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notre dame montreal

Worship, Prayer and Bible Resources

Ordinary 21 - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Green


Introduction

The Shield of Faith

This Sunday is a great one for preachers, we are reminded that Jesus was not a great preacher. At least he was not if we use the criteria of appeal to the listener.

In our reading today we learn that people came to hear him and then walked away disgruntled at what he had to say.  Every preacher will know the problem of having to tell the truth, rather than just what people want to hear. Stand in the pulpit and condemn adultery, racism, false piety or a whole range of other things and people will walk away angry.

Preachers who challenge our attitudes and beliefs are not always popular, often we are set in our ways and they threaten our comfort zone.

Each one of us has to be prepared to listen afresh to the words of Jesus and be prepared to be challenged and give up old habits. Such spiritual growth is painful and whilst some will be marvellously changed, others will walk away.

 


Opening Verses of Scripture  Psalm 34:18,22

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, The Lord redeems His servants; no-one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

Collect Prayer for the Day —Before we read we pray

O God, you declare you almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity; mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace, that we, running the way of your commandments, may receive your gracious promises, and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.    Common Worship

God of glory, the end of our searching, help us to lay aside all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom, and to give all that we have  to gain the pearl beyond price, through our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.    Common Worship Shorter Collect

Holy God, you liberate the oppressed and make a way for salvation. Unite us with all who cry for justice, and lead us together into freedom; through our Lord and Liberator, Jesus Christ. Amen.   Methodist Worship

Merciful God, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit into one, may reveal your glory among all peoples, to the honour of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

 

First Bible Reading  Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18

Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. Joshua said to all the people, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we travelled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” 

Second Reading   Ephesians 6:10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.


Manna collected in the desertGospel Reading John 6:56-69

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live for ever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no-one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

Post Communion Sentence

Lord of all mercy, we your faithful people have celebrated that one true sacrifice which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace: by our communion keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel and preserve us from all sin; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Commentary

It would be wrong not to make some mention of the reading from Joshua today, it is one of those really poignant moments which stand out in the Old Testament. Joshua has succeeded Moses and has led the tribes of Israel into the Promise Land. We are at the end of the Book of Joshua, and he has called the tribes together to renew their covenant with God. Joshua stood before the tribes of Israel; reminded them of the wonderful feats of deliverance and miracles God had performed on their way to the Promise Land. Then he asked them to make a choice between the false gods or the God their ancestors served

"... who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, out of the state of slavery."

For the Israelites it was crunch time! In the Gospel reading today we are brought to another such time of choice. The last of 5 weeks in church we have read Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John. Beginning with the sign of the feeding of 5,000 men plus an unknown number of women and children, the whole Chapter has used bread as an extended metaphor to describe what it is that Jesus is offering and the relationship which Jesus wants us to have with him. Now Jesus is presenting his followers with a ‘Make your mind up time!’ It is now that we discover just how tough the message of Jesus was for some who followed him. They have a real crisis of faith and we can hardly believe it, they walked away!

So far following Jesus has been easy and exciting - he has been performing signs and wonders, successfully challenging the authorities, and giving us hopes that "this is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world." (John 6:14) But now the message of Jesus has become much more threatening, he speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. There is going to be more to following this Jesus than simply wandering around the countryside eating free dinners. Jesus is asking for a completely different level of commitment, flesh and blood.

It should come as no surprise to us that some were disappointed with Jesus and melted away when they discovered that his kingdom was not of this world. We read that "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" It is important to remind ourselves that we should expect that not everybody is cut out for the business of following Jesus. Sometimes we are so eager to make the Gospel message understandable and acceptable that we tone down the really difficult stuff. It is understandable that we do not want to put people off, however the Gospel is challenging, demanding and asks difficult questions of us. We need to be very cautious about producing a ‘Gospel for all’ and reducing Jesus to a very nice man. Following Jesus means that we must be prepared to choose our priorities and Jesus is not satisfied with half measures.

Simon Peter makes a declaration of his devotion to Jesus, similar to that in Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, and Luke 9:18-21. He tells Jesus

''You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Today Jesus is calling for full commitment and we have to consider which side we are on. The response of Simon Peter was, "Master to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." What is your response? Charles Royden

It seems as though we have for weeks now been looking at this teaching of Jesus in which he is likened to bread. I suppose the advantage is that if we are away on holiday and miss church for a week or two, then we will still be able to hear of Jesus as the Bread of Life.

Meditation

The Gospel this morning is concerned with faith and lack of faith. The text implies that believers cannot believe unless God makes it possible for them. I take this to mean that some people have the gift of faith and find that it comes easily to them, while others find it harder. Their dispositions and cultural backgrounds make it very hard for some to listen and understand. Some have an “ear” for religion as some have an ear for music. This analogy does not imply that everyone cannot believe, just that some find it comes more naturally than others. Faith, like musical ability, can be encouraged, fostered and worked at. Much of our church ministry with children and young people is aimed at allowing them to hear the story of Jesus and giving them the freedom to follow Jesus or go home. We are not in the business of brainwashing or threatening in order to gain converts. We believe that the Gospel speaks for itself and can be witnessed in action. That is why I am asking both churches to put our work with children high on their agendas and for all of us to support it in whichever ways we can. “How are they to believe who have never heard the Good News?” Joan Crossley
 

Hymns

 

  1. For the beauty of the earth

  2. Lord of the Dance

  3. O for a heart to praise my God

  4. Take my life and let it be

  5. Immortal, invisible God only wise

  6. Let all the world in every corner sing

  7. Teach me my God and king

  8. Blessed assurance

  9. Begone unbelief
     

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

"God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it." John Wesley

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

Heavenly Father, help us to be vigilant in our own lives, so that either by word nor actions may we be guilty of causing others to fall.
(Women at Prayer, Rachel Stowe)

Lord of life, your life embraces me on every side. I open my arms to greet you. God, grant me a clearer vision of the many-splendoured thing, your presence in and through all things, that I may be on with your mind of love. (Richard Harries)

The guarding of the God of life be on you. The guarding of the loving Christ be on you. The guarding of the Holy Spirit be on you, every night of your lives. To aid you and enfold you each day and night of your lives. (Carmina Gadelica)
 

Additional Material

Verse of scripture

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Eph 6:10
 

Collect Prayer for the Day

Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 

Post Communion Prayer

God of our pilgrimage, you have willed that the gate of mercy should stand open for those who trust in you: look upon us with your favour that we who follow the path of your will may never wander from the way of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 

Commentary

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-24 (the reading has been extended to include some extra important verses) The book of Joshua concludes with another covenant ceremony - - this one at the ancient shrine of Shechem. This is where Jacob ordered all the "foreign gods" (handily portable stone idols) harboured by members of his household to be "put away" (see Genesis 35:1-4). The confiscated stones were then buried under the oak at Shechem. Joshua is not concerned with the people hearing and promising to obey every jot and tittle of the Law. Now, near the end of his life of leadership and service, Joshua desires to hear a much more basic commitment from the people. Joshua is speaking to a selected audience of "the elders, the heads, the judges and the officers of Israel" -- in other words, the elite of leadership, the best minds and hearts of Israel. Nevertheless, after delivering a quick historical synopsis of all the Lord has already done for Israel (vv.2-13), Joshua challenges these leaders to "choose this day whom you will serve" (15)

His words suggest that some of these high-ranking Israelites had already been observed worshiping the gods of their ancestors or the local Amorite deities. In verse 2 Joshua introduces the brief history he gives with "thus says the Lord" -- an indication that the following are not Joshua's words but God's. Though old and weary, Joshua is still the Lord's chosen mouthpiece to the Israelites. With this in mind, it is easy to see what a tremendous influence Joshua's assertion in verse 15, "as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord," had on his listeners. And perhaps that is also why, despite the impressive confession of loyalty the Israelites make in verses 16-18, Joshua reveals he is still not convinced (v.19). The words sound too much like what an eager-to-please people might mouth to their respected leader. The people demonstrate remarkable awareness of all God has done for them. Yet their promise to serve appears to be based only on a sense of tit-for-tat -- God does good things for us so we will serve him. Joshua's bitter response to these sweet-sounding words still shocks readers today -- think how stunned the Israelites must have been as he threw these words in their faces: "You cannot serve the Lord for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins" (v.19). God is not some celestial meet-your-needs sugar-daddy for the Israelites -- God is God, and that is why God should be served. Furthermore, Joshua continues, there can be a definite downside to swearing service to this jealous God. Faced with disloyalty and disobedience, this God will "turn and do you harm" (v.20), regardless of the good God has done before. It is not out of a sense of full-bellied well-being that the people confess their service to the Lord once again (v.21). Joshua's sharp words have reminded them of the consequences that lie behind their words. Yet Joshua's response is ambiguous -- it is still not clear whether he is convinced that this confession will hold. When he declares the people to be "witnesses against yourself," Joshua still seems to be challenging the people's conviction. It is not until verse 23 that Joshua finally indicates what might have been the whole impetus behind this dialogue. After the people glibly agree that "we are witnesses," Joshua drops his bombshell: "Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel." Despite all their confessions, both these Israelites and Joshua know that lurking in the backs of their tents, lying underneath their pillows, there are stone idols, which are being worshiped in secret. The conclusion of this scene is strangely unsatisfying -- for there is no gathering of these foreign gods, no record of their burial. Instead, the people simply confess their intended loyalty once more, and Joshua now makes "statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem" (v.25). Perhaps Joshua realized that while he can be a leader and example for his people, he cannot be their conscience or their nursemaid. In the end, both the people's ability to serve only the Lord and Joshua's ability to trust their words are matters of faith.

Commentary

The events recounted in this morning’s passage from the Gospel according to John, are believed, by most scholars, to have taken place the year before the fateful Passover when Jesus died. The chief components of Jesus’ ministry were already in place by then: according to John’s account, Jesus had been baptised in the Jordan; greeted as the Messiah by John the Baptist; had performed spectacular miracles and had done extraordinary acts of healing. By this time Jesus had attracted a crowd of admirers and hangers-on who followed him wherever he went. What did these followers of Jesus expect and why did some of them fall away?


The Gospel states that Jesus has known “from the beginning which of them would not believe and which would betray him. We don’t know whether this means from the beginning of time or from the beginning of Jesus’ encounter with the disciples. Perhaps exactly when Jesus knew is not important. What we must pay attention to is the idea that Jesus understood that many of his apparently enthusiastic followers would give up and go home. In his parable about the Sower, Jesus warned that some believers would have shallow roots and wither away. Jesus was a realist about the human beings he loved so much. He was not a starry-eyed romantic who turned furious when people did not live up to his illusions about them. Jesus did not show any anger or surprise when so many of his followers decamped and left. Jesus’ response was more like a shrug of the shoulders and a sigh of resignation. It is noteworthy that Jesus did not condemn those who could not believe. He accepted it as inevitable. Jesus was aware that true believers would need to be sorted from temporary believers. If, after all they had seen, heard and experienced, they could not believe then they would have been unlikely to be able to follow him through the desperate months that led to the Cross. They would be too unbelieving to brave the persecutions he knew would attack his followers after the Resurrection. It would take faith to endure and they simply hadn’t enough.

All the disciples, not just the ones who went home must have been shocked by the words that Jesus had spoken. He introduced the hideous notion that in order to have eternal life they would have to feed on his body and blood. It is worth remembering that some Romans reported hearing that the new Christian sect practised cannibalism. The poor disciples must have flinched away from such a revolting and strange idea. When he saw that they were struggling Jesus responded with kindness “The spirit gives life: the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life”. Jesus was reassuring them that his words were to do with the spiritual nourishment that his body and blood would bring. No cannibalism was required! Jesus’ meaning would eventually be made more clear at the Last Supper, when he said those strange words again. But not every mystery in our faith is revealed and belief must sometimes take priority over full understanding.    Joan Crossley

Commentary 2  -  Making Tough Choices

In both of the bible passages today we see that God wants any decision to follow Him to be a completely free choice, not one born of guilt, obligation, or half-interest. As Joshua makes clear, the Israelites were free to choose idols and false gods if they wished: "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve …".

In the end, the Israelites do choose Yahweh, who liberated them from slavery; the one who is "close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit". The God who had led them into the Promised Land. Perhaps it was an easy choice for them, a no-brainer as the American’s might say. But choices are not always easy. No one knew this better than Jesus, who met the doubt of his followers with sober acceptance: "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there some of you do not believe". And as some of the Israelites must have done, some followers of Jesus opt out of the call to discipleship. The choice, or its implications, was just too tough.

Part of our responsibility as Christians is to make sure we are presenting the same choices that Jesus makes clear in the gospels to our society today. Choices that will lead some to the cross and discipleship, and others to turn and walk away. The ‘roles and responsibilities’ are distinct, although we sometimes find it hard to separate them. Ours is the responsibility to present the choices; the people who then make decisions must take the responsibility for them; and God will take the responsibility for the eternal outcomes. So often we feel responsible for the outcome of a choice of faith that someone else has taken rather than leaving it to God. It’s right that we feel concern and compassion for others in their decisions, especially when we see close friends or family making what we believe to be a wrong choice. But ultimately choice is a personal thing, especially when it comes to personal destiny. Joshua presented the choices to the Israelites and then led by example. For Simon Peter the choice was very stark. He realized that if He didn’t follow Jesus there really wasn’t anywhere else to go. It was only Jesus who offered any hope for the future, the words of eternal life.

Even with choices some things never change. Despite what the world might desire it is only Jesus who ultimately offers eternal life, if we choose to accept His offer.    

Meditation

Not all of Jesus’ teaching is easy. We are free to choose God or not, but Jesus makes clear that we must be ready and prepared for the enormity and the eternal implications of that choice.
 

Prayers for Sunday

Lord, send us prophets in the church today, as in the days of old, to make known your living truth in the power of the Holy Spirit. Give them a clear vision of your purpose for the life of the world; enable them to peak the word with boldness; and through their words and their actions recall your people to simpler discipleship, holier living and to more dedicated service for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Help your servants Lord to be people of God, people of reconciliation, people of truth and people of prayer. Keep them ever humble in your service for your mercy’s sake. Amen

Lord of all good life, be with those who are now absent from us, seeking rest and change on holiday. Keep them in safety and renew their strength that they may return refreshed in body mind and spirit. Amen

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen


Govern all by your wisdom, O Lord, so that my soul may always be serving you as you will, and not as I may choose. Do not punish me, I beg you, by granting what I wish or ask if it offends your love which should always live in me. Let me die to myself, so that I may serve you; let me live for you, who in yourself are the true life. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Lord our God, all truth is from you, and you alone bring oneness of heart. Give your people the joy of hearing your word amid the din of human noise, and of longing for your presence more than for life itself. May all the attractions of a changing world point us to the peace of your kingdom, a peace which this world does not give. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 

O God, stay with us; let no word cross our lips that is not your word, no thought enter our minds that is not your thought, no deed ever be done or entertained by us that is not your deed. Malcolm Muggeridge (b.1903)
 

Dr. Martin Luther's Sacristy prayer, "O Lord God, Thou hast made me a pastor and teacher in the Church. Thou seest how unfit I am to administer rightly this great and responsible office ; and had I been without Thy aid and counsel I would surely have ruined it all, long ago. Therefore do I invoke Thee. How gladly do I desire to yield and consecrate my heart and mouth to this ministry ! I desire to teach the congregation. I, too, desire ever to learn and to keep Thy Word my constant companion and to meditate thereupon earnestly. Use me as Thy instrument in Thy service. Only, do not Thou forsake me, for if I am left to myself, I will certainly bring it all to destruction. Amen. "
 

God of the Spirit of kindness,
in the glory of the earth and the sea and stars,
in the kaleidoscope of colour and shade and shapeliness,
in the patterns of humour and tenderness and touch,
we celebrate your generosity.

Forgive us when we forget the gift in our every breath,
the care that sustains our every moment,
that grace that can transform our every day.

Set us free from the prison of grudging hearts,
mean desires,
resentful spirits,
give us courage to act with justice and generosity,
and draw us into love that does not calculate or keep scores.
 

Hymns

  1. Jesus the name high over all
  2. God is good
  3. Thou art the way
  4. As the deer pants for the water
  5. Fill thou my life
  6. All people that on earth do dwell
  7. Make Way
  8. Come down O love divine
  9. Thanks be to God (on notices– tune Lobe Den Herren)
  10. Come let us worship Christ
  11. I am aware that it might have been a good idea this week to have included 'Will you come and follow me if I but call your name', it fits well with the Joshua reading
  12. Come let us sing of a wonderful love
  13. Come on and celebrate
  14. O love that will not let me go
  15. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
  16. Dear Lord and father of mankind

1 Thanks be to God for his saints of each past generation, (Tune Lobe den Heren)
one with us still in one body, one great congregation;
with them proclaim
Jesus for ever the same,
Author of life and salvation.

2 Thanks be to God for his blessings which daily surround us;
glory to Christ the Redeemer who sought us and found us,
who from the grave
rose, the almighty to save,
breaking the fetters that bound us.

3 Thanks be to God for the years that are yet in his keeping,
trusting each day to the care of a Father unsleeping,
on to the end,
Christ our companion and friend,
joy at the last for our weeping.

4 Thanks be to God who has called us and daily defends us,
who with the Son and the Spirit unchanging befriends us;
now in that Name,
Jesus for ever the same,
forth to his service he sends us.

 

1 We are heirs of God Almighty, (Tune Austria)
Apple of the Father's eye;
Free, forgiven, loved, accepted,
Clothed in righteousness divine.
Chosen to be pure and blameless
From before the world began;
Grace for every situation,
Sheltered in the Father's hand.

2 We have Christ at work within us,
Shaping us to be like Him;
Resurrection power sustaining
Freedom from the snares of sin.
Saying no to flesh desires,
Saying yes to righteous ways;
Filled with passion and with power,
Lights that burn in darkened days.

3 We've the Spirit without measure,
Helper, Comforter and Guide;
One who brings the gifts of heaven,
One who comes to walk beside.
Taste of heaven's endless pleasure,
Guarantee of what's to come;
Causing fruit to grow in action,
Bringing glory to the Son.

Stuart Townend