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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

Eternal God, giver of love and peace, you call your children to live together as one family. Give us grace to learn your ways and to do your will, that we may bring justice and peace to all people, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen   Methodist Worship

Give us, we pray, gentle God, a mind forgetful of past injury, a will to seek the good of others and a heart of love, that we may learn to live in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we pray.  Amen.    Methodist Worship

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.   Common Worship

Almighty God, send down upon your Church the riches of your Spirit, and kindle in all who minister the Gospel your countless gifts of grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  CW Shorter Collect
 

First Bible Reading    Amos 7:7-15

This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, "What do you see, Amos?" "A plumb line," I replied. Then the Lord said, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. "The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam."
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: "Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. For this is what Amos is saying: "'Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.'" Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don't prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king's sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom."
Amos answered Amaziah, "I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'

Prophet Elizah - 15th century, Benaki museum - Athens

Second Reading   Ephesians 1:3-14

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. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

 


Gospel Reading    Mark 6:14-28

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus' name had become well known. Some were saying, "John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him." Others said, "He is Elijah." And still others claimed, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago." But when Herod heard this, he said, "John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!" For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled ; yet he liked to listen to him. Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you." And he promised her with an oath, "Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" "The head of John the Baptist," she answered. At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: "I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter." The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother.

 

Post Communion Sentence

Eternal God, comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken, you have fed us at the table of life and hope: teach us the ways of gentleness and peace, that all the world may acknowledge the kingdom of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
 

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