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Worship, Prayer and Bible Resources

Ordinary 15 - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green


Introduction

When you think of a prophet what image comes to mind? It might be like the one shown above of John the Baptist, with robes, perhaps a beard, and almost certainly in need of a hairdresser ! But there is much more to prophecy than these old fashioned pictures. Prophets are not necessarily people who can foretell the future, in fact they might not be able to do that at all. What they do is to speak to us words, or images which are of God. They tell us things about God and about ourselves, sometimes things which we don't want to hear.


Opening Verses of Scripture  Ephesians 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: graft in our hearts the love of your name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of your great mercy keep us in the same; 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. CW

Generous God, you give us gifts and make them grow: though our faith is small as mustard seed, make it grow to your glory and the flourishing of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW
 

First Bible Reading 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19  

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

They brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the LORD. When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes. NRSV

Related Reading Amos 7:7-15

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘See, I am setting a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’ Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very centre of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.”’ And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’ Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycomore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” NRSV

 

Prophet Elizah - 15th century, Benaki museum - Athens

Second Reading   Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people to the praise of his glory. NRSV


Gospel Reading    Mark 6:14-28

King Herod heard of the healings and other miracles, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptizer on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

Lord God, whose Son is the true vine and the source of life, ever giving himself that the world may live: may we so receive within ourselves the power of his death and passion that, in his saving cup, we may share his glory and be made perfect in his love; for he is alive and reigns, now and for ever. CW  

Commentary

When we speak of prophecy, often we imagine that it is about telling us something which will happen in the future. It is like having your fortune read, somebody has the ability to look into the future and predict what will happen. It is important to understand that this is not what prophets do. Prophets are not fairground characters with crystal balls with the ability to tell who is going to meet a tall dark handsome stranger. Neither are prophets like Nostradamus, predicting world events or attempting to see into the future.

Prophets all share one feature, they stand close to God. It is because of their ability to draw close to God that have the ability to comprehend some truth of God. This truth they share with others.

Prophets need not be obviously religious people. The prophet Amos from our Old Testament lesson today was a businessman and a farmer. Yet his closeness to God helped him to realise that it was important to speak out strongly for justice and against the religious leaders of the day, he took severe criticism for doing so. He wanted to see social justice,

 
‘let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ Amos 5:24

He spoke about abuse of the poor, perverting the course of justice, and of thinking that wealth and riches were a sign of God’s blessing, instead of exploitation of others.

Amos is well worth a read, notice the poetic forms he uses and the wonderful pictures used as visual aids to get his message across. In the passage today Amos uses the image of God holding up a plumb line against the nation. This is a powerful image of God exposing the crookedness of national life and how ‘bent’ things had become.

Amos was not a professional religious person, but he still felt compelled to speak out about important religious subjects. Amos recognised that religious conviction extends beyond church things and makes demands upon national standards of behaviour and character. In a modern parallel this means that we all have a duty and responsibility to speak out what we believe God is saying to our church and society. We all have a sacred duty to listen to God and seek to make his voice heard, even if what we say is not especially popular.

We must listen to the voice of God, try to discern God’s voice in the depth of our conscience and then seek to be obedient. Judging by much of what takes place in both church and secular government, this is not the politically correct way to behave. However those who truly seek to live by God’s commands may like Amos be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Prophets are often characterised by conviction, they have a deep motivation and refuse to allow the conventions of the cultural norm to get in the way of the authentic voice of God. For this reason they sometimes stand out from the crowd, not just in the things which they say, but also the things which they do. Prophets do not care about following fashion, either in clothes or ideas. They are individuals with a mission and they often have no respect for convention or people with illusions of grandeur. The prophet stands close to God, therefore all human power and authority is seen for the illusion which it is and holds little awe.

Prophets can condemn kings and rulers, as well as those who cheat on their wives. They are concerned about the life of nations, they will also condemn those who steal from the poor, or those who do not practice decent morals.  There is no point threatening a prophet and hoping they will go away quietly, God has empowered and compelled them to speak and all human power is redundant. King Herod found this in the passage from John's gospel today. This is not Herod the Great who indifferently slaughtered his wives, his offspring, and Bethlehem’s babies, but his son Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee — Herod "the fox", according to Jesus (Luke 13.32).

His sin was to have married someone too closely related to him, a woman who was both his sister-in-law and his niece. The old Book of Common Prayer has a page on which is recorded 'A table of kindred and affinity, wherein whosoever are related are forbidden by the church of England to marry together.'

A man may not marry his

mother, daughter, father's mother, mother's mother, son's daughter, daughters daughter, sister, father's daughter, mother's daughter, wife's mother, wife's daughter, father's wife, son's wife, father's father's wife, mother's father's wife, wife's farther's mother, wife's mother's mother, wife's son's daughter, wife's daughter's daughter, son's son's wife, daughter's son's wife, father's sister, mother's sister, brother's daughter, sister's daughter.    No chance for Herod and Herodias .
 

John the Baptist would not be silenced, he had his conviction and he was steadfast in proclaiming the need for everybody to be ready to meet with God.

So what is it that these prophets who stand close to God speak about? What is the force of their message which challenges us and causes our conscience to be troubled? Amos spoke about social injustice and international terrorism. He called for repentance and reform.

Meditation

This week twenty Church of England bishops signed a letter opposing the use of nuclear weapons, and saying the money would be better spent on developing countries. The letter coincided with a review of Trident, by the Commons defence committee, which needs to be replaced by 2024. They claimed that the weapons system would be "evil" and "profoundly anti-God".

"Whatever our various views on conventional warfare, we all agree that Just War arguments rule out the use of nuclear weapons . . . Such weapons challenge the very core of Judaeo-Christian faith."
 

"Trident and other nuclear arsenals threaten long-term and fatal damage to the global environment and its peoples. As such, their end is evil, and both possession and use profoundly anti-God acts."
 

"costs involved in the maintenance and replacement of Trident could be used to address pressing environmental concerns, the causes of terrorism, poverty, and debt."


At the same time a statement was made by Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs for The Methodist Church. He said
“We are pleased to see the Defence Committee’s findings reflect many of the points raised by the Methodist Church in its submission. “The report notes that the past concept of deterrence is no longer relevant in the current international context. There are clearly questions as to whether nuclear weapons will offer the best option for our security in 20 years time. We share the disappointment of the Defence Committee that the Ministry of Defence has declined to meet with it. “It is our view that our future security will ultimately depend on a strong non-proliferation regime. We need to limit the number of new countries developing weapons. We also need to limit the increase in fissile material around the globe as there is a danger that it could fall into the wrong hands and be used to make ‘dirty bombs’. An investment in a replacement in Trident cannot help us here. The world is changing fast. This report demonstrates that there is no reason for a future prime minister to feel bound by a concept of deterrence that was born out of the Cold War era.”
 

Hymns

  1. Called from safer pastures, lifestyles of our choice, Tune Noel Nouvelet

  2. God has spoken to his people, alleluia 182 Mission Praise

  3. Saint John was like a flaming torch, Tune Gonfalon Royal

  4. God has spoken-by his prophets, Tune Ode to Joy

(See words below)

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

Additional Material

Verse of scripture
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Eph 1 v 3
 

Collect Prayer
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply on us your mercy; that with you as our ruler and our guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we loose not our hold on things eternal; grant this heavenly Father , for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
 

Commentary
Amos On the death of King Solomon in 922 BC, the Israelites split into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Jeroboam, the first King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, fearful that his people would be drawn towards Jerusalem, the place of Solomon's Temple in Southern Judah and therefore weaken his own Kingdom, set about providing a religious foundation for his people of the North. First he established a priesthood which claimed lineage from the Mosaic period and then he established two centres of worship in His own Kingdom, one at Dan, in the north, and another at Bethel on the southern boundary. Both Dan and Bethel had been sacred sites and centres for pilgrimage for some time. Amos is one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament who was active 150 years later, about 750 - 770 BC. Although he was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, he spoke out against the injustices and the depravity which had become prevalent in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. That he chose to do so in one of their great spiritual centres, Bethel, with Amaziah, the Priest of Bethel, is all the more remarkable. Amos was an ordinary man by any estimation. He came from among the shepherds of Tekoa, a village 12 miles south of Jerusalem. Its as if today a farm worker from the south of England travelled to see the Archbishop of York, in York Minster, to calmly announce that all was not well and that things had better change if the Kingdom was not to suffer attack and occupation from a weaker northern country! For Israel this was difficult to take. They were enjoying a period of prosperity, business was good, merchants were making money, the standard of living was high for the rich, and the army had scored some memorable victories against Lo-debar and Karnaim. But Amos decried the empty religious practices of Israel, which, although rich in ritual, were insincere empty shams, poor in worship, truth and love. He also spoke out against the injustices of the rich who exploited the poor, denied them justice in the courts, and drove them into slavery and economic ruin. Amos held up the measuring stick of the 'Word of the Lord' for the Israelites to judge themselves by, as a mirror in which they could look at themselves. He believed they were found sorely wanting. Recalling the history of the nation, Amos points out that the Israelites have a special and sacred responsibility to God. For Amos, God speaks in the present through the remembrance of the events of a sacred past. Its the same for us today. God speaks to us through the remembrance of the events of Christ's death and resurrection. We have not only the word of God but the example of Christ to use as our yardstick, to hold up for our society so it can see how it measures up against the ultimate truth. As Christians, we too have a special and sacred responsibility to God for our society. Amos is an example to us all, as a small man who spoke out against the system for justice and human rights, and for what he believed to be right, holding up the word and ways of God as the ultimate arbiter. And, whilst we don't know what happened to Amos, we do know that a few short years later his prophecies were to be fulfilled and Israel was to fall to Assyria, just as he had warned.


Prayers for Sunday

O God, whose matchless power is ever new, pour out your Spirit on us and your whole church; that with renewed faith, vision and obedience we may more joyfully testify to your new creation in Christ; and more selflessly serve your new order even in the midst of the old; to the glory of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
 

Father God, mighty and merciful judge of the world, grant to all those who administer justice the spirit of wisdom and discernment; that they may be strong and patient, upright and compassionate in all their work. Guide our judges, magistrates, lawyers, juries, the police and all others involved in upholding the law and that they may seek your will and the common good of all humankind. Amen
 

O Lord, give us grace not only to be hears of the word, but also doers of the same; not only to love, but to live your gospel; not only to profess but also to practice your blessed commandments, to the honour of your name. Amen
The blessing of the Lord rest and remain upon all His people, in every land, of every tongue; the Lord meet in mercy all who seek Him; the Lord comfort all who suffer and mourn; the Lord hasten His coming, and give us, His people, the blessing of peace; and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us and remain with us now, in the week ahead, and for ever. Amen
 

Hymns for this Sunday

  1. Come let us join our cheerful songs

  2. From Heaven you came
  3. The King of love my Shepherd is
  4. Now let us from this table rise
  5. Stand up and bless the Lord
  6. Make Way
  7. Be thou my vision
  8. God is our strength and refuge
  9. Our eyes have seen the glory
     

First Hymn

Called from safer pastures, lifestyles of our choice,
challenging injustice with the prophet's voice,
firm may we stand, the message to proclaim,
when the world would send us back from whence we came!

On the kingdom's journey, may we travel light,
let the sick find healing, and the blind their sight.
judgement and mercy travel side by side;
in their proclamation, God is glorified.

Glory to the Father, and the holy Son,
by whose grace and passion is our freedom won;
Spirit of promise, pledge of things to be,
let the world sing 'Glory to the Trinity!'

Tune Noel Nouvelet


Second Hymn  
182 Mission Praise

God has spoken to his people, alleluia.
And his words are words of wisdom, alleluia.

Open your ears, O Christian people,
open your ears and hear Good News.
Open your hearts, O royal priesthood,
God has come to you.

God has spoken to his people, alleluia.
And his words are words of wisdom, alleluia.

Israel comes to greet the Saviour,
Judah is glad to see his day.
From East and West the people travel,
he will show the way.

God has spoken to his people, alleluia.
And his words are words of wisdom, alleluia.

Those who have ears to hear his message;
those who have ears, then let them hear.
Those who would learn the way of wisdom,
let them hear God's words.

God has spoken to his people, alleluia.
And his words are words of wisdom, alleluia.



Third Hymn

Saint John was like a flaming torch,
Evangelist of coming light,
Forerunner of the reign of grace,
And messenger of truth's full right.

By birth he came before the one
In whom both God and man combine;
And in due time he did baptise
The very source of life divine.

As Christ who came to save the world
Did conquer through a death of shame,
So too the Baptist shed his blood
To seal the work for which he came.

Most tender Father, grant us grace
In John's straight way our feet to keep,
That nurtured in the living Christ
Eternal joys we too may reap.

From Praecessor alme, The Venerable Bede
(c. 673-735)
translated by Saint Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde

Tune Gonfalon Royal



Fourth Hymn

God has spoken-by his prophets,
spoken his unchanging word;
each from age to age proclaiming
God the one, the righteous Lord;
in the world's despair and turmoil
one firm anchor still holds fast:
God is King, his throne eternal,
God the first and God the last.

God has spoken-by Christ Jesus,
Christ, the everlasting Son;
brightness of the Father's glory,
with the Father ever one:
spoken by the Word incarnate,
Life, before all time began,
light of light, to earth descending,
God, revealed as Son of Man.

God is speaking-by his Spirit
speaking to our hearts again;
in the age-long word expounding
God's own message, now as then.
Through the rise and fall of nations
one sure faith is standing fast:
God abides, his word unchanging,
God the first and God the last.

Tune Ode to Joy