O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
the end of our searching,
help us to lay aside
all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom,
and to give all that we have
to gain the pearl beyond all price,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
I will listen to what the Lord God will say,
for he shall speak peace to his people and to the faithful,
that they turn not again to folly.
Truly, his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth are met together,
righteousness and peace have kissed each other;
Truth shall spring up from the earth
and righteousness look down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give all that is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him
and direct his steps in the way.
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, ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’
Then Peter said in reply, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’
Yesterday we heard of the rich man who could not bring himself to sell his riches for the benefit of others in order that he might join the company of those called to follow Jesus. Today we are confronted with another form of earthly greed.
We know from our reading of the gospel narrative that Jesus surrounded himself with twelve disciples (followers) who, in response to his call, gave up the stability of family life and regular employment to follow wherever he led. In this moment from Matthew’s gospel we witness those disciples being confronted with the divine rejection that awaits those who cannot or will not make the sacrifice of setting worldly wealth at the bottom of their list of priorities.
Of course, the disciples had done just that. They had given up everything to follow Jesus. And then Peter asked that telling question: What then will we have?
We like to get value for money. When we are persuaded to part with any of our worldly wealth, we like to think that we are getting the most we can for it. So it is when we give of our time and talents. We do not like giving freely. We want to see some sort of capital return, either in the highest possible interest rates or in some expression of gratitude. We simply do not like ‘giving’ freely and generously!
We know from our study of scripture that there is a promised return for all that we give to God, or in God’s name. We know that the life of faithful generosity and love will be rewarded with eternal life. But … we are impatient and our faith is weak. We struggle with the thought of some great return in the unseeable future. We want to get our reward in the here and the now.
Jesus calls us into a life of faith which is just that … a life of faith. Faith that all he has promised will be given to us. But faith is rooted in the present, it is not afforded even a glimpse of the distant future. To live the life of true faith demands that we follow the teachings of Jesus in the unproveable knowledge that we will be rewarded when life in this world comes to an end. For many this is too much to ask. For those people the need to know exactly what their reward will be is too great.
Let us pray that we might come to believe in the promises of Jesus, and let us pray that we might find the courage and the strength to go forward in faith. Let us learn to give without the need to perpetually calculate interest rates and final yields. Let us, instead, learn to give our time, our talents and our treasure with the openness and generosity modelled by the life and ministry of Jesus himself.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, in whose love and power all things are possible.
Keep your Church holy, free from desire for earthly wealth and glory. Make your preachers powerful to proclaim your saving word. Guide all who confess your name, that they may walk in the way of your commandments.
Have mercy on all whose wealth in this world holds them back from the knowledge of where true riches are found. Inspire the rulers of wealthy nations to feel compassion for those that are poor. In your mercy, do not send the rich empty away.
Bless us, our families and friends, with desire truly to follow you. Shield us from all temptation, in the strength of Jesus Christ who was tempted like us but lived a fully human life on earth without sin.
We pray for those who have heard your call but failed to follow you; for those who have been unable to fulfil their vocations or have lost their first desire. Grant wisdom and love to those who guide others to find the right way.
Grant the inheritance of eternal life to those who have followed you here. Receive them in mercy as they come to your presence, and look upon the image in them of their great High Priest who has passed before them into heaven.
We pray in the name of Christ who has made us inheritors of eternal life.
Prayer for the week
Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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.