O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
you give us gifts and make them grow:
though our faith is small as mustard seed,
make it grow to your glory
and the flourishing of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens
and your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep;
you, Lord, shall save both man and beast.
How precious is your loving mercy, O God!
All mortal flesh shall take refuge
under the shadow of your wings.
They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house;
they shall drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the well of life
and in your light shall we see light.
O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you
and your righteousness to those who are true of heart.
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.
The disciples came and asked Jesus, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:
‘“You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.”
‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’
I have always enjoyed visiting old churches and cathedrals. I enjoy standing in the places where, for centuries, faithful souls have prayed to and worshipped God. I enjoy looking at the different architectural styles that have been brought together to create one glorious whole. I like to find the evidence of how individuals down the ages have lived out their lives of faith. One of the thoughts that goes through my mind every time I visit one of those grand old buildings is about the many, many people who have been involved in the development of those buildings. What motivated them to work on massive building projects when two thirds of the population was being wiped out by the Black Death? What inspired them to find ingenious ways to fly in the face of political and religious pressure to change their styles of worship? What held them together when local disputes bubbled over into schism and violence?
All of these thoughts tie into our reading for today. The Jewish people had long looked for the coming of their Messiah, the Anointed One of God who would restore their former glory and primacy in the world. They had endured many hardships through hundreds and hundreds of years. And yet, they had remained faithful to the promise that the Messiah would, one day, come amongst them and save them. Through the passage of time many people made their small contributions to the story of Israel, never expecting to see the true worth of what they had said or done. As with the people of Israel, so with those faithful souls who each made their small contribution to each Christian community that we call a parish.
Jesus understood the workings of the human mind. Jesus understood that we struggle to grasp the true picture because it is painted on far too large a canvas for us to take it all in at once. In revealing the great truths of God, Jesus spoke in parables, in stories that engaged with our normal everyday lives. In doing so, he was not doing anything particularly new. In today’s reading he quotes from the prophet Isaiah, who wrote of the One who would come and teach a new lesson which would be difficult for many to understand.
And that is where we stand in the sweep of the Christian story. We become so obsessed with ‘our’ version of the Christian message that we stop listening, hearing, seeing and understanding. Recently, I wrote in my weekly letter to parishioners of the Parable of the Sower. In response to that letter I received eleven emails (an unprecedented number) which focused on explaining how agricultural economics works in the twenty-first century. Not one of those emails gave me the same explanation, and not one of them mentioned the true message of the Parable.
Let us set aside our human wisdom and let us listen, hear, see and understand the true message of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, our Lord and our Saviour.
Prayers of intercession
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
Gentle Lord Jesus, you are humble in heart and true security is found in your service. Bring to your Church space to breathe amid turmoil and clamour. Hush the voices of discord and loathing.
Gentle Lord Jesus. some sought to distort and attack you whatever you said or did. Vindicate wise counsel and further the cause of justice and truth. Give us strength that we may know and do what is right.
Gentle Lord Jesus, you give us grace to share your love and we delight in its warmth. Bless parents and all who influence the young. Enrich our community with your spirit of welcome and care.
Gentle Lord Jesus, you called the weary to come you. We lay at your feet our heavy burdens. Recreate us in your love and devotion.
Gentle Lord Jesus, you bring life out of death and hope out of despair. Turn our sorrow into dancing and our mourning into song. Restore in your image and glory all who have entered into your rest.
Prayer for the week
Heavenly Father, whose Son taught us
that what we do for the least of his children
we do for him:
help us to see him and serve him
in the suffering peoples of the world,
and to love them for his sake,
who first loved us,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
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.