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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

God who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon your church in the burning fire of your love: grant that your people may be fervent in the fellowship of the Gospel that, always abiding in you, they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service; 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

Lord God, defend your church from all false teaching and give to your people knowledge of your truth, that we may enjoy eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

Merciful God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding. Pour into our hearts such love towards you that we, loving you above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Methodist Worship

O God, surer than the breaking of the day, in the morning, fill us with your love, and in the evening, as the dew falls, refresh us with your mercy, that we may live according to your promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

 

First Bible Reading  Jeremiah Chapter 11:18-20

Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realise that they had plotted against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” But, O Lord Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.

Second Reading James Chapter 3:13-4:3,7-8

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.

Jesus welcomes a childGospel Reading Mark 9 Verses 30-37

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."


Post Communion Sentence


Keep, O Lord, your church, with your perpetual mercy; and, because without you our human frailty cannot but fall, keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Commentary

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.

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

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.

 

 

Commentary

Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

Charlie reminded us, in his sermon last week, that Jesus consistently confounded the expectations of his followers. The power of Jesus’ message was in its challenge to the power struggles within any society and its overriding compassion for all. These days we would perhaps say that the Disciples had “power-issues”. Some of them were looking for a payback for all their devotion, either when Jesus came into his kingdom on earth or in heaven. The passage from the Gospel today challenges expectations about who has importance in God’s pecking order. The passage comes directly after some of the disciples; Peter, James and John had been allowed to witness the powerful vision of the Transfiguration. Perhaps they came back thinking that this honour had made them into an elite group of specially chosen disciples with more authority than their fellows? They all saw that Jesus had power and perhaps they were hoping that they would take some of that authority to themselves?

The disciples were wrangling about this behind Jesus’ back, and were ashamed to own up when he asked them what they had been discussing. It is touching that they attempted to hide their shameful ambitions from the Lord, who always knew what was in the hearts of men and women. The subject of power and ambition was central to Jesus’ mission and so he gathered the followers around him for a formal session of teaching, as any Rabbi would his disciples. Jesus subverted the whole notion of ambition by saying that true power came only through willingness to serve. This idea must have come as a blow for the disciples, who were, mostly from a poor and fairly humble background. It must also have seemed like nonsense. Why would someone who could be first in the pecking order choose to be like a servant? Servants are at the command of others, they have to obey and always get little consideration. They are vulnerable and can be promoted or dismissed at will. Was this the role that Jesus was suggesting for his followers? I expect their hearts sank. But this overturning of the laws of ambition is in fact a liberation, if we could only do it! It would be that we could love others and work for them without waiting for the reward. We could abandon the desire to be important, knowing that we are truly valued by God. When Jesus drew the small child into the circle of his followers, he was picking out a representative of the most disempowered, humble group in society.

The Lord said, when you welcome one of the weak and vulnerable, you welcome me. Jesus was asking them to do something very difficult: to see God in everyone. The challenge to recognise God in every person is a spiritual discipline: it demands that we see the importance of the tattooed scary skinhead on the street, the tiresome boys who throws stones at cars, the rude bus conductor and so on. Might Jesus be in these awful-seeming people, as well as in nice, friendly ones? Might these people be the ones in whom we welcome Christ? What a challenge! What a privilege! Joan Crossley

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.”