O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
your Son came to save us
and bore our sins on the cross:
may we trust in your mercy
and know your love,
rejoicing in the righteousness
that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.
On God alone my soul in stillness waits;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall never be shaken.
How long will all of you assail me to destroy me,
as you would a tottering wall or a leaning fence?
They plot only to thrust me down from my place of honour;
lies are their chief delight;
they bless with their mouth, but in their heart they curse.
Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul;
for in him is my hope.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my strength and my glory;
God is my strong rock; in him is my refuge.
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.
On the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?’ After looking around at all of them, he said to him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Human beings fill their days with fury. If we pause to think about our average day we will come to realise how we often start each day by being mildly irked that our alarm clocks have disturbed our sleep. Then we hear the latest news broadcast or take that first look at our newspapers and our ‘anger’ levels begin to rise. The first car journey of the day compounds the issue as we either experience or indulge in ‘road rage’. By the time our days start in earnest we can easily find ourselves struggling with the challenge of interacting with others in an even-tempered and ‘loving’ way. Of course, not everyone’s day begins in this way. However, it is not unusual for other sequences of events to bring us all into a similarly negative way of approaching each day.
In today’s reading we see this compulsion to express anger exemplified by the scribes and Pharisees. They are filled with fury because Jesus has healed someone who was suffering from a life-inhibiting disability on the sabbath. The scribes and Pharisees, those self-appointed guardians of Jewish good conduct, were not only offended that Jesus used his power to heal on the sabbath, they were filled with fury. Their obsession with man-made custom and practice led them to set aside the wondrous miracle that they had witnessed and focus solely on the way it offended their sensibilities. The welfare of the disabled man meant nothing to them. Instead they concentrated on what they considered to be good taste. And, to make matters worse, they would have claimed that their reaction to Jesus’ actions was true to the teachings of God.
So often we are like those scribes and Pharisees. We are happy to set aside the true teachings of God in order that our whims and fancies might be satisfied. We do not spare a thought for the person in need if doing so would result in our being inconvenienced. And, when this shortcoming in our response to Jesus’ command to love God and neighbour is pointed out to us … we are filled with fury.
Jesus’ teaching, in word and action, is unequivocal. Jesus calls us to focus on the commandments we find in the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus – love God first, and then love our neighbours as we love ourselves. There is no room for misinterpretation or linguistic convulsions. These primary commandments are absolutely clear, and it is our duty to live up to them every moment of every day. There is no room for fury, or even mild irritation, in any of this. We are called to love and serve as Jesus did. We are called to be Christ-like in everything we say and do. Let us pray for the strength to set aside our capacity for fury and let us focus instead on Christ’s call in our lives.
Prayers of intercession
Let us by prayer and intercession with thanksgiving make our requests to God.
Gracious God, we pray for peace, justice and reconciliation throughout the world. We pray for the honouring of human rights, and for the relief of the oppressed. We give thanks for all that is gracious in the lives of men, women and children.
We pray for the renewal of the Church in faith, love and service. We pray for our bishops and for the life of this community. We give thanks for the gift of your word, the grace of the sacraments and the fellowship of your people.
We pray for this local community and for all people in their daily life and work. We pray for the young and the elderly, for families, and all who are alone. We give thanks for human skill and creativity and all that reveals your loveliness.
We pray for those who are in need; for the sick, sorrowful and bereaved. We pray for all who bring comfort, care and healing. We give thanks for human love and friendship and for all that enriches our daily lives.
Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, to the mercy and protection of God.
Prayer for the week
May our Lord Jesus Christ
be near us to defend us,
within us to refresh us,
around us to preserve us,
before us to guide us,
above us to bless us;
who lives and reigns
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
God for evermore.
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.