work and leisure there are committees, management structures and other forms of hierarchical organisation. These are seen as being necessary for the smooth running of our worldly affairs. Even our churches are governed by similar control mechanisms … similar man-made mechanisms of control and self-importance. But, how often do we ask where God is in all of these committees and structures? How often do we step back and ask whether what we are doing is in accordance with God’s will?
In today’s reading, Jesus asks one question of the chief priests and elders, those ‘in control’ of the religious organisations of their day. Their response is not one of faith, rather it is one of human argument and manipulation. Instead of declaring that which would have demonstrated true faith, they played the game of human politics and power. They tried to work out which answer would be to their best advantage.
Let us pray that we might set aside our craving for influence and power. As we seek to serve the Lord, let us pray that we might do so in humility and love, never seeking to be the one ‘in charge’, but always ready to accept the load we are given by our loving Father in heaven.
Prayers of intercession
By the authority of Christ, given to his Church, let us pray to the Lord.
Give to the Church the spirit of service and humility by the power of Jesus Christ who became man for our sake. Keep your people obedient in all things, even to the death of the body.
Dispel the pride that holds people apart from people and nation from nation. Make your power acknowledged and your will accomplished through all the world.
Visit and heal with your love those whose lives come close to ours but are divided by pride and self-will. May the mind of Jesus direct us in all our relationships.
Help those whose suffering is the result of their own selfishness. Bring them out of their darkness into the freedom of obedience to your service.
We remember those who have followed Jesus until death. As he is highly exalted, raise them with him into your eternal presence.
Strengthened in our weakness by the divine humility of Christ, we make our prayers in his name.
Prayer for the week
Father in heaven, the day draws near
when the glory of your Son will make radiant
the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy
which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom
which fills the minds of those who find him.
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. 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.