25 Sep 2020 • From Elizabeth, our Vicar
Iona–style Morning Prayer
The world belongs to God,
the earth and all its people.
How good it is, how wonderful,
to live together in unity.
Love and faith come together,
justice and peace join hands.
Open our lips, O God,
and our mouths shall proclaim your praise.
Holy God, maker of all,
have mercy on us.
Jesus Christ, servant of the poor,
have mercy on us.
Holy Spirit, breath of life,
have mercy on us.
At the centre of our faith is the belief that God' goodnessis at the heart of humanity, planted more deeply than all that is wrong.Let us in silence confess our faults and admit our frailty. (silence)
For the dullness of our vision, Father forgive.
For the weakness of our faith, Jesus forgive.
For the joylessness of our living, Spirit forgive.
Holy Three have mercy upon us; forgive us our sins,
help us to seek,
help us to see,
help us to serve you.
Listen to the words of Jesus, words that we can
trust: “Don't be afraid, your sins are forgiven.
I love you. Come and follow me”.
A Prayer for God's help
Move among us O God; give us life.
Let your people rejoice in you.
Make our hearts clean within us.
Renew us in mind and spirit.
Give us again the joy of your help.
With your spirit of freedom, sustain us.
The Collect for the day
Lord of creation,
whose glory is around and within us:
pen our eyes to your wonders,
that we may server you with reverence
and know your peace at our lives end,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Reading for the day,
Matthew 21 verses 23 -32
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
When he 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.
The Parable of the Two Sons
‘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.
At the end of the readings:
For the word of God in Scripture,
for the word of God among us,
for the word of God within us,
Thanks be to God.
A Short Reflection
Our church services – live or virtual - are never going to be filled only with people who all think the same or who all believe in quite the same way. Neither are they places to be only on the good days or at those times when life is bright and breezy. They’re also places to be when things are not so good and when life feels like we’re stuck on a merry-go-round that never stops, or on those days when it feels as if every step we take is like trudging through treacle.
In those difficult times let none of us suppose that we are the only one who is struggling or suffering. When life is stressful for us then we do always find ourself alongside others who sometimes discover that simply getting through each day can be a struggle.
Some people are happy to share their worries and concerns with those around them, while others hold their worries and concerns more closely to them.
The chief priests and the elders have perfectly legitimate worries and concerns about this man, Jesus, who has somehow arrived on the horizon of their lives, of their community, of their world. It’s awkward for them that Jesus seems to be turning received wisdom on its head; he seems to be questioning the moral compass of society. He’s presuming to issue proclamations, not just about this world, but also about the world to come.
Jesus is turning out to be smarter than people had given him credit for, and here they are today voicing those concerns in the questions that they ask,
‘Who said you could come here to this holy place and start preaching?’
‘Who gave you permission, who gave you authority to change things and do things differently?’
There is a clear implication that things were just fine the way they were, and change is not welcome.
Jesus – for his part – has his own worries and concerns. Whereas the average reader of the gospel stories hasn’t given John the Baptist much of a thought since the unpleasant episode of his murder, he remains very much on Jesus mind. Because it was John who baptised Jesus and it’s John who is now dead because that baptism changed him from being an obscure desert prophet to a perceived enemy of the authorities.
Jesus also has the concern of preparing his followers for the time, not very far distant, when he will no longer be with them – so much wisdom for him still to impart to them, so much for them still to learn before that swift, short life sees its close. Jesus is preparing always for what he will leave behind, and for his legacy.
On any level that’s a very sound way of viewing much of what we do in this world. Were it different, were we to be too much of the time too overly concerned only with ourselves, our own life and lifespan, and too little concerned with how life is for others and what state we leave the world, our family, our community, our church, in for those who follow, then surely the world would be a sadder, lonelier and more precariously balanced place than it currently is.
Our legacy matters. We want to be remembered within our family just as we look back on our forebears; our lives shape the lives of those who follow us just as surely as our lives are shaped by those who have gone before.
It’s good to leave a mark on our community, to know that we keep it well and that we leave it better. It’s surely also good to mould and influence the community of faith of which we are a part. To take the church, that others did their best to leave in good order for us, and to make it a place not just fit for the present time, but a place fit for the times to come.
This time of year – with harvest services, the All Souls service and before we know it the season of Advent – seems naturally to present itself as a Season of Invitation in the church. These coming weeks give us the opportunity to welcome others into this faith community, to ask a friend or neighbour to join with us – in church or for a Zoom or youtube service. That notion of invitation is something that we often find not easy to do and we do well to ponder why that is. If we’re committed to maintaining our churches and our community of faith here in these communities then surely that commitment comes out of a belief in the value of what we have, and if what we have is valuable then isn’t it worth sharing?
If we really want to leave the churches and this faith community in a strong place for others in the future then - difficult as we all know it to be and difficult as we should all acknowledge it to be – we need to find new ways of sharing it with those who live around us and who are our neighbours, during the harvest and Advent and Christmas seasons that are approaching but also this day and this week.
Our Affirmation of Faith
We believe in God the Father,
from whom every family
in heaven and on earth is named.
We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith,
and fills us with his love.
We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us
with power from on high.
We believe in one God;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
You may like to:
give thanks for something good that has happened for you.
pray for someone you know who is in trouble of some sort
pray for your friends and family
remember someone who has died.
The Lord’s prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name; your kingdom come;
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
O God, you have set before us a great hope
that your kingdom will come on earth, and have taught us to pray for its coming.Make us ready to thank you for the signs of its dawning, and to pray and work for the perfect day when your will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the name of Jesus Christ.Amen.
May the blessing of the God of life be ours,
the blessing of the loving Christ be ours,
the blessing of the Holy Spirit be ours,
to cherish us, to help us, to make us holy.
Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God!