O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Psalm 103.1, 8-13
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me bless his holy name.
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.
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.
As Jesus taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’
There are many churches in our country that still have box pews. Such pews are encased in panelling and are usually cut off from the rest of the church by doors at either end. Box pews were popular throughout European Protestant countries from the Reformation to the 19th century. Where such pews remain in place, they are often revered, and fiercely guarded, as an essential feature of the sanctity of the whole building. This attitude towards such an archaic seating arrangement is, of course, theological nonsense!
Prior to the rise of Protestantism there was very little seating in our churches. Such seats as were in place were reserved for the lord of the manor, civic dignitaries and churchwardens. The introduction of seating, including box pews, came about with the expectation that all present during services should listen to lengthy sermons which were intended to educate and edify.
But, box pews soon took on a less Christian persona. They ceased to be places of repose and became symbols of power and influence. The wealthy ‘purchased’ or ‘rented’ the best seats while the less fortunate were left to fend for themselves. The privacy and status-defining nature of box pews reached its zenith (or nadir) in churches that saw the installation of windows, curtains and tables in pews that were passed down through the generations. The scribes who are criticized by Jesus in today’s reading would have loved box pews! Yet another vehicle for showing off their importance.
Having set the scene by declaring the scribes to be those who will receive the greater condemnation, Jesus draws our attention to a poor widow. In the midst of the posturing of those who are wealthy, the poor widow comes forward and gives just two small copper coins as her contribution to the Temple treasury. But, it is those two small copper coins that Jesus declares to be the greatest of contributions because of their worth to that poor widow: she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.
Whether we feel wedded to age-old symbols of power and influence, or whether we feel the need to jealously guard our worldly riches, Jesus is challenging us to view our own attitudes with a critical eye. Charity (that is, Christian love) does not begin at home! Christian love (charity) begins with open hearts and open minds; it begins with us giving our all as Christ gave his all for us.
Prayers of intercession
May God direct our prayers and lead us in the way of humility.
Preserve the Church from false pride. Teach us all to value our calling as by grace and not of our own goodness.
In a world were a great gulf separates rich and poor, we pray for a new spirit of caring. Give to those who have authority in rich nations the desire to aid nations that are in need.
Grant to us, our families and friends, the grace of good deeds offered not for our own merit but for love of you and of our neighbours. Make us faithful witnesses in our community.
We pray for all who are afflicted, for the poor and hungry, for those who are oppressed and persecuted. Bring them relief in their need, and bless the work of those who seek to help them.
We give thanks for the lives of the departed who have enriched others by their generous love. May they be held in eternal life through Christ’s offering of himself.
For grateful, generous hearts, open to the needs of others, we pray in the name of Christ.
Prayer for the week
May we accept this day at your hand, O Lord,
as a gift to be treasured,
a life to be enjoyed,
a trust to be kept,
and a hope to be fulfilled;
and all for your glory.
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.
Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect, and use
every power as thou shalt choose.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure-store;
take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.
Frances Ridley Havergal (1836–1879)