O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
your Son left the riches of heaven
and became poor for our sake:
when we prosper save us from pride,
when we are needy save us from despair,
that we may trust in you alone;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Praise the Lord, O my soul:
while I live will I praise the Lord;
As long as I have any being,
I will sing praises to my God.
Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power,
for there is no help in them.
When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth;
on that day all their thoughts perish.
Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;
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, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’ When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.
Today’s reading is one of those moments in the gospel narrative that we often skip over because its meaning isn’t that obvious – and certainly not in the way we are offered it today. Normally, yesterday’s reading and today’s are combined into one passage made up of three short parables. In that way we are almost encouraged to focus on the images of the ‘treasure’ and the ‘pearl of great value’ and gloss over the equally challenging words about the new and the old.
So many of us struggle with the idea of things that are ‘new’. During our months of lockdown almost every aspect of our lives has had to be re-invented and viewed through a different lens. We have been forced into embracing the new. As days pass, the challenge of the new grows stronger and increasingly irresistible. Much of what we see around is different, it is new. Today’s reading can help us through the challenges and confusions of these days, if we will let it.
The ‘new’ of which Jesus speaks is about himself. Jesus’s earthly ministry brought a new clarity and a new vision to our faith in God. Over recent weeks I have found myself constantly reflecting on the ways in which Jesus challenged the human constructs that had stifled lively and pro-active faith in God; human constructs that impose so many unnecessary constraints on the way people live out their daily lives. Jesus’s teaching and signs of power show us that a life of faith can be so much more exciting than that. But … Jesus also taught the value of God-given law, of the words of the prophets, of those traditions that keep us focused on God. Jesus honours both the new and the old.
Yes … we are living through strange times.
Yes … things look different, and things feel new.
But … we are being given the opportunity to re-focus our lives on the prayer and worship which should be the primary focus of every Christian life.
Let us rejoice and give thanks for that opportunity, and cling on to only that which enriches our prayer and worship so that others may see and taste the joy of God’s love in their lives.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, giver of all good gifts and our only defence against evil.
As we look for the full revelation of your glory, keep us faithful in work and worship. Defend the Church against the assaults of evil, to yield a good harvest from the planting of your holy word.
Root out all the evil things that mar the goodness of your world. Give the glorious liberty of the Spirit to those who live only for the demands of the flesh.
Shield our families from all assaults of evil. Bless our local community and keep it free from corruption. Guide with your Holy Spirit those who hold responsibility for health and environment.
Visit the afflicted with the assurance that their suffering will pass. Restore health to the damaged bodies and the troubled minds.
Grant that the faithful departed may as joint heirs with Christ share in his glory. Have mercy on all souls in the time of judgement when good and evil shall be revealed together.
May these our prayers, purified from fault and error, be heard through Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Lord of all.
Prayer for the week
Lord and heavenly Father,
make us mindful of your presence with us;
that we may draw near to you
with holy and humble hearts,
and offer prayers and praises
acceptable in your sight;
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.