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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord is my shepherd;
therefore can I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
He shall refresh my soul
and guide me in the paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil
and my cup shall be full.
Surely goodness and loving mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord 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.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’
All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.
What do you remember of your school days? Do you remember the school building, a particular classroom, a daily routine, or do you remember a special teacher? If the strongest memory of your school days is of a teacher, can you identify the attributes that make that teacher so memorable to you? Very often that memorability is rooted in a man or woman’s ability to inspire their pupils or, rather sadly, sometimes it is based on their ability to instil fear. Is that how you are thinking right now? Or do you have more or less nuanced memories of your school days?
For the past one hundred and fifty years attendance at school has been compulsory. For many there are no special memories of their schooldays … it was just something that had to be endured. For some, ‘sitting at the feet’ of a teacher was exciting and formational, for others it was an agonizing ‘waste of time’. But, however you recall those years, you had no choice but to share the ‘school experience’ with every other young person in the country.
In today’s reading we meet Jesus the teacher. In this instance there was no compulsion. Every one of those who gathered around Jesus had chosen to be there. Every man, woman and child who jostled for a place to hear Jesus’ teaching wanted to be there, even if the teacher’s words confronted and challenged so much of what had been, up to that moment, considered to be the undeniable truth. No compulsion was applied to attend but, once the teaching was heard, everyone of those voluntary students was driven into a place where they had to reassess and re-align their beliefs and values.
In today’s reading Jesus, the teacher, addresses our human propensity for pointing the finger of blame. We are all prone to diverting attention away from our own flaws and failures by shining the spotlight on others. Today, Jesus, the teacher, turns the table on us with the words: Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. In so few words Jesus teaches us an unforgettable and truly formational lesson. Of course, we can choose to ignore Jesus’ teaching, but we do so at our own peril. This is teaching that surpasses the instruction of any school teacher. This is teaching that not only leads to a happier and more rounded life but also brings us into a closer relationship with God himself.
Let us rush to get our seat at the front of this teacher’s class, and let us take every word of his teaching and share it with all whom we meet.
Prayers of Intercession
In faith let us pray to the Lord.
God of love,
hear the cry of those who yearn for love;
fractured families, broken homes,
neglected, unwanted, alone.
God of justice,
hear the cry of those who yearn for justice;
persecuted and oppressed,
exploited, ill-treated, broken.
God of peace,
hear the cry of those who yearn for peace;
in battle zones and broken states,
frightened, fearful, anxious.
God of healing,
hear the cry of those who yearn for healing;
physical and spiritual,
hurting, weakened, depressed.
God of mercy,
hear the cry of those who yearn for mercy;
convicted, in need of your grace,
contrite, humble, bowed down.
John Birch 2016, Lent Intercession 1)
Prayer for the week
Almighty and everlasting God,
whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
triumphed in death on the cross
that he might win life for the world;
help us in the power of his victory
to triumph over evil
and to glory in his cross alone;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
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.