O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
whose steadfast love never ceases
and whose mercies never come to an end:
grant us the grace to trust you
and to receive the gifts of your love
new every morning,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
On God alone my soul in stillness waits;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall never be shaken.
How long will all of you assail me to destroy me,
as you would a tottering wall or a leaning fence?
They plot only to thrust me down from my place of honour;
lies are their chief delight;
they bless with their mouth, but in their heart they curse.
Wait on God alone in stillness, O my soul;
for in him is my hope.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In God is my strength and my glory;
God is my strong rock; in him is my refuge.
Put your trust in him always, my people;
pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.
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 the Pharisee, ‘Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’
One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.’
Everyone likes the warm feeling of belonging. People go to extraordinary lengths to avoid being excluded and isolated from those with whom they live out their daily lives. Whether at work or in our leisure activities, we like to feel that we ‘fit in’, giving us that sense of belonging.
Sometimes we can only achieve that precious sense of belonging by making compromises. As we live out our complicated lives, lives in which we may seek a sense of belonging with a multiplicity of communities, we can easily find ourselves betraying one group and its ‘rules’ in order that we might fit in with a group that has conflicting priorities and expectations. As our social circle grows, and the complexity of our social interactions develop, we can easily find ourselves living our lives in compartments, compartments that are socially and ethically exclusive. It is when we live in this way that our compromises can quickly develop into the hypocrisy that is criticized by Jesus in today’s reading. It is when we compartmentalize our lives to this extent that we find ourselves betraying the most important relationship of all: our relationship with God.
Life is complicated. Every action and interaction presents us with a series of decisions that test our commitment to living the life of true discipleship. Today, Jesus is warning us about the additional complications with which we burden ourselves, the complications that arise when we weigh ourselves down with expectations and restrictions that do not come from God.
Everyone likes the warm feeling of belonging, but … to what lengths should we go to achieve the recognition and acceptance of those amongst whom we live?
Jesus warns us how easy it is to fall into the trap of being ‘seen’ as doing the ‘right’ thing, whilst really achieving the exact opposite. Jesus is telling us of the need to stand out in the crowd as one who is faithful to his teaching, even when that makes us different from those we want to accept us. Jesus is urging us to remain steadfast in living out the simple life of faith, the life which will see us pursuing justice, humility, love and service. These Christian values will make us different from those who focus primarily on maintaining the veneer of respectability, but they are the core values of our faith.
Let us pray for the strength to be different. Let us pray that our ‘difference’ might bring others into a closer relationship with God. Let us pray that our commitment to living a Christ-like life might make the community of faith the community others clamour to join.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, that his kingdom may come and his Gospel be proclaimed.
Give to the Church the spirit of sincere repentance, so that she may be fit to preach repentance to the world. Enable your people both to follow you faithfully and to draw others to faith.
Come into the towns and cities, the crowded places where people live with stress. Break the darkness of ignorance and indifference with the sorrow for sin that brings your pardon.
In our daily work, let us always know that you are near, so that we may be ready to hear your call. Bless those with whom we work, and show them your salvation.
We pray for the lonely ones, who have lost the families that they once knew. Be near to those whose work sends them into places far from home, holding them in continuing love for one another.
Have mercy on the departed, for whom Christ suffered that they might live for ever. Remembering that all must die and enter into judgement, grant us repentance and renewal while we are still in this world.
As Christ has called us to his service, we pray in his name.
Prayer for the week
Give peace in our time, O Lord:
peace and reconciliation among the nations;
peace and unity within the churches;
peace and harmony in our communities and homes;
peace and love in all our hearts;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our 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.
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.