O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
by the obedience of Jesus
you brought salvation to our wayward world:
draw us into harmony with your will,
that we may find all things restored in him,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord executes righteousness
and judgement for all who are oppressed.
He made his ways known to Moses
and his works to the children of Israel.
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
He will not always accuse us,
neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his mercy upon those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he set our sins from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so is the Lord merciful towards those who fear him.
For he knows of what we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.
Our days are but as grass;
we flourish as a flower of the field;
For as soon as the wind goes over it, it is gone,
and its place shall know it no more.
But the merciful goodness of the Lord is from of old
and endures for ever on those who fear him,
and his righteousness on children’s children;
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 saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Another of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’
Jesus’ words in today’s reading are often described as confusing or unclear. However, I would disagree with that … today’s reading is very clear, it is about our response to Christ’s call to discipleship and apostleship. It is about the clarity of Christ’s call and the lengths we go to in order that we might avoid that call.
In the first sentence of today’s reading there is an unfamiliar statement. Jesus: gave orders to go over to the other side. We do not usually think of Jesus as one who gives orders. We sanitize Jesus into someone who is loving, serving and self-sacrificial. Of course, that is all true, but that is to tell only part of the story. Jesus is also the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, who came to earth to bring about reconciliation, healing and a new covenant between God and humanity. Those aims could not be achieved without upsetting those who brought about the need for such a mission.
Jesus calls each and every one of us to love and serve in his name. He calls us to be his disciples, his followers. He also commissions us to be his apostles, his messengers. Such a call demands that we join him in living a life of unconditional love, willing service and self-sacrifice. Such a way of living flies in the face of our human instinct for survival and dominance. We like to be the ones who give the orders; we do not take kindly to having our lives organized for us by others. As we see in Matthew 8.23-27, obeying Jesus’ order to go to the other side, that is the other side of the Sea of Galilee, can be perilous. The perils of that large inland sea can only be met if we trust the one who gave the order, Jesus himself.
It is clear that many were moved to offer themselves in response to Jesus’ teaching and call, but Jesus knew their hearts, just as he knows ours. Our excuses for evading Jesus’ call in our lives may be different from those in today’s reading, but they are still just that, excuses. Let it be our prayer that as we discern Jesus’ call in our lives we might set aside the things of this world and set our eyes on obeying his order to make that journey, perilous or not, to the other side … the side that will bring us into the nearer presence of God.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray in confidence for the coming of God’s kingdom.
Bless the Church with growth in the pure liberty of the Gospel. Raise up in this and every generation true ministers of the faith. Grant that your people, walking in the Spirit, may be agents of love and peace to all.
Come to a world of much strife and envying, to set men and women free from all that makes them slaves of sin. Give peace between nations, that the power of destruction may be turned to power for good.
Bless us with constancy in our duties to one another, to our families, friends and neighbours and those with whom we work. May our lives together be a following in faith of the way where we are led.
We pray for the homeless, for refugees and all who have no place to lay their heads.
Have mercy on those who have recently been bereaved, and give them comfort in their loss.
Receive in mercy the souls who have passed on their way and departed from this world. As their bodies have been laid to rest, grant that their souls may rise to eternal life.
May our prayers be accepted through Christ as we seek to follow in his steps.
Prayer for the week
Lord of all,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
renew our hearts through your Holy Spirit,
that we may long to draw close to you in prayer,
that we may have the faith to hear your call on our lives,
and that we may have the courage
to tread the path you have set before us,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.
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