simple white fading png image
notre dame montreal

Worship, Prayer and Bible Resources

25 Sunday in Ordinary, Year B, Green


Introduction

I recently went to Spain on my holidays. I so dislike the boarding process that I decided to pay for priority boarding. It avoided some of the check in procedures, although not as many as I would have hoped. This is the way things work in public transport and the more money you have the better your seats.

It is difficult therefore when we come to thinking about the Kingdom of Jesus. There is no queue jumping, and we have to learn to put others before ourselves.

We read in our lesson today that the disciples found this hard. They wanted to have the best positions, the best rewards. They needed to understand that Jesus turned power on it head. The church has been as bad at this as anybody and we all need to learn the basic lessons. If the disciples are to gain lasting dignity they must be willing to be a servant "to all." They must learn to receive the child in Jesus’ name. At the time of Jesus children were lacking in any power they had no status and they were very vulnerable. The disciple is to be just like that, Jesus says, "welcome the child" into their lives – accept being vulnerable and therefore dependent on God.

Opening Sentence

The Lord watches over they way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.  Psalm 1:6

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful! Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and they meditate on his law day and night. Psalm 1

Collect Prayer for the Day Before we read we pray

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you: pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself, and so bring us at last to your heavenly city where we shall see you face to face; 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

Gracious God, you call us to fullness of life: deliver us from unbelief and banish our anxieties with the liberating love of Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading  Proverbs 31.10-31

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them;
she supplies the merchant with sashes.Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates. NRSV

Alternate Reading (Related) Jeremiah Chapter 11:18-20

It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!’ But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. NRSV

Second Reading James 3.13-4.3,7-8a

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. NRSV

Jesus welcomes a childGospel Reading Mark 9 Verses 30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ NRSV


Post Communion Sentence

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW


Commentary

It’s not difficult to imagine the disciples are beginning to flex their elbows in the gospel reading today. Jesus tells the disciples that He will be delivered into the hands of men who will put Him to death. And, whilst the next verse tells us that the disciples did not understand what this meant, perhaps referring to the fact that Jesus tells them that after He is killed He will rise again, they then seem to be discussing who among them is the greatest. It’s logical to assume that in some shape or form they were trying to decide who should take over from Jesus when He goes. If this is the case, then rather than focusing on the mission and ministry which Jesus has started, and to which we are all called to continue, they seem to be locked in discussion about who might have the best leadership characteristics to pick up the mantle of Jesus. Who has the most influential way of speaking, who might have the most persuasive voice with the Romans and the Jewish authorities? Who could engage the most with the crowds and who could equally engage with the rich, famous and influential? Whose voice and face will resonate with the public as they look to challenge some of the established thinking and understanding? Were the disciples who had witnessed the Transfiguration (which has just happened) better than the rest? It looks like some serious succession planning may have been happening on the road! Even if Jesus did come back as a King or Messiah, He’d need a very capable Chief of Staff or Head Ambassador to keep things on track.
There could be challenging times ahead and their decision about a succession plan and who should be in charge of operations could be important – they need to get it right. Yet when challenged by Jesus the childishness, futility and misguidedness of their arguments must have seemed embarrassingly obvious.

Jesus points out greatness and leadership is not about popularity, about any great ability to influence others with smart words and arguments, about being the most acceptable or popular in the world’s eyes or about credibility with the masses and the public. Quite the opposite. It’s certainly not about selfish ambition but about servant hearted humility and offering God’s welcome to all who come to them, however unimportant and ‘invisible’ to those that are in power. In fact, anyone who showed these characteristics, even in the faintest of ways, could become His ambassador. The humbler, more vulnerable and insignificant the person, the better. So much so that even a child can become an official representative for Jesus. And we are to welcome them. Welcome those it would seem who can be invisible in our lives, those people we never give a second glance too because they seem insignificant or unimportant. In Jesus’ words there is a real challenge. In Jesus’ words, just as there is challenge there is also comfort. No longer do we need to struggle to be someone of importance or significance. We don’t need to be the greatest. We don’t need to prove we are interesting or have a position of status. We are free to be ourselves, loved by God through Jesus. We are truly chosen and free. Richard Rohr in his book, ‘Falling Upwards’ talks about the two halves of life. In his model the first half of life is about building a container for ourselves and our lives, working to find and build our identity and status, working to build a home and friends, it’s all about surviving successfully. It’s what we focus our time and effort on as we grow up. The second half of our lives is about discovering the contents of the container. We’re still quite good at maintaining the container all our lives but the real discovery is when we find the contents, the purpose for which the container was built in the first place. And ultimately it’s the contents that give our life purpose and give it real security. We do need a container which is strong enough to hold real life, with all its ambiguities and conflicts, moments of deep sadness and great joy, but we also need to let go of the dependence on the things which give us outward security and comfort so that we can come to Christ as a child and be free to receive from Him the abundance of His riches, security and peace. The Father welcomes us as we are, and invites us to do the same for others irrespective of their status, importance or circumstances. Sam Cappleman

Meditation

Last week I was sent a lovely present. Bunyan Meeting Free Church in the centre of town have put together a book about their church, the Bunyan Museum and Library. This little book is a masterpiece of clarity: it explains Bunyan’s life and times in very accessible language. On the inside of the back page are just a few sentences explaining Bunyan’s theology and philosophy. Amongst other things, Bunyan embraced the idea that the Christian should trust in only in Christ and the Gospel, and warned that this would inevitably mean being at odds with the world and its evil ways. Bunyan certainly carried over his thinking into his own life, rejecting the established church and all its apparatus of power. He was willing to suffer loneliness and poverty, separation and sorrow in order to stick to his beliefs. The challenge for us is: are we being too easily conformed to this world and its standards? What should we be resisting or attempting to remake in the image of God?   Joan Crossley
 

Hymns and Psalms

  1. Dear Lord and Father of mankind
  2. For I am building a people of power
  3. God is building a house
  4. Make me a channel of your peace
  5. Now thank we all our God

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead


Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise more silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitations of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen (John Donne)

Lord Jesus Christ, you have said that you are the Way the Truth and the Life. Suffer us not to stray from you, who are the Way, nor to distrust you, who are the Truth, not to rest in anything other than you, who are the Life, Amen. (Desiderius Erasmus)

The Martha and Mary prayer. Lord, there are those who are good leaders, those with gifts to speak and make decisions; those who are good listeners, and those who quietly care; those whose work is little noticed, but without which our church would be the poorer. Take all our gifts, Lord, and use them for your glory. Amen (Adapted from a prayer by Margaret Wilson, MU Anthology of Public Prayers)

Let us Pray - O God, light of the minds that know you, life of the souls that love you, and strength of the hearts that seek you - bless the words of our lips and the meditations of our hearts. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen


A Prayer of St. Chrysostom Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.
 

Lord Jesus, you calmed the raging storm and tamed the surging sea—calm the tempest of indecision and cure the seasickness within our souls. Forgive our faint-heartedness. Grant us not just the courage to do the right thing, but also the wisdom to figure out just what that right thing is. Reassure us, Lord, that even if the right course of action hurts us in the short run, that you will ultimately reward our faithfulness and keep us safe.
 

Thank You Lord
Thank you Lord that I can see ..... so many are blind.
Thank you Lord that I can hear ..... so many are deaf.
Thank you Lord that I can walk ..... so many are crippled.
Thank you Lord that I have food ..... so many are starving.
Thank you Lord that I have shelter ..... so many are homeless.
Thank you Lord for the touch of a friendly hand ..... so many are lonely.
Thank you Lord for the Cross you share with me and for all your blessings ..… so many deserve them better.
Help me Lord always to be mindful. Amen

Loving God, we praise you for welcoming and accepting us as your beloved children. We know that you are in the business of changing hearts and lives through the witness of believers and the urging of your Spirit and we thank you for it. Make us fitting witnesses and grant us the grace to be people who reach out as every opportunity comes to us - to be instruments of your healing and transforming power. We think, O Lord, not only of ourselves, not only of our families, but we think of the world and those in it who need wholeness, who need peace, who need a reason to have hope..... Lord, hear our prayer


God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We pray that the Church may hold true to the teaching of Jesus, without being persuaded that worldly values of status and ambition should overcome our desire to serve Christ. We pray for a right spirit of humility, that we might recognize our calling to servant hood. Amen

We pray that all who have wearily struggled to death may know the joy of burdens laid down and the joy of the new and lasting live which transforms them into your likeness. Amen

Come near to God and He will come near to you. Amen

May the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing His will and do through you everything which pleases Him, to His glory; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen

 

Additional Material

Hymns

  1. New every morning
  2. I will enter his gates
  3. I walk with Jesus Tune: Ombersley
  4. All for Jesus
  5. God of grace and God of glory
  6. Therefore we lift our hearts
  7. Hallelujah, sing to Jesus
  8. O Worship the Lord
  9. For I’m building a people of power
  10. River wash over me

Commentary Mark 9. 30-37

I recently went to Spain on my holidays. I so dislike the boarding process with the searches and queues, that I decided to pay for priority boarding. It avoided some of the check in procedures, although not as many as I would have hoped. This is the way things work in public transport and if you are prepared to pay, you can also have better seats.

It is difficult therefore when we come to thinking about the Kingdom of Jesus. There is no queue jumping, and we have to learn to put others before ourselves. We read in our lesson today that the disciples found this hard. They wanted to have the best positions, the best rewards.

Just think of the irony of it all. Jesus is speaking about his death for others, the laying down of his life for others. Meanwhile the disciples are arguing among themselves who will be the one to bask most in the reflected glory of Jesus the Messiah. It was agreed that Jesus would be king, but they argued about who would be the next in line, who would speak for Jesus when he was busy, who would fulfil special engagements when he was not available? All of these things had to be agreed.

In the gospel passage today Jesus shows us that we need to guard against purely personal ambition, that we should not seek to put ourselves first. True greatness lies not in self promotion, but in self-denial and in child like joy and obedience to Him. Greatness is not measured by the power and influence we have over other people, but by how we serve them.

So who will be qualified to be the ambassador for Jesus? Jesus uses the example of a child. Not an obvious choice, since children are obviously immature and naive. When we think of children we do not regard them as an example, rather we expect from them obedience and respect. However Jesus knew that the secret to successful living was to be found in having certain childlike qualities. Children are open and willing to learn, they are not restricted by their prejudices and ingrained attitudes. It is a sad indictment that the older we get, often the more set in our ways we become. Children are much more open to new ideas, possibilities and opportunities. As much as children are flexible, older people can become rigid and inflexible. It is true that children lack experience, but it is exactly that lack of experience which makes them open to new experiences, hence they are more spontaneous and fun.

As disciples we all need to understand the call of Jesus for a radically different way of living. Following Jesus means that we are prepared to share with him in turning the world’s standards on their head. To do this it requires a whole revolution in the way we think and act. This requires us to go back to basics and start learning all over again.

Of course throughout history the church has been as bad at this as anybody and we all need to learn the basic lessons. If the disciples are to gain lasting dignity they must be willing to be a servant "to all." They must learn to receive the child in Jesus’ name.

At the time of Jesus children were lacking in any power they had no status and they were very vulnerable. The disciple is to be just like that, Jesus says, "welcome the child" into their lives – accept being vulnerable and therefore dependent on God.

This is not an encouragement to be childish, but it is a call for us all to consider in what ways we might be more childlike and to take ourselves less seriously. This is good for healthy living, but it is also essential for the gospel. If we fail to have an open and childlike attitude, then the message of Jesus could never be appreciated. Access to the Kingdom of God required a willingness to see miracles with child like eyes. The desire and willingness to share the good news of the Kingdom required further childlike qualities, enthusiasm and joy.

Commentary

In our Gospel reading today we are told about a time when Jesus is travelling along the road with his disciples. They were on the way to Capernaum but they travel quietly, secretly. The reason for this is clear, Jesus is seen as the leader of a movement, primarily of poor people, which the religious and political leaders correctly saw as a threat to their power. He therefore didn't advertise his presence because he had enemies. The Pharisees and the Herodians have been after him since Chapter 3 Verse 6 and they want him dead. There are plots to silence him once and for all.
Jesus knows that he will soon be betrayed and die and he wants to get important teaching into the minds of his disciples. Three different times in Mark's gospel Jesus warned his disciples about the tragic end that awaited him in Jerusalem — betrayal, condemnation, suffering, rejection, violent death, and then resurrection. All three times the disciples responded to Jesus with objections, disbelief, fear, and ignorance. They repeatedly demonstrated how badly they misunderstood the true nature of his redemptive mission.
After his first "passion prediction," Peter objected: "Lord, this shall never happen to you!" But Jesus rebuked Peter for trying to prevent his sufferings: "You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of man" (Mark 8:33). After the third prediction (10:32ff), James and John asked Jesus for positions of glory. The ten other disciples indignantly objected, clearly worried that James and John might gain some advantage over them.
After Jesus's second prediction in the gospel for this week, the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest (Mark 9:34).

Jesus responded to his disciples in two ways. First, he gave them a teaching: "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all'" (9:35). Second, Jesus dramatized a parable. In a piece of street theatre that illustrated his teaching, he placed a little child before the disciples. He then embraced the child and said, "Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me" (9:37).

To welcome a child is to extend the simplest of acts to an individual whom society dismisses as perhaps cute but ultimately insignificant, someone who lacks any accomplishments, greatness, status, or pretensions. By extension, Jesus invites us to welcome every person in the same manner, without regard for external measures of their worldly importance. The simple act of welcoming another person in that way, Jesus says, is to welcome him, and in turn to welcome God the Father who sent him.

To live as a child is to live free of the self-justifications that adults use to prove their worth, and the heavy burden of self-consciousness about our status. To live like a child, says Jesus, is the only way to enter his kingdom.

Anyone who wants to be a leader must be "last of all" and, not only that, but "servant of all" as well. The disciples have a heirarchical understanding of leadership. For them, and for most people, the leader is the one who has climbed their way sufficiently up the greasy that they hold power over those below them. They get the bigger office, they are the ones that people want to please.

The challenge for us is to take these words of Jesus to heart and realise that greatness needs to be understood in a radically different way. By receiving one of the least and insignificant people in our culture we are also receiving Jesus and not even him, but God. It is hard for us because we are trained to think that we get on by focussing on how to achieve upward mobility, Jesus tells us that we get on if we treat well people of little public regard.

Meditation

"The abandoned baby on the street, the stranger at the door, even our own husband or wife or child, is a diamond, and in receiving and treasuring these diamonds we are receiving the 'pearl of great price' that was once hidden on earth as a destitute child of uncertain parentage." Counting Diamonds" Joel Marcus

Getting caught up in service

Once upon a time there was a Squire who longed to be a knight. He wanted to serve his king and be the most honourable and noble knight who ever lived. One day the king made the squire a knight and the new knight was so overcome by dedication that he made a special oath. He vowed that he would only ever bow his knees or lift his arms in homage to the king and to him alone. The knight was given the task of guarding a city on the frontier of the kingdom. Every day he stood at attention by the gate of the city in full armour. Years passed. One day as he was standing to attention, guarding his post, a peasant woman passed by with goods for the market. Her cart turned over spilling potatoes, turnips, carrots and onions everywhere. The woman hurried to get them all back in her cart. But the knight wouldn't help the poor woman. He just stood at attention lest he break his vow by bending his knees to help pick up the woman's goods. Time passed and one day some years later a man with one leg was passing by when his crutch broke. "Good knight sir, reach down and help me up." But the knight would not stoop or lift a hand to help lest he break his vow. Further years and decades passed, and the knight was becoming old. One day his grandson came by and said, "Grandfather, pick me up and take me to the fair." But he would not stoop lest he break his vow to the king. Finally after many, many, years the king came to visit and inspect the knight. As the king approached the knight just stood there at attention. The king inspected him as he stood there, but then he noticed that the knight was crying. You are one of the noblest knights I have ever seen, why do you cry? Your majesty, I took a vow that I would bow my knees and lift my arms in homage to you but I am unable to keep my vow. These years have done their work and the joints of my armour are rusted. I cannot lift my arms or bend my knees. With the loving voice of a parent the King replied, "Perhaps if you had knelt to help all those who passed by, and lifted your arms to embrace all those who came to you, you would have been able to keep your vow to pay me homage today.”