O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of truth,
help us to keep your law of love
and to walk in ways of wisdom,
that we may find true life
in Jesus Christ your Son.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits;
Who forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;
Who redeems your life from the Pit
and crowns you with faithful love and compassion;
Who satisfies you with good things,
so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
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.
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 said to his disciples, ‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’
In our church in Corby Glen there are some famous medieval wall paintings. One of those paintings depicts seven fashionably dressed men, each accompanied by a horned devil. These men and devils are arranged around a centre piece which is a depiction of the Pieta, the figure of Mary holding her dead Son after he was taken down from the cross. The point of this particular wall painting was to remind those who saw it of the dangers of swearing. A popular swear word of the 14th and 15th century was Zounds!, a contraction of the phrase: By Christ’s wounds. The whole montage being arranged around the Pieta was meant to remind people of the real meaning of their words when they swore.
Of course, there are other types of swearing. We swear to tell the truth in court. We swear that we are telling the truth when we are trying to persuade others of our veracity. We swear when we are angry or frustrated. The use of swearing is seen as a safety valve which helps us deal with the immediate impact of some worldly crisis. But, swearing, as we read today, is not the way in which Christ wants us to deal with the issues that arise in our daily lives.
As followers of Christ we are called to live a simple, honest and faithful life of love and service. We are called to shed all that stands in our way of honouring this call in our lives. As we live out the simple, honest and faithful life of a follower of Christ, we should also resist the temptation to dissemble, exaggerate and obfuscate. What we say, and how we live out our daily lives, should be a demonstration of the simple unvarnished truth that we receive from God. If we are able to live out this calling, then there should never be any doubt that when we say, ‘Yes’, we mean, ‘Yes’, and when we say, ‘No’, we mean ‘No’. No other affirmation or denial should be necessary.
Unfortunately, this Christian ideal is one that leaves us wanting on so many occasions. We do not speak the absolute truth: we do dissemble, we do exaggerate and we do obfuscate. We wrap up our lack of direct honesty in terms of ‘not hurting someone’s feelings’ or ‘not wanting to cause offence’. But, the truth is generally one of cowardice or self-interest. We do not tell the absolute truth because we may lose out in some way. This unwillingness to follow the course of direct honesty leads us to cover our shortcomings with supplementary ways of justifying and ‘proving’ our words. We swear in various ways and by various things to ‘prove’ we are telling the truth.
Today we are challenged to stop wasting our time and effort on justifying our dishonesty, whether we regard it to be trivial or serious, and to show our honest commitment to God by proving that we do not need to swear because we do commit ourselves to letting our ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and our ‘No’ be ‘No’. Then our discipleship can be all the more effective as people understand that our telling of the Good News is not just sincere, but the absolute truth.
Prayers of intercession
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you promised through your Son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith.
Strengthen our bishops and all your Church in the service of Christ, that those who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.
Bless and guide Elizabeth our Queen; give wisdom to all in authority; and direct this and every nation in the ways of justice and of peace; that we may honour one another, and seek the common good.
Give grace to us, our families and friends, and to all our neighbours, that we may serve Christ in one another, and love as he loves us.
Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles; and bring them the joy of your salvation.
Hear us as we remember those who have died in the faith of Christ; according to your promises. grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of all your saints, we commend ourselves and the whole creation to your unfailing love.
Prayer for the week
by whose grace alone we have been accepted
and called to your service:
strengthen and guide us by your Holy Spirit in all our work
and make us worthy of our calling;
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.