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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you give us gifts and make them grow:
though our faith is small as mustard seed,
make it grow to your glory
and the flourishing of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 50.3-7, 14
Consuming fire goes out before him
and a mighty tempest stirs about him.
He calls the heaven above,
and the earth, that he may judge his people:
‘Gather to me my faithful,
who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.’
Let the heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.
Hear, O my people, and I will speak:
‘I will testify against you, O Israel;
for I am God, your God.’
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and fulfil your vows to God Most High.
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.
Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!’
I really enjoy doing crosswords. When I pick up a newspaper I always take a quick look at the crossword first. I like to see what sort of intellectual challenge lies ahead of me. Has this one been set by someone who thinks like me, or is it going to be a linguistic fight to the death? Am I going to know the satisfaction of completing the grid, or am I going to be wishing I could ask the setter for a different, more accessible clue?
In today’s reading we encounter the Scribes and the Pharisees asking Jesus for a more accessible and comprehensible clue. We also encounter Jesus saying, in effect: No! Work it out for yourselves!
Of course, those Scribes and Pharisees are surrounded by clues, they really do not need any more. The Hebrew scriptures, which we know as the Old Testament, is overflowing with relevant prophecies. Jesus himself is present with them. Through his teaching and signs of power he is bringing the Old Testament prophecies to life. But, despite all of those clues, the Scribes and the Pharisees just cannot see the answer they are looking for.
The day is coming when it will be impossible to miss the answer. When Jesus has died and then risen from the grave everyone will know the truth. But until then … human doubt, uncertainty and scepticism keeps the Scribes and the Pharisees from completing the puzzle.
Jesus does try to help them. He points them towards two easily understood stories from their own scriptures, but still the connections are not made.
So, how are we doing with the puzzle?
Are we so caught up in following our own agenda that we are missing the blindingly obvious?
Or … can we, at last, see who Jesus is and what he came to earth to do?
And if we are able to complete that puzzle, have we also found the strength and the determination to live the life of love and service that was modelled by Jesus himself?
Prayers of intercession
Righteous Father, through your Son we are adopted as heirs of your glory. Keep your Church faithful to this hope. Open our hearts to be receptive to your awesome presence.
Righteous Father, give to governments due proportion in guarding and protecting their people from those of evil intent. Turn all our hearts from ways of hatred to peace.
Righteous Father, your love shows compassion and restraint to children of your Kingdom and to those who would disrupt it. Give us the same patience and grace to be agents of your transforming love. Fortify us in the struggle of your dawning Kingdom.
Righteous Father, as we wait with longing for your glory, be with all who groan and endure hardship. Bring your light to our darkness.
Righteous Father, gather to yourself all whose earthly days have come to an end. May they shine in the brightness of your eternal glory.
Prayer for the week
Heavenly Father, whose Son taught us
that what we do for the least of his children
we do for him:
help us to see him and serve him
in the suffering peoples of the world,
and to love them for his sake,
who first loved us,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
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.