O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God, our light and our salvation:
illuminate our lives,
that we may see your goodness
in the land of the living,
and looking on your beauty
may be changed into the likeness
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed are they who have not walked
in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.
Their delight is in the law of the Lord
and they meditate on his law day and night.
Like a tree planted by streams of water
bearing fruit in due season,
with leaves that do not wither,
whatever they do, it shall prosper.
As for the wicked, it is not so with them;
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked shall not be able to stand in the judgement,
nor the sinner in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall perish.
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, ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
How often has someone turned Christ’s call for his followers to live in love, peace and unity into a criticism? You know the sort of thing. A church member will become involved in a public dispute and their faith will be used against them. Someone will say: I thought you were a Christian! And, in that statement, lies the accusation that what has been seen or heard is very far from being ‘Christian’. Of course, all who profess a faith in Jesus Christ are called to live in love, peace and unity, but we do not always manage to achieve that exacting standard. Those who would call themselves Christian are as human as everyone else. As we know from reading scripture, the entire history of humanity has been filled with mistakes and failures, poor judgements and moments of self-interest. We should not be surprised that Christians, even the most observant of Christians, get it wrong sometimes.
Having said that, we also need to ask ourselves why we think that Christians are not allowed to get angry from time to time. Surely this is what Jesus is talking about today when he suggests that faith in him will cause even families and those who are closest to each other to come into dispute. If this were not the case, Christianity would have died out long ago. The devil would have won through the compromises made by Christians. Rather than defending our faith, we would have capitulated in every dispute … just to avoid the accusation of ‘not living in love, peace and unity’.
Jesus’ stark warning of what was to come should not be seen as a charter for conflict within the Church, however. Jesus expects those who believe in him to be strong in their love, their peace and their unity. It is through that strength that the community of faith will withstand all that is evil in this world. But … we do need to be careful. Sometimes Church communities find themselves harbouring those who would undermine the strength of the Church by their insistence on always getting their own way, on dominating the thoughts and practices of those around them. Such people have lost their way in the faith; such people are responsible for those too common accusatory statements: I thought you were a Christian!
Let us pray that we might stand strong in the faith, but let us also remember Christ’s call to love, peace and unity. Let us work hard to show Christ’s love to all, but let us not fall into the trap of compromising our faith … just for a ‘quiet life’. Let us remember that while we are genuinely defending our faith, rather than our self-interest, we are journeying the path Christ wants us to travel.
Prayers of intercession
For peace and unity in the Church and in the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Grant unity to the Church, healing the divisions which hinder her work and witness. Guide her people to discern the signs of the present time and give them strength to persevere in the service of the gospel.
Bring the leaders of nations to a common purpose and a desire for peace. Give them wisdom to avoid conflict while there is yet time, that all people may live in security without fear of war.
We pray that love and harmony shall prevail in our homes and in the homes of our friends and neighbours. Make us channels of peace when we meet anger and disputes in our work and with any whose lives touch our own.
Look with compassion on broken families. Grant reconciliation in the quarrels that have severed those who were once united in love. Bring back to their homes those who have left them in anger.
We remember all who have departed this life. Have mercy on those who died unreconciled, and give them the peace which they could not find on earth.
We pray through Christ that we may rightly interpret and faithfully perform his will.
May our prayers be accepted in Christ.
Prayer for the week
Most merciful God, we pray
for those who doubt your love;
for those who find it difficult to believe or to pray;
for those who have lost a faith they once possessed.
May the Holy Spirit enlighten their minds
and lead them into all truth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.