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Worship, Prayer and Bible Study Resources

Ordinary 16 - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green

Opening Verse
Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Sentence
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead:
Intercessions from our Sunday worship
Sermons

Introduction

When we see the way that Jesus treated people, one thing is clear. He liked them. He had compassion on them and cared for them. There were some people he had problems with, but only because they were religious hypocrites and thought better of themselves than everybody else.

Jesus gave people time and effort and energy, even when they interrupted his plans for a holiday, as happened in the reading from Mark this week.

Now how would we feel if everybody came after us when we had decided to go off somewhere nice and quiet on a boat?


Opening Verses of Scripture  

May you, in company with all God’s people, be strong to grasp what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love.
(Ephesians 3, 18-19)

Collect Prayer for the Day

Almighty Lord and everlasting God, we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments; that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; 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. CW

Lord God, your Son left the riches of heaven and became poor for our sake: when we prosper save us from pride, when we are needy save us from despair, that we may trust in you alone; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW 

First Bible Reading 2 Samuel 7:1-14

When David was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.’

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you, David, that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. NRSV

Jeremiah Chapter 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ NRSV

Second Reading   Ephesians 2:11 - 22

Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’ – a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands – remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God. NRSV

Gospel Reading Mark 6:30-34,53-56

The apostles returned from their mission. They gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands that have taken holy things; may the ears which have heard your word be deaf to clamour and dispute; may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit; may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love shine with the light of hope; and may the bodies which have been fed with your body be refreshed with the fullness of your life; glory to you for ever. CW

 

Commentary


For many were coming and going,
and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6

We read today that Jesus has to take his disciples away for some time by themselves because they were so busy they
had been skipping meals. They had all been working flat out spreading the good news but Jesus insists that they rest.
It might come as a surprise that Jesus didn’t consider the mission activity so important that it was worth risking burning out his followers. There two things worth considering

The first point perhaps being that if you want to be productive then you need to allow time for proper breaks from the work. We all need time off otherwise we become unable to offer our best to whatever it is we are doing. We might think that it is just in our generation that people are tired, busy and rushed, but is a common human trait to think that there will be no worthwhile outcomes unless everybody is exhausted. We live in a society in which labour saving devices have spectacularly failed to save us from working harder, communication devices actually tear us apart and our ‘time off’ just turns into more activity. It is reassuring that just at the time when the schools are breaking up and lots of people are skipping off on their holidays, Jesus tells us that everybody needs time to stop, including his own workers. The protestant work ethic has always been used to drive endless activity on the basis that God wants people to work and produce. We do well also to remember that there is only one thing in the creation story which God called blessed and made holy and that was the seventh day, a day of rest.

The second important lesson is to see that Jesus has a soft heart, he cares for people, in fact he cares very deeply. The Bible reading tells us that just at the time when he was trying to get a break, the crowds followed him and wanted him to spend more time with them. If we were off on a boat for some leisure and we were followed by crowds we might have some stern words for people who wouldn’t leave us alone. Instead we are told that Jesus ‘had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.’ This is the sort of ministry which Jesus had, we see it throughout, characterised by a real and deep concern for people and their worries and concerns. He gave of his time to seek out and help those who were weak and vulnerable and all of what he did evidenced great compassion.

Jesus teaches us that this is what God is like. God is not going to give up because he loves us. This is why the illustration of a shepherd is such a good one, looking for errant sheep is what shepherds do, they go and put themselves in danger looking for stupid sheep who don't even know they have gone astray, let alone felt sorry for their wayward behaviour. The point is that we have a good shepherd, we are not good sheep. The words of Jesus are very clear, he is a good shepherd who loves us despite us failing and he has compassion, a kind heart towards us- the heart of God is kind.

Think of some of the stories which Jesus told about the nature of God’s love, stories like the prodigal son who took his inheritance and squandered it in loose living. One day he 'came to himself' and returned to his father’s house, not hoping to be restored as a son, but wanting only to be hired as a servant. His father saw him coming and 'had compassion, ' before the son could sputter out his speech of repentance, the father placed on him a son’s ring and robe and shoes and called for a homecoming feast. Jesus tells us that this is what God is like, and if that is not soft hearted then nothing is. Charles Royden

Meditation

Theresa of Avila"God promises his people that he will give them shepherds that will truly guide them in the ways of peace, justice and liberty. And although we usually divide up the roles, making some pastors and others sheep, We must admit that we must all be loving pastors of all. Do I recognize my responsibility for the fate of my brothers and sisters? Do I feel responsible for their lives, their peace, their happiness, or do I always leave the welfare of others to someone else?"

Hear the words of St. Theresa of Avila who lived in Spain in the days of Martin Luther (1515-1582). She entered a Carmelite convent in 1535 and was beset by illness and poor health most of her life there. She began to receive mystical visions, many of which were disturbing, but was helped to discern God’s voice in them


Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

“Open wide the window of our spirits, O Lord, and fill us full of light; open wide the door of our hearts, that we may receive and entertain you with all our powers of adoration and love.” Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), English poet

Hymns

  1. I rejoiced to hear them say (St Georges Windsor)
  2. Who took fish and bread
  3. In Christ there is no east or west (Kilmarnock)
  4. I heard the voice of Jesus say (Kingsfold)
  5. The Lord’s my Shepherd (Townend)
  6. Jesus heard with deep compassion (Tune Abbotts Leigh, On Partnership News)
  7. Glorious things of thee are spoken 817 (Tune Austria)
  8. Blessed city, heavenly Salem
  9. O Christ, the great foundation
  10. The Church's one foundation
  11. Thy hand, O God, has guided
  12. Lord, we come to ask your healing
  13. Christ is made the sure foundation
    Christ is our corner-stone
  14. Christ is the world's light, he and no other:
  15. Dear Lord and Father of mankind
  16. In Christ there is no east or west
  17. Jesus put this song into our hearts
  18. All over the world

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

Lord, be merciful to your people. Fill us with your gifts and make us always eager to serve you in faith, hope, and love. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, you are the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; help us so to know you that we may truly love you, so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. --Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

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. Amen. Common Worship

Additional Material

Collect prayer for the day

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. Amen.

Commentary

 

In the passage from Mark today we read that Jesus saw the crowd and regarded them as ‘sheep without a shepherd, ’ and we are told that Jesus had compassion on the crowds. It is often interesting to look at the Greek words which the Gospel writers use. Today in the Gospel reading, when Marks says that Jesus had compassion, the word which Mark uses is (spalgnitzomai). It means more than Jesus just feeling sorry for them. Think what it is like when we go to foreign countries and we see people in dreadful poverty. Or even in our own country we might sometimes drive past people and think what a sad miserable life they must lead in poverty or deprivation of some kind. At times like this we feel sorry for people. With Jesus when he saw the people, there was more than just feeling sorry. The word means that Jesus was really deeply moved, it is a word which refers to a deepness within our entrails. Marks is saying that Jesus was so moved that his stomach was upset.

One reason why Jesus felt so moved for these people was because those who were supposed to help them were just looking after themselves. The sheep were without a shepherd and sheep with no shepherd are in danger, they can be attacked and they can get lost, they are vulnerable to predators. Who should have been concerned about the people ?

  • King Herod. He had just killed John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus who was really trying to help ordinary people and lead them back to God.
  • The religious leaders. They were angry at Jesus because he was teaching people about God in such as way as to make them seem ridiculous with their petty rules and regulations. You will remember how Jesus had entered the synagogue in Chapter 3 and he saw a man with a withered hand and we are told that the Pharisees watched Jesus closely to see if Jesus would break the law and heal the man on the Sabbath. We are told that Jesus was angry at their hard hearts and he healed the man.

Instead of helping the people, Mark tells us that Herod and the religious leaders joined together and decided early on that they must destroy Jesus.

So here the battle lines are drawn, the great and good and the religious ones, against the carpenter Jesus who was on the side of the poor, the powerless and those who had been led to believe that they were of no consequence to God. It is very interesting to note the contrast which Mark has drawn. In Chapter 3 Verse 5 Mark describes these religious leaders who really couldn't care for people, and Marks says
‘Jesus looked around with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart’

This is the contrast. The religious leaders had hard hearts, whereas Jesus looked around and felt compassion. The ones who were supposed to be shepherds could not be shepherds because they didn’t care. A shepherd has to have a soft heart, a compassionate heart like Jesus. It is interesting isn’t it that we think of somebody who is soft hearted as a bit soft in the head. They are people who do really good things, but they don’t really understand what people are like and they get taken advantage of. We tend to understand more readily the phrase ‘tough love,’ this is love with our feet firmly on the ground. Well Jesus is not the tough love sort of person. The only ones he is tough with are those who think they don’t need love and are better than everybody else. Jesus spent his whole ministry being soft hearted. Jesus told stories which showed just how soft hearted God was he was. The Good Shepherd will become exhausted and go to any lengths to find what is his and has been lost.

That is what God is like. God is not going to give up. God is relentless and will leave no stone unturned looking for that which has gone astray. This compassionate nature of God is what causes us to sing about 'a love that wilt not let me go.' This is why the illustration of a shepherd is such a good one, looking for errant sheep is what shepherds do, they go and put themselves in danger looking for stupid sheep who don't even know they have gone astray, let alone felt sorry for their wayward behaviour .We probably have the wrong image for the sheep. We see a lovely little white fluffy lamb and Jesus and that is the image we use for the sheep and the shepherd. I suppose that fits with our idea that God loves us when we behave ourselves. The point is that we have a good shepherd, not a good sheep. The words of Jesus are very clear, he is a good shepherd who loves us despite us failing.

Think of some of the stories which Jesus told about the nature of God’s love, stories like the prodigal son who took his inheritance and squandered it in loose living. One day he 'came to himself' and returned to his father’s house, not hoping to be restored as a son, but wanting only to be hired as a servant. His father saw him coming and 'had compassion' on him. Before the son could sputter out his speech of repentance, the father placed on him a son’s ring and robe and shoes and called for a homecoming feast. If that is not soft hearted then nothing is.

The wonderful thing about the Good News is that Christ died for naughty sheep. Desmond Tutu said
‘God did not wait until we were dieable for'
God loved us in spite of us, whilst we were wandering naughty sheep, which cross roads and get stuck in barbed wire and fall into dirty ditches. God loves us and this is a remarkable thought which we find it hard to understand. Until perhaps we think about love. When we love then we will do remarkable things, we will sit at hospital beds with our loved ones, nothing is too much trouble for love.

This is the message which Jesus tries very hard to get across in his parables. Often pop stars will say to their crowds ‘I love you all.’ The crowd love it, but that love is not really love at all. When Jesus speaks to the crowd his love is such that he will die for them. The Gospel writer wants to show that this love of Jesus is deeply personal, so personal that in a crowd pressing about him, Jesus can feel our need and respond to our faith. And we need to respond, we are called to respond, knowing that as we reach out in all of our doubt and chaos, Jesus will turn with compassion.

This teaching is incredible liberating. It is liberating for the weak and the vulnerable. They need to know that they have worth before God, that nobody should ever feel of less value than somebody else. It is liberating for us when we recognise that God does not make unimportant people. Everybody has worth and value to God, he made them and as children of God we are to show the same compassion and care that Christ showed It is also liberating for the privileged. They need to know that they do not have any greater value because they have managed to gain wealth or power. Many people need to know that they are not valuable to God because of the things which are around them or because they are clever.

Jesus loves the lost sheep, the stupid sheep, the sheep that got into trouble. Jesus loves the sheep, not because it has rehabilitated itself, but because it is part of the flock, belonging to the Shepherd. Jesus had compassion is one of the most important things we can say about Jesus, and about God. In the midst of a world in which everyone is afraid of their own shadows, and, if they believe in God at all they believe God to be either remote and uncaring, or cruel and vindictive; we in the church have been called to witness to the fact that he had compassion. Charles Royden

 

Commentary

In the passage from Mark today when we read that Jesus sees the crowd and regards them as ‘sheep without a shepherd’. We are told that Jesus has compassion on the crowds. Sheep without a shepherd are obviously in danger, they can be attacked and they can get lost, they are vulnerable to predators and confused in the face of danger.

If we think about the opening chapters of the Gospel we can get an idea of why Jesus felt such a burden of responsibility towards the ordinary men and women who came to him. We have been told about what was going on in the palace of the King Herod. He was having parties, entertaining rich guests and you will remember that after watching a young girl dance he is willing to do anything including murder, killing the cousin of Jesus a good prophet called John the Baptist. The religious leaders were no better, they pretended to be holy people but all they were concerned about was their own power and positions in society. They took every opportunity to remind Jesus of God’s laws and criticised him when he stepped out of line. When Jesus entered the synagogue he saw a man with a withered hand and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if Jesus would break the law and heal the man on the Sabbath. We are told that Jesus was angry at their hard hearts and he healed the man. Mark tells us that Herod and the religious leaders joined together and decided early on that they must destroy Jesus.

So here the battle lines are drawn, the great and good and the religious ones, against the carpenter Jesus who was on the side of the poor, the powerless and those who had been led to believe that they were of no consequence to God. Mark contrasts the religious leaders who really couldn't care for people, because they had these hard hearts, and Jesus who we are told today looked at the ordinary people and had compassion. Jesus has compassion on the crowd, because he said that they were "like sheep without a shepherd" (v. 34). Jesus was not a soft touch for everyone, but for people in need he always had time and compassion.

When Jesus says that the people are "sheep without a shepherd" this is clearly a rebuke on the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who have failed in their shepherd role. It was because of their failure that Jesus knew a special shepherd was needed, one who cared for the sheep more than simply thinking of his own needs, that shepherd was Jesus. These words "sheep without a shepherd" as they are written in Mark’s Gospel would have reminded the people at the time of when Moses asked God to appoint someone to succeed him as leader of the people. (Numbers 27) God chose Joshua, the name means ‘YHWH (God) is Salvation.’ The Greek form of that name, ‘Iesous’, is known to us as Jesus.

Our reading from Jeremiah sees God’s promise "...I will raise up a righteous shoot to David." God promises not to abandon his people and those promises are fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is the fulfilment of all the expectations of the people and all the promises of God, for a shepherd who was worthy of the name. Indeed, in Jesus, God provided the ultimate in the caring shepherd, one who would be willing to lay down his life for the sheep.

Like the Pharisees we too can be resentful that Jesus goes to the lost, not to shout at them and tell them to repent but to show them compassion. When we get alongside the lost of society we want to put them on programmes, courses and rehabilitation to make them like us. Jesus doesn’t do that , Jesus went and sought the company of sinners, bad people, and when he found them he didn’t shout at them he ate with them and made them know that they were loved by God.

That is a profound mystery to the self-righteous but it does teach us something about grace and forgiveness. It is not ours to be earned even through faith. We are sought out and saved by God. we often hear about the lostness of the human soul and the need to be sorry and God welcoming us back when we do, but this rather misses the point. The whole point about a good shepherd is that they will become exhausted and go to any lengths to find what is his and has been lost. That is what God is like God is not going to give up, God is relentless and will leave no stone unturned looking for that which has gone astray.

This compassionate nature of God is what causes us to sing about 'a love that wilt not let me go.' This is why the illustration of a shepherd is such a good one, looking for errant sheep is what shepherds do, they go and put themselves in danger looking for stupid sheep who don't even know they have gone astray. Jesus said "The Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost."  The Shepherd searches because the sheep is lost ! It is the nature of God to seek out the lost, because they are valuable to him. We need to hear this and remind ourselves that we have value, importance to God. There are occasions when people use the expression, ‘I found Jesus.’ This is really not true is it? We should say ‘Jesus found me’. If we say, ‘I found Jesus’ then that is ridiculous. The sheep doesn’t go looking for the shepherd, the sheep doesn’t even know it is lost. Charles Royden

Commentary

Jesus and the disciples would have had have reason to be annoyed in our reading today. Jesus had sent the disciples out (6:7) to preach, teach and heal. The disciples had just got back from this exhausting ministry and understandably they would have wanted to speak with Jesus about what had happened. They would also be more than ready for a well deserved rest and something to eat. However, it was so busy with people all around, that Jesus decided to take them somewhere quiet. Jesus has compassion for these weary disciples who have toiled as "apostles"--"ones sent." Jesus knows that for them to keep their perspective, enthusiasm for mission, energy to preach, teach and heal, they must, do as he says and "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile." If we need one, then that must be an excuse for all of us to have a break from time to time, we all need time for renewal.

So they rowed to a quiet place and when they get there the crowd has already seen where they are going and forms a welcome party. Mark doesn't tell us how the disciples respond, we can perhaps guess how we would have felt, but Jesus has compassion on the crowd, because he said that they were "like sheep without a shepherd" (v. 34). Jesus was not a soft touch for everyone, but for people in need he always had time and compassion.

In Numbers 27:15-18 we read

Moses said to the LORD, "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd." So the LORD said to Moses, "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him.

Surely these words in Mark’s Gospel "sheep without a shepherd" would have reminded people of Moses' request for God to appoint someone to succeed him as leader of the people. God chose Joshua, the name means ‘YHWH (God) is Salvation.’ The Greek form of that name, ‘Iesous’, is known to us as Jesus. All of this would not be lost on the reader of Mark’s Gospel. The words, "sheep without a shepherd" clearly form a rebuke on the religious leaders of Jesus' day, who have failed in their shepherd role. It was because of this failure that a special shepherd was needed, one who cared for the sheep more than simply thinking of his own needs, that shepherd was Jesus.

Our reading from Jeremiah sees God’s promise "...I will raise up a righteous shoot to David." God promises not to abandon his people and those promises are fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is the fulfilment of all the expectations of the people and all the promises of God, for a shepherd who was worthy of the name. Indeed, in Jesus, God provided the ultimate in the caring shepherd, one who would be willing to lay down his life for the sheep.
Charles Royden

Commentary - Jeremiah

Jeremiah preached his message to Judah from 626 until about 589-587 B.C. He spent his lifetime criticising the rulers who were slowly selling out his country and his people to the powers of the Babylonian Empire. Jeremiah himself experienced a period of forced exile at the hands of some of his own panicked neighbours.It's no wonder that Jeremiah had little regard for the monarchs under whom Judah had suffered for the last 50 years.

Immediately preceding this week's Old Testament text, in Jeremiah 22:11-23, the prophet itemises his grievances against specific rulers and the particular wrongs each of them had committed. Jehoiakim's sins merited Jeremiah's special attention, leading the prophet to conclude in 22:24-30 that the despicable monarch had received his just reward from Yahweh in his degrading exile into a foreign land.The passage this week serves as a kind of final commentary on this sad history of sinful, selfish and servile kings Jeremiah has listed. It records Jeremiah's explanation for the cause of the exile. Jeremiah 23:1-4 does not bother to list any specific ruler or once again cite the particular crimes that may have resulted in the sentence of exile - the wicked, lawless kings are summarily lumped together. It is the grand total of their sinful actions that has resulted in the just nature of Yahweh's sentence of exile.

The text begins by using the ancient symbol of a shepherd for a king or ruler. These shepherds, Jeremiah makes clear, are evil - for they have intentionally destroyed and scattered the sheep entrusted to them. The prophetic writer chooses his vocabulary very carefully here, for he makes the same verb identify both the shepherds' actions toward their sheep and Yahweh's actions toward these worthless shepherds. Just as they have "scattered" or "not attended" their sheep, so the divine shepherd Yahweh will "scatter" or "attend to" the untrustworthy shepherds. The punishment meted out by Yahweh precisely matches the crime which these shepherd-kings have committed. The ones responsible for the scattering of the flocks into unknown parts have themselves been scattered out into the wilderness.

To care for these restored ones, Yahweh promises to establish new shepherds who will show the proper care for their tender charges. The author's literary skills are once again displayed in the close of verse 4 when he insists that none shall be "missing." What is translated here as "missing" is none other than that same Hebrew verb that had been used to designate the "inadequate supervision" of the original shepherds and the judgment Yahweh had "visited" upon them. The author, then, is not simply stating that no one sheep will be missing, so much as he is testifying that Yahweh will never again judgementally "attend to" or "visit" the flock and its new shepherds as he had done before.

Prayers for Sunday

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those things which last for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eternal God, in Christ you make yourself our guest. Amid all our cares and concerns make us attentive to your voice and alert to your presence, that we may prize your word above all else; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, you are the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you; help us so to know you that we may truly love you, so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Hymns for this Sunday

  • Blessed city, heavenly Salem
  • O Christ, the great foundation
  • The Saviour's precious blood
  • Spirit Song (O let the Son of God enfold you)
  • Heaven is in my heart (Oh, heaven is in my heart)
  • The Church's one foundation
  • The Spirit came as promised
  • Thy hand, O God, has guided
  • Be still and know that I am God
  • Lord, we come to ask your healing
  • Christ is made the sure foundation
  • Christ is our corner-stone
  • Christ is the world's light, he and no other:
  • Dear Lord and Father of mankind
  • For I'm building a people of power
  • In Christ there is no east or west
  • Jesus put this song into our hearts
  • All over the world
  • Morning has broken
  • Jubilate
  • Father hear the prayer
  • I rejoiced to hear them say
  • Guide me, O thou great Jehovah

Meditation

“Open wide the window of our spirits, O Lord, and fill us full of light; open wide the door of our hearts, that we may receive and entertain you with all our powers of adoration and love.” Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), English poet.