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Intercessions for Trinity +16 (Proper 19 Year C) 15 September 2013

Safe with my father

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: Jeremiah 4.11-12,22-28

At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, “A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows towards my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.” “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.” I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. This is what the Lord says: “The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely. Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back.”

Psalm 14

Refrain: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ♦ Corrupt are they, and abominable in their wickedness; there is no one that does good.
The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the children of earth, ♦ to see if there is anyone who is wise and seeks after God.
But every one has turned back; all alike have become corrupt: ♦ there is none that does good; no, not one. R
Have they no knowledge, those evildoers, ♦ who eat up my people as if they ate bread and do not call upon the Lord?
There shall they be in great fear; ♦ for God is in the company of the righteous.
Though they would confound the counsel of the poor, ♦ yet the Lord shall be their refuge.
O that Israel’s salvation would come out of Zion! ♦ When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, then will Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.
Refrain: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
God of heaven, look with mercy on all who are consumed by ignorance and greed, and let the children of earth know that you are God for ever.

Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1.12-17

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Gospel Reading: Luke 15.1-10

All the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

As so often, I found Jane Williams the most useful and thought-provoking interpreter of today’s lectionary:

The shepherd and the sweeping woman in Luke’s stories today are not reacting normally. We are not meant to read these stories and think, ‘Ah yes, I would do just that.’ We are supposed to question their values and then realize that the whole point of the stories is to question ours…In each of these stories, one point is hammered home – God’s reaction is wild and exaggerated, just like those of the shepherd and the woman. There is no profligacy in God’s housekeeping. He cannot reconcile himself to natural wastage…But if this is the main point of the story, there is also a secondary one.

The Exodus passage * gives us another one of those pictures of God in dialogue with a friend. As when Abraham bargains for the people of Sodom, so here, God seems to change his mind in talking with Moses. It’s as though the shepherd decided  to leave the sheep to its fate, but all his friends came round and nagged him until he grudgingly went out to look for it. Moses makes God change his mind by reminding him what kind of a God he is… ‘This is your character’, Moses reminds God, ‘and if you act completely out of character now, then everything you did before was worthless.’ Is it God who needs to see what he has always been like? Or is it a moment of sudden clarity for Moses, when he sees God’s action all of a piece, and realizes what kind of a God he is dealing with? Certainly, part of the result of the conversation between God and Moses is to bind Moses even more tightly to God’s people, annoying and stupid as they are. Read the rest of Exodus 32 to see how angry he gets with them, but also to see how he asks God to visit their punishment on him. Moses has become one of those who would rejoice over the finding of one lost coin. Even more poignantly, so is Paul. What makes it so moving in this case is that he was once the lost coin himself, and now he longs to find others; he is the sheep turned sheepdog. His experience, too, like that of Moses, is that this is to do with the fundamental character of God. The author says that this is a saying attested by all other Christian authorities (1 Timothy 1.15, & Luke 19.10), ‘that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’. So somebody, at least, was listening to those stories that Jesus told, and got the point of them. Both the point about God, who is like the shepherd or the woman in his total commitment to us, and the point about the reaction of the friends. Now it’s our turn.

Prayers of Intercession

¶ The Church of Christ

Lord, look down with mercy on your Church. When there arise false prophets who misunderstand your word, and seek unintentionally to mislead others, we ask you to forgive them. When there arise other false leaders who do understand your word, but who seek to mislead others for their own personal gain, we ask you to forgive them also. And when we, perversely or foolishly, follow others down false paths, or find new false paths of our own, we ask you to bring us safely back into your fold.

Lord, when we are lost bring us home: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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

Lord, we have squandered the gift of life. The good life of some is built on the pain of many. The freedom of some is built on the oppression of many. We thank you for the lives of those who are ready to struggle and risk their own lives for the sake of others. Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth; lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust; lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe.

Lord, when we are lost bring us home: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶ The local community

Lord, you have taught us through your Son that love is the fulfilling of the law: grant that we may love you with our whole hearts and our neighbours as ourselves. When we know those things which we ought to do in our relationship with those around us, prick our consciences so that we do them. When, through our failure to live up to the model of your Son, we think, say and do those things which we ought not to do in our dealings with our neighbours, we ask your forgiveness and the renewal of your grace so that we may follow more nearly in his footsteps in future.

Lord, when we are lost bring us home: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶ Those who suffer

Lord, look in love upon your people. Pour the healing oil of your compassion on a world that is wounded and dying. Send us out in your name 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. Renew in them a sense of hope, whether in their own future in this world, or  the life to come and union everlasting with you. **

Lord, when we are lost bring us home: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶ The communion of saints

Lord, we thank you with all our hearts that, despite the many times we have gone astray and disappointed, you keep bright the promise of eternal life to the whole communion of saints, made good through the sacrifice of your Son. In the words of St Paul, to you, King of the ages, immortal, invisible,  be honour and glory for ever and ever.

Lord, when we are lost bring us home: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

*Jane Williams is using the Related, rather than the Continuous, Lectionary. Sometimes, as here, the ‘related’ reading seems particularly useful in interpreting a difficult passage from another reading. The overt meaning of the lessons is perfectly clear; what is less clear is how we should understand them, and what we should infer.

**This is based on a prayer by Sheila Cassidy, who, by publicising her own history as a torture survivor, drew attention to human rights abuse in Chile in the 1970s.

*** Today’s illustration Secure with my Father by Jane Barrow is from the Veritasse website, to whom I offer acknowledgement and grateful thanks. Jane Barrow says about it: “Really this picture is about how God protects and nurtures. He spoke to me about the importance of being vulnerable with him. Allowing Him to hold our world and be ok with all its challenges and burdens, to know he is in control.”

2 comments on this post:

minidvr said...

Thanks Laura

13 September 2013 11:41
Jane said...

This is a wonderful website with thoughtful and thought-provoking interpretation of scripture. Thank you, once again you have given me inspiration for the intercessions on Sunday.

09 September 2016 21:25

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