O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.
Bless the Lord sun and moon.
Bless the Lord you stars of heaven.
Bless the Lord all rain and dew.
Sing God’s praise and exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord all winds that blow.
Bless the Lord you fire and heat.
Bless the Lord scorching wind and bitter cold.
Sing God’s praise and exalt him for ever.
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, ‘They will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.’
In the 1992 general election campaign, John Major unveiled a new weapon which he unleashed in support of his intention to regain the premiership of the United Kingdom. John Major travelled the length and breadth of the country with his ‘soapbox’. He and his team arrived in town squares and other public spaces where he mounted his soapbox and delivered his message to the people. History tells us that John Major’s soapbox was effective. His down-to-earth, get-amongst-the-people approach led him to victory in the 1992 general election.
Of course, there was nothing particularly new or innovative about John Major’s strategy. The use of the ‘soapbox’ to elevate a speaker above his or her audience in order that they might deliver their impassioned ideologies to large crowds has existed for centuries, although it was only in the 19th century that the ‘soapbox’ became synonymous with this practice. In fact, this public proclamation of matters of personal faith is demonstrated throughout scripture … both the Old and New Testaments are filled with people publicly proclaiming their faith in God.
As we journey through the 21st century we are called to do exactly the same; we are called to get on our soapboxes, real or imaginary, and tell the world of the Good News that is Jesus Christ. But, sadly, we don’t! Or, perhaps I should say that the majority of those who call themselves Christian do not!
In today’s reading Jesus warns us that the Christian path is not an easy one to follow. Jesus warns of persecution, interrogation and, possibly, worse. However, Jesus goes on to say: make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance as you are given this opportunity to testify.
When we seek judgement in a dispute we sometimes employ lawyers. Those lawyers prepare their cases meticulously. The more complex the issue, the longer they spend in preparing the strongest possible arguments on our behalf. But, in today’s reading, Jesus says that this is not how we should proceed in matters of faith. Instead, Jesus urges us to trust God to provide us with the words we will need when others seek to deride and persecute us.
Jesus’ words also guide us away from offering no evidence. Rather than offering a bland and non-committal No Comment, Jesus tells us to seize the moment and share the Gospel, even with those who would condemn us.
There are moments when all Christians experience the ridicule and the wrath of others … ridicule and wrath that is based solely on matters of faith. Let us pray that we might not answer the ridicule and the wrath with carefully prepared, legalistic answers, but with the direct and inspired word of God, the script for which will come from the Holy Spirit alone.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God for protection and guidance in all dangers and perplexities.
Grant to your Church stability and peace, that she may faithfully guard the treasure for this present time yet always remember that at the last the things of this world will pass away. Keep all Christian people strong in faith, never weary in doing good.
Into a world where many exploit the labours of others, bring a new spirit of co-operation and mutual respect. May there be less concern for material riches, and a vision of your greater purpose for all.
Bless us in our families with shared love and loyalty at all times. Give us patience and wisdom in meeting neighbours and colleagues who are hostile to us. Make us more considerate of others, and more appreciative of those who work for the good of this community.
We pray for the victims of disaster, for the regions of the world where there is famine and epidemic disease. We pray too for those unjustly accused, who are in peril of suffering and death.
Have mercy on those who have died violently and unprepared. Grant them peace and new life in your Kingdom where there is no more pain or suffering.
Trusting in the mighty power of God revealed in Christ, we offer our prayers through him.
Prayer for the week
Lord, you have blessed the world
by sending your Son into our midst
and by making all things new in him.
We ask you to give all people
the courage and power we need
to share fully in his mission to the world
and to further his kingdom in the lives of all,
to the honour and glory of his name.
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.