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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit,
that we with all creation
may rejoice to sing your praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord
and have great delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land,
a generation of the faithful that will be blest.
Wealth and riches will be in their house,
and their righteousness endures for ever.
Light shines in the darkness for the upright;
gracious and full of compassion are the righteous.
It goes well with those who are generous in lending
and order their affairs with justice,
For they will never be shaken;
the righteous will be held in everlasting remembrance.
They will not be afraid of any evil tidings;
their heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their heart is sustained and will not fear,
until they see the downfall of their foes.
They have given freely to the poor;
their righteousness stands fast for ever;
their head will be exalted with honour.
The wicked shall see it and be angry;
they shall gnash their teeth in despair;
the desire of the wicked shall perish.
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.
Large crowds were travelling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.’
It is not unusual for us to come across these words: whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. But, what do they mean to us? We know that Jesus did carry a cross. But, is he really asking us to face that ignominious walk and tortuous death? Is Jesus really asking us to make that level of sacrifice in order that we might be considered worthy of true discipleship? The quick answer to this is, of course, yes! But … it is more about attitude and faithful commitment than the necessity of shame and pain.
There are many ways in which we can join Jesus in carrying our own crosses. Simply proclaiming our faith in Jesus Christ can put us in a place where we are persecuted and ridiculed. Our public declaration of faith can distance us from those we hold dear, even: father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters. Jesus speaks of the need for his disciples to hate these people, these people whom we should feel called to love and cherish. However, we need to understand the word translated as ‘hate’ before we jump to any conclusions in this matter.
In our 21st century world, the word ‘hate’ has taken on a level of meaning that was not meant in the original gospel narrative. When Jesus speaks of ‘hate’ he means that we are called to love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters less than we love him. The word ‘hate’ in the gospel narrative is about comparison and not about an extreme of negative emotion.
Of course, if we love those who see themselves as being our nearest and dearest ‘less’ than we love God, we do run the risk of making that ignominious walk, and possibly facing the pain of a tortuous separation. But, that is what faithful discipleship may entail. We may be called to face the rejection and the ridicule of those who feel they have a right to control the faith we espouse and the way in which we choose to live out our daily lives.
Let us pray that we might be given the strength to place God before all else in our lives. Let us pray that we might be given the courage to take up that cross, that symbol of public disgrace and pain. Let us pray that we might walk with Christ in the face of this world’s obsession with self-interest and secular glory as faithful and loyal disciples.
Prayers of intercession
For holy wisdom in the Church and in the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Keep the whole Church steadfast in faith, ready to bear the cost of discipleship. May all Christian people honour one another in love, and give thanks for their redemption.
Look with compassion on the world where many strive to fulfil tasks that are too heavy for them. Give wisdom to those who have power in disputes between nations, that they may count the cost of conflict before it is too late.
We pray that our human loves and loyalties may be blessed but never turn us from our spiritual duty. Make us considerate to all who serve our daily needs.
Have mercy on those who are distressed because they wrongly judged the consequences of what they desired to do. We pray for all who have fled from their homes, that they may find support and the way of reconciliation.
We give thanks for those who have fulfilled their work on earth and entered into rest. Grant them eternal life through the Cross that was borne for them.
We make our prayers through Christ who has called us to take up the Cross and follow him.
Prayer for the week
we praise and bless your holy name
for your saints of every time and place
who have served you faithfully in their generation
and have enriched the world by their lives,
their witness and their example.
Help us, by your grace, to follow them
as they followed Christ,
that with them we may be partakers of your everlasting joy;
through the merits of Jesus our Saviour and our Lord.
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.