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Intercessions for 4th Sunday before Advent Year A: 2 November 2014

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The Collect

Almighty and eternal God, you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of the saints: grant to us the same faith and power of love, that, as we rejoice in their triumphs, we may be sustained by their example and fellowship; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Micah 3.5-12

Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray,  who cry ‘Peace’  when they have something to eat,  but declare war against those  who put nothing into their mouths. Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without revelation. The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be black over them; the seers shall be disgraced, and the diviners put to shame; they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer from God. But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong! Its rulers give judgement for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say, ‘Surely the Lord is with us! No harm shall come upon us.’ Therefore because of you Zion shall be ploughed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

Psalm 43

Give judgement for me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; * deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
For you are the God of my refuge; why have you cast me from you, * and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?
O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, * and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling,
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; * and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, * and why are you so disquieted within me?
O put your trust in God; *for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Come, creator Spirit, light and truth;
bring us to the altar of life
and renew our joy and gladness
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2.9-13

You remember our labour and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 24.1-14

As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’ When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.’

Prayers of Intercession

{These intercessions are suggested by Visual Liturgy}
We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.

You sent your Son to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom to captives and salvation to your people: anoint us with your Spirit; rouse us to work in his name.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to bring help to the poor and freedom to the oppressed.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to tell the world the good news of your healing love.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to those who mourn, to bring joy and gladness instead of grief.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Send us to proclaim that the time is here for you to save your people.
Father, by your Spirit bring in your kingdom.

Lord of the Church, hear our prayer, and make us one in mind and heart
to serve you in Christ our Lord. Amen.


Let us pray in Christ’s name to God, the ruler of all, the beginning and the end.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, sometimes our life together in the Church feels less like being in an impregnable fortress**than it does like being in a small boat swept along the rapids of a turbulent river. Thrown against jagged obstacles that threaten destruction, in fear of disintegration, just at the point where disaster seems inevitable we are thrown from the turmoil into a quiet pool of equilibrium. When currents swirl again, help us to remember that we are profoundly loved and have no reason to fear.

 Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, we thank you for the reminder that there can be no coming of the kingdom without renewal of our present society. And renewal means the breaking down of many of our structures, which have come to serve only as shackles. Your warning applies to the end times, but it also means in the here and now: help us to look hard at our systems and our presumptions and test them against the promptings of your Holy Spirit.

 Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, in our own communities save us from ossification, Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. Help us to keep supple and flexible, while being robust enough to stand firm through the storms of life. Let us keep the goal constantly before us and resolve once more to love you with all our hearts, our minds and our souls, and our neighbours as ourselves.

 Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, sometimes our souls are weighed down with heaviness, and full of rebellion within. All the waves and torrents of this life have washed over us.  At times it seems as though we may drown in a pool of tears of our own making. Nowhere can we see a place to stand firm. Help us to wait patiently for the dawn as we put our trust in you. Renew in us the spirit of hope and the expectancy that, even when every door is apparently closed, you will surprise us with joy. *

 Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we bring before you those whom we love but see no longer. Freed from the vicissitudes of this world, we pray that they may dwell in that house where there is neither darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; world without end

  Lord, send out your light and your truth to lead us and guide us to your holy hill: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 


*Based on Jim Cotter’s mediation on Psalm 43 in ‘Out of the Silence’

** ‘A mighty fortress is our God‘, sang Luther and his followers, ‘a bulwark never failing’.

Copyright acknowledgement : Collect (4th before Advent) © 1980, 1986 Mowbray, a Cassell Imprint: Prayers for the Alternative Services comp. David Silk Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2002

Back to Basics on Rural Ministry?


Ezekiel 37.1-14

We are probably all agreed that the parish model of ministry in rural areas is showing signs of mettle fatigue.  The recent Westminster Faith Debates chaired by Professor Linda Woodhead on the future of the parish system reinforce this view. If you have not already heard the introductory speeches and later comments from the audience, you can listen here:

My head is spinning from the many analyses of the problem, and the many possible solutions – some of which are mutually exclusive.

I propose that we start again – theoretically, not of course literally – from the beginning.

 

What is the point of the Church?

As individual Christians, we are enjoined (a) to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, our souls and our minds and (b) to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Churches provide places where we can do so collectively, worshipping God and attempting to love our neighbours. The word parish (paroichia) is said by Professor Woodhead to mean neighbourhood.*

The Church of England duly divided the land into parishes and provided parish churches, of which there are now about 16,000. What might be called the George Herbert model was the norm for several hundred years, which coincided with the height of the Church’s influence, popularity and hence wealth.

We were not unique in our perception that this was the way to organise collective worship and for religious institutions  to thrive.

 

Jewish law

Observant Jews are required to live within walking distance of their synagogue. (And Islam requires its adherents to live within earshot of the call to prayer from a mosque). The idea behind this (apart from sabbath observance) is community – if you attend synagogue with a group of people who all live in your neighbourhood, you are likely also to send your children to the same schools, shop in the same shops and so on. Jews are also required to live in a place with at least ten adult Jewish men before whom the Kaddish prayer can be recited at the time of a burial, in other words they must not allow themselves to be so scattered in diaspora as not to live in community.

Maybe Judaism has a point? Who understands better how to keep together a religious and a social community in the face of fissiparous pressures? For after all, isn’t that what we are talking about – keeping together a group of people who worship together and serve the community together.

 

Is the Church there to serve the people or the people there to serve the Church?

If you substitute ‘God’ for ‘Church’, it may be reasonable to say that the people are there to serve God, God is not there to serve the people. But somehow, perhaps partly because the priest was an authority figure in his parish, probably one of the few who could read and write, the Church of England seems to have come to believe, whether or not they admitted it, that the people exist in order to serve the Church. Occasionally, with no apparent sense of irony, brocaded bishops will assume postures of humility and servanthood, but these are symbolic, not real. Many of us have encountered bishops who clearly believe that parishes and parishioners are there to serve the diocese, not the reverse. This is an excellent way to begin the process of losing churchgoers.

You may like to see my previous blog post, ‘Who is the Church of England for?

 

The False Oasis of the Minster Model

In  ‘The State of the Church and the Church of the State’, (pp 151-153), Bishop Michael Turnbull and the Revd Donald McFadyen describe the model thus:

…a group of priests, some stipendiary and some self-supporting, and lay people serving one unit which has a number of local churches, where regular worship is maintained but a central set of administrative and teaching facilities catering for different age groups and particular needs…each…would be given the opportunity to develop their own specialist ministry for the benefit of the whole locality…it is the most practical and coherent way of discharging the Church’s mission of pastoral care and evangelism to the nation. The rites of birth, marriage and death…in one of the churches in the ‘parish‘, perhaps with particularly attractive features, could be designated as ‘the wedding church’.

This does seem to give the game away – instead of being able to be baptised, married and buried in one’s own parish church, you would have to go to the Minster or other designated church for anything other than a normal weekly service. There is talk of pastoral work being centrally organised.

 

Involvement by the Laity

I suggest that mega-benefices can work, provided that resident non-stipendiary clergy and lay worship leaders provide a solid background of services in every church every week (but not necessarily communion services). The benefice priest would be peripatetic, but at a less frenetic pace, taking services in each church from time to time, preaching at other services and generally offering  spiritual leadership and galvanising energies for mission.

 

Because of extraordinary circumstances, I have been a parishioner during no less than four inter-regnums during the last 15 years. In each case, church life carried on perfectly smoothly as normal, using the non-stipendiary resident clergy and lay worship leaders. BUT we were heartily relieved on each occasion to welcome the priest when he was finally appointed. Mostly, we had missed someone to set the tone, a sense of overall direction, and an energy.

 

I think that if we are truly prepared to work on the basis that together we all make up the Body of Christ, each with our talents and uses, then together we can work for the Kingdom, while allowing for (and capitalising on) a strong sense of local identity.


*Though if you Google ‘paroichia’ you will find a bewildering variety of meanings, including the statement that at one stage it was interchangeable with the word for diocese.

Intercessions for Last Sunday after Trinity Year A – 26 October 2014

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The Collect

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Deuteronomy 34.1-12

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain – that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees – as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’ Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended. Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses. Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Psalm 90.1-6,13-17

Lord, you have been our refuge *from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and the world were formed, * from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust and say: * ‘Turn back, O children of earth.’
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday, * which passes like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away like a dream; * they fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; * in the evening it is dried up and withered.
Turn again, O Lord; how long will you delay? * Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us with your loving-kindness in the morning; * that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Give us gladness for the days you have afflicted us * and for the years in which we have seen adversity.
Show your servants your works * and let your glory be over their children.
May the gracious favour of the Lord our God be upon us; * prosper our handiwork; O prosper the work of our hands.

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2.1-8

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22.34-46

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The RSCM is in lyrical form:

If I have never been loved, I will find loving others a burden, tempted to loathe my neighbour as I loathe myself. Jesus’s teaching springs from the depth of his experience: he knows what it is like to be loved. And because he is loved by the Father, he knows he is loveable. He is able to love himself without arrogance or anxiety. And he is able to love his neighbour as himself. There can be no love of neighbour without love of self, and all human love is founded on the love of God, given and received.

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, thank-you for today’s reminder that being a Christian is the simplest thing in the world – even if it is not easy. Help us to return to the basic truth that all you require of us is love: to the depth and breadth and height our souls can reach, to infinity itself. And so, through your grace, may we grow in love for you and one another and thus fulfil our role as the Body of Christ to work for the coming of the kingdom in this world.

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, the glory of the earth is your glory. The splendour of the heavens is your splendour. And the wonder of the galaxies and nebulae is yours, O wonderful creator.  Yet you know to the deepest degree of detail how every atom and molecule were made, each with its own spinning galaxy within. Maker of mountains and microbes, we praise you for the glories of your creation.

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, you ask us to love our neighbours as ourselves, but the trouble is we do. And since we find it so difficult always to love ourselves, we find the same difficulty in loving our neighbour. Strange feelings come from depths we cannot control, causing us to react and fail to respond. Help us, we pray, to embrace our dark unknown, to accept and forgive what lies within. For you have promised that it is already done, that  we are profoundly loved, in outpourings without cease, and that your love includes and embraces both us and our neighbour.*

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, where the ground is so dry that there is no sign of life, only aridity, we ask you to send new springs to bubble up, slaking the earth’s thirst and refreshing it into new growth. Where the walls that form the fabric and structure of our lives are broken down through anger and violence, we ask you to help us rebuild our shelters from the storms of life. And where our lives seem to be ruined, on a darkling plain without light or hope for the future, we ask you to restore them as you may see fitting.

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord of eternity, Lord beyond time, may your grace be upon us all. For in the evening of our days when we come to be judged, we shall be known only by love, delivered only by love. Amidst the confusion of time, may we hear the heartbeat of eternity.

Lord, fill our hearts with such love for you that it overflows on to all our fellow human beings: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 


 

*Based on the poem ‘Second Commandment’ by Ann Lewin

Copyright acknowledgement: Post Communion (Last after Trinity) © 1985 Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services;Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA; Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000;Collect (Last after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for 18th Sunday after Trinity (Proper 24) Year A 19 October 2014

Rolff

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Exodus 33.12-23

Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favour in my sight.” Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.’ Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’

Psalm 99

The Lord is king: let the peoples tremble; * he is enthroned upon the cherubim: let the earth shake.
The Lord is great in Zion * and high above all peoples.
Let them praise your name, which is great and awesome; *the Lord our God is holy.
Mighty king, who loves justice, you have established equity; * you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the Lord our God; * bow down before his footstool, for he is holy.
Moses and Aaron among his priests and Samuel among those who call upon his name, * they called upon the Lord and he answered them.
He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud; * they kept his testimonies and the law that he gave them.
You answered them, O Lord our God; * you were a God who forgave them and pardoned them for their offences.
Exalt the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill, *  for the Lord our God is holy.

Second Reading:  1 Thessalonians 1.1-10

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22.15-22

When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard the parables, they realized that Jesus was speaking about them. Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

The RSCM comments:
The lightness with which Jesus deals with financial questions is remarkable. No ‘stewardship’, no dogma, no argument. At other times he condemns greed and encourages generosity. But for now his message is simply this: financial responsibilities in civic matters are insignificant compared to the call to love God first, in everything. The emperor’s head on the coin indicated that it belonged to him; so we remind ourselves, ‘All things come from you, and of your own do we give you’.

 

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, the work of building your Church on earth is not yet finished, not done. It is half-built, half-cooked and half-beautiful. Your people have a heart for the work of building, but become too easily distracted by trivial considerations. Creator God, continue your work, inspire us again to set our hands to the trowel and the plumb-line. Continue us, O Lord, and craft us to completion so that people might again say, ‘look how they love one another!’

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, yours is the power that holds all things in being, the power of justice and love. Yours is the holiness that sears us, bringing to light our falsehoods and misdeeds. You showed the prophets, the priests and the wise how to lead your people. Teach us not to be afraid of anything you have created, even if it may seem alien to us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, that finds its home within us as creatures of flesh and blood and makes of us a holy people able in turn to transform base metal into spiritual gold in your name. *

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, if you will be the needle, we will be your thread. We will follow you as you weave our community into the Body of Christ, warp following weft, woven tightly enough to hold fast, but not so tight as to be rigid and unmanageable. Bend us and shape us until we form ourselves according to your will into a fabric which you can use for your purpose in the world.

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we pray for those that are in pain, whether in body, mind or spirit. Help us all to understand and believe that, no matter how long our story continues, we can never outrun your love. However far we journey, whether we keep to the straight and narrow or wander off the path, whether we walk in sunlit uplands or in the valley of shadows, we can never voyage beyond your loving care.

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we praise you for this sacred feast: for here we receive you, here our minds are filled with grace, and here is given a pledge of future glory, when we shall feast at that table where you reign with all your saints for ever.

Lord, show us your ways that we may find favour in your sight: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 


*Based on Jim Cotter’s meditation on psalm 99.


 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):Post Communion (18th after Trinity) © 1973 ICEL: Roman Missal (English Translation)- last part of intercessions is based on this. 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10 © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton.Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

Music at Midnight: Taylor Carey

There’s a story that the great Anglican poet and priest George Herbert once made himself late for an important rehearsal by stopping to help a poor man in distress. Herbert re-saddled the man’s horse, and helped him on with his pack, making himself filthy in the process. Upon arriving in the midst of proceedings at the Cathedral, Herbert was asked why he had even bothered to waste his time with such a pathetic figure as the poor man on the road. Herbert replied that his deed would ‘prove music’ to him at midnight, ‘for if I be bound to pray for all that be in distress, I am sure that I am bound, so far as it is in my power, to practise what I pray for’. ‘And now,’ he added, ‘let’s tune our instruments’.

Music is a theme to which countless Christians have returned when considering matters of social justice. A striking vision of Christian society, after all, is of a well-balanced orchestra in which each player understands both the unique contribution they bring to the sound, and also the context of dependence upon others in which they operate. St Paul’s understanding of ‘gifts’, expounded in his First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12:12), was centred on a vision of diversity and harmony in the Body of Christ, in which each member might exercise their talents as an indispensable part of a greater whole. All the while, as Psalm 69 bids us, we are called to ‘sing a new song’ of praise, ever more closely caught-up in the glory of God. That imperative to perform God’s song afresh often draws seekers of the Kingdom into the wilderness to discover the ‘still small voice’ (1 Kings 19:12) of the One who stands in judgement.

The Swiss theologian Karl Barth firmly believed that no composer could ever be thought to rival the genius of Mozart. In his own words, ‘Mozart has apprehended the cosmos and now, functioning only as a medium, brings it into song’. ‘One marvels again and again,’ he continued, ‘how everything comes to expression in him: heaven and earth, nature and man, comedy and tragedy, passion in all its forms and the most profound inner peace…It is as though in a small segment the whole universe bursts into song’.

The whole universe bursts into song. The point, for Barth, was that Mozart had simply allowed God’s continuous action to take over and shape his art. Mozart’s own emotions and ideas were always responses to, and in the service of, the ‘original music’ which is God’s constant creativity. In the words of Joseph Ratzinger, surely one of the most significant theological aesthetes of our time, ‘the joy that Mozart gives us…is not due to the omission of a part of reality; it is an expression of a higher perception of the whole’. And so, for all that his works present to us the unbearable tragedy of the human condition, and God’s judgement over against us, they also carry over the reality that God’s mercy, forgiveness, and Grace is already forthcoming and overflowing.

How then do we hear God’s ‘music’ in our own lives? One answer is provided by Jesus in an episode recorded by each of the synoptic evangelists. ‘Let the little children come to me,’ says the Lord to his baffled disciples, ‘for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ (Matt. 19:14). We are to become as children, so that we might inhabit God’s new creation. And, on a practical level, this perhaps means two things above all. Firstly, we are called to a purging of our ‘adultness’, which binds us to our unthinking habits, and continues to perpetuate structural injustice in a broken world. Secondly, by a rediscovery of our imagination (through what Nicholas Lash would call asking ‘childlike’ questions), we are called to an anticipation of the Kingdom. We must live in a world ‘charged’ with the energy of God – ‘It will flame out, like shining from shook foil,’ as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote – and always alive with the possibilities of the Divine. This must be our continual witness, in thought, word, and deed.

 

So, Herbert was right. The greatest ‘music at midnight’ is the truest resonance of God’s own perfect harmony, echoed through generations of Christians who say the Creed and transform the world. ‘The whole universe bursts into song’. Indeed. And it’s about time we listened.

 

 

 

Intercessions for 17th Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 23) 12 October 2014

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The Collect

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, and so bring us at last to your heavenly  city where we shall see you face to face; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Exodus 32.1-14

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold ear-rings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their ear-rings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterwards they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” But Moses sought the favour of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance for ever.’” Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Psalm 106.1-6,19-23

Alleluia. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is gracious, *for his faithfulness endures for ever.
Who can express the mighty acts of the Lord * or show forth all his praise?
Blessed are those who observe what is right * and always do what is just.
Remember me, O Lord, in the favour you bear for your people; * visit me in the day of your salvation;
That I may see the prosperity of your chosen and rejoice in the gladness of your people, * and exult with your inheritance.
We have sinned like our forebears; * we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.
They made a calf at Horeb * and worshipped the molten image;
Thus they exchanged their glory * for the image of an ox that feeds on hay.
They forgot God their saviour, * who had done such great things in Egypt,
Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham * and fearful things at the Red Sea.
So he would have destroyed them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, * to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Second Reading: Philippians 4.1-9

My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22.1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to the chief priests and Pharisees in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’


The RSCM has:

You have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. You have your whole life to prepare for it. You know the way. But you do not know the hour or the day. Blessed are those who will be found ready when he comes, dressed in alertness and hope, good deeds and loving kindness, faith and courage: wearing the wedding garment that will be expected of all the guests intending to stay for the feast.

And in his essay, The Wardrobe as Christian Metaphor, Dr Don King writes:

Digory’s Uncle Andrew…is actually called by Aslan so that he might be given the chance to re-focus his life away from…egocentricity and towards righteousnes and selflessness. Unfortunately, Uncle Andrew does not respond because his sensibilities have been deadened. For example, while Aslan sings his song of creation, Uncle Andrew “was not liking the Voice.” Later, all he could hear was “nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song”:…Aslan Himself sums up Uncle Andrew’s problem later in response to Polly’s request that Aslan remove the old man’s fear: “I cannot tell that [the meaning of His song of creation] to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!” (171). Uncle Andrew’s failure to heed Aslan’s call is reminiscent of those in Jesus’ parable who failed to respond properly to a wedding invitation: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you have promised us that those who search for you will find you, if we seek you with all our hearts. Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that threaten our blossom and let us not be diverted by false goals. Rather, help us to develop our individual relationship of love with you so that we may be open to all the members of the Body of Christ in an inter-communion of love in which each embraces the other, and all are embraced by God.

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, open our eyes that we may see the harm we have done to your creation. Open our sense of smell that we may breathe in the promise of every new day. Open the fingers of our hands that we may touch something that you have made. Open our ears that we may hear your words of warning and mercy. And open our hearts, that we may feel and share your love.

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, the tangled roots from which we spring nourish our depths and send out shoots for growth; separate yet entwined with friends, relatives, strangers and people we do not like. Yet we grow together in an intricate relationship, mutually dependent in the up and over, as we dominate and submit to the wheel and turn, the pre-ordained pattern,  of a Celtic knot.

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we ask you for healing for all those who suffer. Help us and them to understand that healing is rarely achieved without some cost and may not mean the end of pain. For healing is not going back to what one was before, it is a growing on to a new stage of being and, through many little deaths and resurrections, being set free. Help us to hold on through the pain, and may our difficulties in time yield nourishment. *

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, with a love stronger than death, your son opened his arms to us on the cross and death was swallowed up in victory. May we who have shared our lives as strangers and pilgrims here on earth be welcomed with all your saints to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom.

Lord, draw us through the narrowest of gates to the wide open spaces of your heaven: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

* Based on two poems by Ann Lewin, Healing and Astringent Sweetness.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Exodus 32.1-14 © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Post Communion (17th after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for 16th Sunday after Trinity (Proper 22 ) Year A – 5 October 2014

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The Collect

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers of your people who call upon you; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Exodus 20.1-4,7-9,12-20

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the  Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work. Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the  Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.’

Psalm 19

Refrain: The commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.

The heavens are telling the glory of God *and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. One day pours out its song to another *and one night unfolds knowledge to another.
They have neither speech nor language * and their voices are not heard, Yet their sound has gone out into all lands *and their words to the ends of the world.
In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun, * that comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber and rejoices as a champion to run his course.
It goes forth from the end of the heavens and runs to the very end again, * and there is nothing hidden from its heat. R
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; * the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart; * the commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; * the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, * sweeter also than honey, dripping from the honeycomb.
By them also is your servant taught * and in keeping them there is great reward. R
Who can tell how often they offend? * O cleanse me from my secret faults!
Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins lest they get dominion over me; * so shall I be undefiled, and innocent of great offence.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, * O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Refrain: The commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.

 

Second Reading: Philippians 3.4b-14

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 21.33-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.


Prayers of Intercession

Lord, may the words we speak, the words we write and the thoughts we think all be acceptable to you, O God of our salvation.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we know how you yearn and strive to bring harmony out of the discord that threatens our Church. So fill us all with your wisdom, and so move with the wind of your presence among the landscapes and structures that comprise the Body of Christ here on earth that Christian people throughout the world may reflect the wonder of the universe, in the glory of your transfigured Son, at one with you in the cost of creating.

Lord, may the love that moves the stars stir in the depths of our hearts: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, the stars in the heavens chant your glory, pulsing their praise across aeons of space. From the radiance of a summer dawn to the sunset of a winter evening, from the darkest of mountain nights to the stillness of moonlit seas, your creation’s praise is never silent, all this without speech or language. Help us to understand that we, too, do not always need a voice to enable you to hear us. Inscribe your commandments on our souls, we pray, and incline our hearts to keep your laws, with all joy and peace in believing.

Lord, may the love that moves the stars stir in the depths of our hearts: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, help us to work together for the common good with those we live amongst. As we find ourselves walking alongside those who hear a different drummer and walk to a different beat, help us to adjust our pace to theirs, so that we may become synchronised to walk in step. If we find others who delight in leadership for its own sake, let us press on towards our common goal. If the way seems a struggle, and obstacles never-ending, we pray for your strength to continue upwards along the road.

Lord, may the love that moves the stars stir in the depths of our hearts: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord of all worlds, look in love upon your people. Pour the healing of your compassion on a world that is wounded. Send us out in search of the lost, to comfort the afflicted, to bind up the broken and to free those trapped under the rubble of their fallen dreams. *

Lord, may the love that moves the stars stir in the depths of our hearts: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, be near to those who are dying and make yourself known to them. Give them your peace and take away their fears. Rise in our hearts this day, enfold us in the brightness of your love and bear us at the last to heaven’s horizon; for your love’s sake.

Lord, may the love that moves the stars stir in the depths of our hearts: in your mercy, hear our prayer

*Based on a prayer by Sheila Cassidy

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA .Some material  included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000. Collect (16th after Trinity) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

 

 

Thought for the week: am I pointing towards God? – Taylor Carey

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Throughout his writing life, one painting hung above the desk of the famous theologian Karl Barth. It was Matthias Grünewald’s Crucifixion, which, in its original form, made up part of the great Isenheim Altarpiece built for a monastery in Alsace. The Crucifixion is a shocking and intensely moving masterpiece. Christ’s body is pitted with lacerations and sores. His fingers are splayed in agony, whilst his ribbed chest heaves against the onslaught of his violent demise. It is impossible to contemplate Grünewald’s masterpiece without absorbing a crucial message: here is a God who speaks to the suffering, because here is a God who suffers.

But there is more to the Crucifixion than mere morbidity. Standing beneath the Cross, pointing towards his Master, is the figure of John the Baptist. This is clearly anachronistic, since John was executed, upon the orders of Herod, in 29 AD. Yet Grünewald isn’t making an historical mistake; on the contrary, Karl Barth, for one, took the interaction between Jesus and John in this painting as deeply symbolic of the basic model for Christian life, witness, and worship.

Behind the figure of John are the words given to the Baptist in the Fourth Gospel: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30). For Barth, this disclosed an essential truth about the vocation of the Church. Christians must become ‘signs’ that point to God. We must be that ‘pointing hand’ which directs everything beyond ourselves, to the One who has already turned towards us. Only when it does this is the Church fulfilling its purpose and mission. In a quite different context, this idea can be found amongst the sayings of the Desert Fathers of fourth-century Egypt, who maintained that ‘Our life and death are with our neighbour’. Our lives must be liberated from the constraints of our own ego, to be made into signs that, like the Baptist’s pointing hand, lead our gaze to God.

But this is not just a God ‘above’, a God who is distant from earthly woe. Our gazing at God brings us into the deepest reality of this world, since that is where God is to be found, in stillness, silence, and prayer. Far from forgetting the troubles, injustices, and joys we face on a daily basis, by becoming a pointing hand, we bring a little of God’s freedom into them, and we inhabit them in a radically new way.

This week, many will participate in a prayer vigil for Gaza. Our prayers for all those in that region, whose plight can be so easily forgotten, are not simply naïve requests for a convenient celestial solution. Rather, they are responses to an urgency of suffering, made by women and men who seek to place themselves as an interface between a dire need and the constant activity of a loving and creative God. The Christian who prays about Gaza seeks to make themselves into a sign, or a pointing hand, in order to bring about a transformation of humanity, and to bring something of God’s creative freedom to bear upon situations of tragedy. They seek, in the words of a well-known prayer, to be made into ‘instruments’ of God’s peace. This undoubtedly involves facing up to the terrible depths of human sin and error, but, as Grünewald’s suffering Christ shows us, these are depths already endured and overcome by God’s love.

So, are we living up to the Baptist’s model as ‘pointers’ to God? Do we, in our daily lives, stand before the Cross, and commit ourselves to dispossession and embrace? Christ’s body might be ugly and distressing – more so with every death and bereavement in Gaza – because this is a body totally transparent to the reality and suffering of the world. And yet, like Grünewald’s masterpiece, it is also surely beautiful, because it speaks of hope, and of God’s presence here and now. And so it speaks of a world of peace, of swords beaten into ploughshares, and the Church at last singing the very music of God.


Editor’s Note

I find this piece by  Taylor very moving, as I expect our readers will too. As a footnote I add a picture of the Crucifixion hanging above Barth’s modest desk.170px-Karl_Barth_Desk

 

 

Intercessions for 15th Sunday after Trinity Year A (Proper 21) 28 September 2014

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The Collect

God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon your Church in the burning fire of your love: grant that your people may be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel that, always abiding in you, they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Exodus 17.1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Psalm 78.1-4,12-16

Hear my teaching, O my people; * incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable; * I will pour forth mysteries from of old,
Such as we have heard and known, * which our forebears have told us.
We will not hide from their children, but will recount to generations to come, * the praises of the Lord and his power and the wonderful works he has done.
For he did marvellous things in the sight of their forebears, * in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
He divided the sea and let them pass through; * he made the waters stand still in a heap.
He led them with a cloud by day * and all the night through with a blaze of fire.
He split the hard rocks in the wilderness * and gave them drink as from the great deep.
He brought streams out of the rock * and made water gush out like rivers.

Second Reading: Philippians 2.1-13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 21.23-32

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.’


One of the lessons I draw from today’s readings is that our leaders (Moses, Philip and our present episcopate) can only take us so far – ultimately we must work out our own salvation. Jane Williams says we need to learn to be obedient to God, nothing else. And we have Christ as our pattern. The RSCM offers: ‘It is so easy to say all the right things, to look as if we have it right, but the really big question is whether we do the things we say. The Pharisees talked the talk but couldn’t walk the walk. The prostitutes and tax collectors, on the other hand, had no talk but through real repentance had learnt how to walk. How does our walk measure up to our talk?’

Prayers of Intercession

Lord our God, to you we lift our hearts; in you we trust.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we thank you for your work in us and in your whole Body of Christ here on earth. We thank you that at times you work through us, and that when needed you will work in spite of us. You take the threads of our lives and weave them into grace, each part in its place, stronger for being woven with warp and weft than the individual threads could ever be.  Lord the artist, paint us into beauty. Lord the sculptor, shape our souls. Lord our maker, make us whole. *

Lord, shape our lives to be beautiful for you: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, teach us to know when we have enough. If in greed we ask too much of you, or in fear we ask too little, measure out for us daily the bread and water that we need and no more. Where thorns encroach and thistles threaten, give us a farmer’s wisdom to plant good seed, and to know what to uproot. As deep as we have dug before, you are deeper. As wide as we have wandered, you are wider. You are the glow at the edge of everything.

Lord, shape our lives to be beautiful for you: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, your world is full of independent satellites united in your orbit: help us to connect and communicate, and save us from collision. Your world is a jungle of people,  a garden growing human fruit. Help us, Lord, to know and to love the people that you have planted.

Lord, shape our lives to be beautiful for you: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, where the oppressed hunger for hope, let justice roll. Where the abandoned struggle against bitterness, and long for love, may healing rise. If hope is at times hard to hold onto, you are still our God. If dreams are dashed and desires are delayed, you are still our God. Still us, O God, to know you, bolster our courage, and find us a purpose which is worth the pain.

Lord, shape our lives to be beautiful for you: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we pray for all those whom we loved that you have taken to yourself.  May they, with all the saints, have rest in that place where there is no pain or grief, but life eternal.

Lord, shape our lives to be beautiful for you: in your mercy, hear our prayer

*Based on ‘Twitturgies’ by Gerard Kelly

Copyright acknowledgement:Collect (15th after Trinity) © 1980, 1986 Mowbray, a Cassell Imprint: Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

 

Intercessions for the Feast of St Matthew 21 September 2014

The_Evangelist_Matthew_Inspired_by_an_Angel

‘The evangelist Matthew inspired by an angel’ by Rembrandt c 1661

The Collect

O almighty God, whose blessed Son called Matthew the tax-collector to be an apostle and evangelist: give us grace to forsake the selfish pursuit of gain and the possessive love of riches that we may follow in the way of your Son Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Proverbs 3.13-18

Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding,  for her income is better than silver,  and her revenue better than gold.  She is more precious than jewels,  and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness,  and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;  those who hold her fast are called happy.

Psalm 119.65-72 9 Teth

You have dealt graciously with your servant, *according to your word, O Lord.
O teach me true understanding and knowledge, * for I have trusted in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, * but now I keep your word.
You are gracious and do good; * O Lord, teach me your statutes. R
The proud have smeared me with lies, * but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.
Their heart has become gross with fat, * but my delight is in your law.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, * that I may learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is dearer to me * than a hoard of gold and silver. R

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4.1-6

Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 9.9-13

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

Prayers of Intercession

The RSCM comments on today’s readings: ‘What a surprise! The last person you would expect to find in Jesus’ company, Matthew the tax-collector. Everyone knew that tax collectors were thieves and liars, sinners of the first order. Jesus was not only eating with one, he had invited Matthew to be one of his closest friends. ‘

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we thank you that, in making the tax collector Matthew one of your apostles, you showed that you believed even someone  such as he was worthy to be called into life with you. We are like empty seashells on a sandy shore and, for us, you are the sea. The sweeping wave rides up the shore, and overflows each shell with crystalline water. There is no glory to the shell, we give the glory to the glorious sea.  Sweep over us, your shells, we pray; we yield to the purpose of your  will. Sweep up, O conquering waves, and purify, and with your fullness fill.

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, at times we can feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of human need and the constant demands on our compassion in the global village which our world has become. At times we feel we cannot achieve much, and it is true that we cannot touch every area of need. But let us not fail altogether because we cannot solve all the ills of mankind. We can take time and trouble to find out what other Christians are doing in our world, and be ready to respond. Then we can light a candle by our concern, our prayers and by giving what we can of our time and our talents for the healing of your world.

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, we journey on, fortified by you and one another. Knowing that we are accepted as we are, we can the more readily accept and forgive others. We have received your gracious and truthful presence, far more enriching than all the wealth of the world. May it bind us together with our companions, putting misunderstandings right, restoring love between us so that, whatever our differences of outlook or temperament we grow steadily closer on our pilgrimage together.

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, give us to know in our hearts that all things intermingle for good to those that love you.* Though the pain and the suffering and the darkness all remain distinct, and the good may seem powerless against that reality, when they all intermingle they form a pattern. The darkness doesn’t become less dark, but the pattern which the light makes upon it contains the meaning which makes the darkness endurable. **

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we bring before you all those whom we love and who are no longer at the mercy of time or decay. Free of the limitations of this life, they are now in your presence for ever.

Lord, give us true understanding for we have put our faith in your word: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

*Romans 8.28

**’Absolute Truths’ by Susan Howatch, quoted by Mary Batchelor in ‘Journey of the Spirit’ , p.128.


Copyright acknowledgement: Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council Collect (Matthew) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)
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