O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Canticle: 1 Samuel 2.1, 4-8
My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the weak are clothed in strength.
Those who were full now work for bread,
but those who were hungry are well fed.
The childless woman has borne sevenfold,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
You, Lord, give life and death;
you bring down to the grave and you raise up.
Both the poor and the rich are of your making;
you bring low and you also exalt.
You raise up the poor from the dust;
and lift the needy from the ash heap.
You make them sit with princes
and inherit a place of honour.
For the pillars of the earth are yours,
and on them you have set the world.
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 and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Throughout the New Testament we find many references to teachers and teaching. Paul lists it as one of the spiritual gifts that are bestowed upon some people. Similarly, it is emphasized that to be gifted as a teacher is to have an additional level of responsibility laid upon one’s shoulders. Teachers are listened to; teachers shape lives, teachers mould the way their students think and behave. Those who teach exercise some kind of authority as they impart knowledge. This imparting of practical and theoretical knowledge invites others to travel a different path through life. The teacher should also be an example to those whom they teach, and it is this concept of ‘the teacher as a model of good practice’ that we see in today’s reading.
The reading opens with Jesus entering the synagogue in Capernaum and teaching. We are also told that those who heard Jesus’ teaching were astounded … for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes. In these few words we are being presented with a very important aspect of educational and spiritual practice … the need to keep ‘up to date’!
The scribes were a group of learned men who studied the Hebrew scriptures, transcribed them and then wrote commentaries for the edification and education of others. Because their study was so firmly rooted in the past, there was no room in their scholarship for change and development. The literal ancient Law of the Lord was sacrosanct, even when it was totally disconnected from the real daily lives of those to whom they were ministering.
In contrast to the scribes, Jesus brought the Law of the Lord into the modern context. He was not changing that Law, but he was leading others towards a more profound understanding of its implications. Jesus’ teaching had a power and relevance that was both new and exciting. Jesus’ teaching had a power and relevance that could change lives, even the lives of those who were weighed down with serious physical and mental disability.
As we get older we remember, often with affection, those teachers who inspired us when we were younger. We remember their mannerisms and some of their words. We remember the aura that seemed to emanate from them as they sought to prepare us for life. But, as we look back at those inspirational teachers, we often fall into the trap of the scribes. We see the teaching of those men and women who influenced our early years as being ‘written on tablets of stone’. Rather than using their teaching as a foundation and a springboard, we settle back and think we have all the answers, even to the point of resisting anything that may contradict what we were taught decades earlier. We allow no room for change!
The teaching of Jesus is meant to bring about change. It is meant to provide us with the tools and the confidence to move forward as God wishes, it is not meant to provide us with a prehistoric comfort blanket. Let us pray that we might always be astounded at the teaching of Jesus. Let us pray that, in our astonishment, we might play our part in keeping God’s word alive for all with whom we travel through this earthly life.
Prayers of intercession
For deliverance from evil, let us pray to the Lord.
Grant to the Church the grace to resist evil and to bring release to those who are in its power. In the authority of the Lord, may she do his present work on earth.
We pray for the healing of the nations from all strife and violence. May those in authority, made free from greed and the love of power, rule with justice and mercy. May the darkness be dispersed and the glory of God revealed.
Be close to us, with our families and friends and in all our relationships. Keep them free from all that would harm them. Forgive the faults and imperfections in this community and fill it with your good Spirit.
We pray for the mentally ill and ask that patience would be granted to those who care for them. Grant that all who through folly or intention have fallen into evil ways may be made whole.
Have mercy on those who have died unreconciled and in fear. Grant them the peace that here they did not know and the vision that they have lost.
We offer our prayers in the name of Christ, the name which casts out all evil.
Prayer for the week
Loving Father, we pray for all
who are any way troubled at this time.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ,
our loving Lord and Saviour.
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. Amen.