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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
whose mercy never fails:
deepen our faithfulness to you
and to your living Word,
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;
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong
and bread to those who hunger.
The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;
he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
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, ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that we all know the saying: The sun shines on the righteous. As those who have ever said it to me will know, Jesus actually says: … he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. The idea that God’s bounty is for the ‘righteous’ alone is in total contradiction to the message Jesus came to earth to share with humanity. The sun and the rain, every aspect of God’s love and grace is for all, and not just for the self-elected few.
Many times I hear of people talking about ‘my’ church. Sometimes I hear others correcting this misplaced sense of possession. But, the words they use are generally: ‘Actually it’s our church.’ In speaking of our church, they are still speaking of possession. The church does not belong to any of us, because it is God’s Church. Our role in the life of the Church is not one of ownership. We certainly have shared responsibility to love and care for our churches, but that does not give us the right to assume a level of ownership that excludes God from the equation.
Both clergy and laity fall into the trap of turning the Church into some sort of club. Despite the existence of a comprehensive rule book (the Bible) they feel the need to impose ‘club rules’ based on human preference and prejudice. They speak the words of scripture and pray the prayers but they also create another layer of expectation which is both non-scriptural and non-Christian.
The message of today’s reading is about the universality of the Church as a place in which all people can gather in prayer and worship, a place where all people can be nourished and strengthened for their lives of true discipleship.
As we reflect on the complete message of Jesus’ words, let us pray that we might not become distracted from his message of love and service. Let us pray that we might not become obsessed with buildings and money, because the Church is so much more than that. Let us pray that we might take our place as vital bricks in the edifice which Christ created on the rock that was his living, breathing and worshipping disciple, Peter. The disciple who certainly got it wrong and yet still enjoyed the full radiance of the divine sun and the spiritual cleansing of the heavenly rain.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray as the children of one heavenly Father.
Fill the Church with the love that does not come from agreement and fellowship alone but reaches out to embrace those who are hostile and scornful. Enable her to proclaim to all people the good news of the Kingdom and its righteousness.
Correct in mercy the errors which divide people into friends and enemies. Heal all divisions which set nations, races and religions in opposition to one another. Cleanse the world of all the darkness which seeks revenge and claims that it is justice.
May the love that is in our homes never become narrow and excluding, but let it reach out to all who can be drawn into our care. Make the life of this community a token that we are all children of one Father, and bless its members who patiently serve those who are in need.
Come and relieve those who suffer through the anger of the unforgiving, those who are in want through the greed of the selfish, those who are held in the power of their own bitterness.
Pardon in their last hour those who die unreconciled, still bearing their anger. May they too be numbered with your children that all may be blessed together in everlasting life.
May Christ give us grace to offer our prayers in love for all people.
Prayer for the week
your Son Jesus Christ came to make all things new.
Refresh us by the power of your Spirit,
that through the stillness of prayer
and the energy of service
we may discover afresh your call on our lives
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
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.