O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 79.8-9, 12, 14
Remember not against us our former sins;
let your compassion make haste to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and wipe away our sins for your name’s sake.
Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,
and by your mighty arm
preserve those who are condemned to die.
But we that are your people and the sheep of your pasture
will give you thanks for ever,
and tell of your praise from generation to generation.
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.
The disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.’
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
How patient do you consider yourself to be? Many of us have heard, and perhaps used, the saying: ‘Patience is a virtue’. Many of us, if asked, will describe ourselves as being ‘patient’. But, are we really? Pause for a moment and think about the times your sense of entitlement has been thwarted by someone else’s inactivity or inefficiency. Think of the rules and regulations that have stood in the way of your doing something … there must have been many such occasions in the last year or so! Think of the harsh words that have sprung to your lips when your need for instantaneous gratification has been denied by someone else. As you ponder those moments in your life, consider again your answer to the question: ‘How patient do you consider yourself to be?’
Jesus statement of his mission to serve is a reminder to all of us in respect of our lack of patience. Our impatience reflects that of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, in today’s reading. Those two faithful disciples, having heard Jesus’ prediction of the fate that awaits him in this world, were impatient. Having sacrificed all to follow Jesus, they were anxious to stake a claim on the reward they pictured for themselves: to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. Rather than allowing the age-old prophecies to play out to the end, they were keen to engineer their own place in the story, a place of glory and honour.
Many of us would like to know the path God has laid for us to follow. We would also like to see the ‘happy ending’ that our imaginations have constructed for us. But, as we concentrate our energies in this way, we forget to leave room for God. It is not for us to know our destinies, it is for us to discern God’s call for the present, and then to follow that call wherever it might lead.
Jesus spells out for us the path we should be seeking. Jesus, God’s Son come down to earth, places himself in his loving Father’s hands. He responds to God’s call to love and serve, and he allows himself to be led down a path where the glory of God is far from obvious … well, until the whole story has played out.
We all like to dream of fame and glory, of victory and its attendant recognition by the wider world. But that is not God’s way. The path we are to follow is one of humility, love and service. Such a path is not necessarily glamorous and it will certainly try our patience from time to time. But we, like James and John, are to have faith that, if we remain true to God’s calling, we will ultimately come to our place in God’s kingdom.
Next time our frustrations bubble over and we feel the urge to utter cruel and impatient words, let us pray that we might pause and remember Jesus’ words and deeds. Let us pray that we might not shout and tut in exasperation, but turn our anger and our impatience into expressions of Christian love, even if the endgame is still a mystery to us.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to the Father, who sent the Son to be a ransom for many.
Bless those whom you have called to be priests and ministers in the Church. Fulfil your purpose in them, that they may always be faithful to the divine priesthood of Christ. Free them from worldly ambition and guide them to serve you faithfully in all things.
Give to the rulers of the world that wisdom and care that can come only from your grace. Let all in authority use their positions with justice, learning that the spirit of service is greater than the love of power.
In our homes and in our work, shield us from selfish disputes. With mutual love, let us live in the obedience that Jesus taught his followers by his word and his example.
Have mercy on those who suffer under oppressive power. Strengthen those who are sad and afflicted. Heal their suffering through the sufferings of Christ.
Grant that the departed may rest in Christ, the author of their salvation. Have mercy on those who are dying, that as they share his experience of death, they may rise with him to eternal life.
We offer our prayers through Christ, as his loving servants.
Prayer for the week
Grant us, O Lord,
the faith that rests not on signs and wonders
but on your love and faithfulness;
that obedient to your word
and trusting in your promises,
we may know your peace and healing power,
both in our hearts and in our homes;
for the honour of your holy name.
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.
O God, you search me and you know me.
All my thoughts lie open to your gaze.
When I walk or lie down you are before me:
ever the maker and keeper of my days.
You know my resting and my rising.
You discern my purpose from afar,
and with love everlasting you besiege me:
in every moment of life and death, you are.
Bernadette Farrell (b. 1957)
based on Psalm 139