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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit,
that we with all creation
may rejoice to sing your praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Teach me your way, O Lord;
lead me on a level path,
because of those who lie in wait for me.
Deliver me not into the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen up against me,
and those who breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and he shall comfort your heart;
wait patiently for the Lord.
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.
All the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
Our everyday language is peppered with phrases of despair. We speak of there ‘being no hope’. We say that there are things ‘we can never forgive’. We cast others in the role of ‘the loser and the no-hoper’ without pausing to consider circumstance and the possibility of a rosier future. These and many other such phrases shape the way in which we journey through this life. The kingdom of heaven adopts a very different attitude.
There is great hope for us all in the final words of today’s reading: there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. In our world, there has grown up an almost instinctive attitude which encourages us to see the ‘worst’ in both situations and people. Our news media fuels this negativity by focusing our attention on all that discourages and undermines our sense of optimism. It would appear that nothing ever happens which leaves us looking forward to things becoming brighter and more hopeful. The kingdom of heaven adopts a very different attitude.
In the kingdom of heaven there is an unfailing optimism that sinners, those who are distanced from God, will repent, that is turn around, and come back into a closer relationship with our forgiving and loving heavenly Father. And, as we read in today’s passage from scripture: there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
In the two short parables we read today, there is a constant reminder that there is always the opportunity for repentance and rehabilitation. Such repentance and rehabilitation does take dogged determination, of course. But, the effort is always rewarded with both forgiveness and rejoicing, even among the angels of God.
Let us pray that we might set aside the negativity of our present age and look forward in a spirit of joyous optimism. Let us pray that we might see the good, rather than the bad, in both people and situations. Let us pray that we might be blessed with the determination that will keep us faithful as we journey through the pilgrimage of earthly life.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, by whose love all people are sustained and restored.
May Jesus the great Shepherd protect his flock the Church and lead back those who go astray. Grant to your people true repentance and the joy of knowing forgiveness for their sins.
As the people of the world wander like sheep that are lost, guide them into the way of peace. Grant the vision of your holiness to those who defame and seek to destroy the faith.
Give us grace to sympathise with our friends and neighbours in their sorrow and to rejoice with them in their joy. Make us quick to discern troubles in our community and ready to relieve them.
Comfort those who are sad because one they love is far away from them. Bless all who are lonely and away from home. Keep them safe and bring them happy reunion with those they love.
Grant rest and peace to the dead, through the mercy of Christ who came into the world to save sinners. Gather them into their true and eternal home.
As lost sheep brought back to the true fold, we pray through Christ our Shepherd.
Prayer for the week
we praise and bless your holy name
for your saints of every time and place
who have served you faithfully in their generation
and have enriched the world by their lives,
their witness and their example.
Help us, by your grace, to follow them
as they followed Christ,
that with them we may be partakers of your everlasting joy;
through the merits of Jesus our Saviour and 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.