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Worship, Prayer and Bible Study Resources

26 Sunday in Ordinary, Year B, Green


Introduction

This week I was asked to participate in a radio programme which was exploring the issue of a nurse who had been forced out of her job because she insisted on wearing a 1" silver cross. Her bosses had said that it was a health and safety issue, although they were prepared to allow nurses to wear a ring on their finger, which I would have thought was more of a serious problem.

Anyway I agreed to go on the radio and discuss this. Whilst I was waiting to speak the host of the show was really rather rude towards one elderly who rang in. The lady had made the effort and gathered her courage and was defending the sacked nurse, much to the annoyance of the host. He felt that nobody should display any symbols of faith at all, there was no need. He also enjoyed the now familiar rant about how religion is guilty of causing every war that has ever occurred.

Of course this is very much wide of the mark, not least because it is not religion which has caused the wars, but people who use religion as an excuse for hating others. How many atrocities have been committed by people who claimed to have no religion at all,such as famous communists like Stalin or Pol Pot with the killing fields of Cambodia. The same can be true of anything of course, it might be nationality, even something as insignificant as the game of football can become an excuse to start a fight. As the interview showed even people with no faith can be equally intolerant and aggressive.

In the lesson this week we are able to see that Jesus refused to join in with this, much to the consternation of his disciples!

Opening Sentence1 Corinthians Chapter 12:4-6

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day— Before we read we pray

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy;
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

God, our judge and saviour, teach us to be open to your truth and to trust in your love, that we may live each day with confidence in the salvation which is given through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading  Esther 7.1-6,9-10; 9.20-22

The king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, ‘What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have won your favour, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me – that is my petition – and the lives of my people – that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.’ Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who presumed to do this?’ Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!’ Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen.

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, ‘Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.’ And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Alternate Reading (Related) Number 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

The rabble among the people had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’

Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the LORD, ‘Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favour in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,” to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once – if I have found favour in your sight – and do not let me see my misery.’

So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.’

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, ‘My lord Moses, stop them!’ But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!’ NRSV

Second Reading James 5:13-20

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. NRSV

Gospel Reading Mark 9:38-50

John said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’ NRSV


Post Communion Sentence

We praise and thank you, O Christ, for this sacred feast: for here we receive you, here the memory of your passion is renewed, here our minds are filled with grace, and here a pledge of future glory is given, when we shall feast at that table where you reign with all your saints for ever. CW


Commentary

This week I was asked to participate in a radio programme which was exploring the issue of a nurse who had been forced out of her job because she insisted on wearing a 1" silver cross. Her bosses had said that it was a health and safety issue, although they were prepared to allow nurses to wear a ring on their finger, which I would have thought was more of a serious problem.

Anyway I agreed to go on the radio and discuss this. Whilst I was waiting to speak the host of the show was really rather rude towards one elderly who rang in. The lady had made the effort and gathered her courage and was defending the sacked nurse, much to the annoyance of the host. He felt that nobody should display any symbols of faith at all, there was no need. He also enjoyed the now familiar rant about how religion is guilty of causing every war that has ever occurred.

Of course this is very much wide of the mark, not least because it is not religion which has caused the wars, but people who use religion as an excuse for hating others. The same can be true of anything of course, it might be nationality, even something as insignificant as the game of football can become an excuse to start a fight.

The cause of war is invariably people who are lacking in tolerance and respect for other people who are different. Sometimes we are afraid of things which are different, because we do not understand them. Sometimes we resent their success and look for reasons to criticise.

In the passage from the Gospel reading today we find such an instance. In this passage from the Gospel according to St Mark, we find the disciples in a cross mood, they are a bit miffed! Someone who hardly knows Jesus has been achieving spectacular success as an exorcist, using their master’s name. It is in this situation that Jesus says that “he who not against us is for us”. It looks a bit odd, because we tend to turn the phrase around to mean that anyone who is not actively on our side, in politics, business or war, is helping the enemy. This deceptive throw away comment by Jesus holds the key towards how people should cope with religious difference.

Like so many of Jesus’ sayings it is hard for us humans to understand and cope with. We are like the disciples, we want to crush rivals whether in secular or religious life. How often have humans used the excuse that they are serving Jesus by putting to death women and men who do not understand the Bible in the same way, feel called to worship in different styles, believe different things from themselves? Here Jesus is saying that difference, unless it is actively dangerous, cannot hurt the new Jesus movement. Jesus was brave enough to allow a stranger, who recognised the saving power of Jesus’ name to use it, unsupervised, for good purposes. What a message to all control freaks! God does not allow us a limited amount of freedom and then reign us back. In his love for us, He grants us the freedom to love, to create and to serve in His name. But we must allow others to have this freedom too.

 

Meditation

This is an ancient fable. There was an old King who possessed a miraculous gold ring. It gave to the person who owned it such sweetness of character, such truthfulness of heart that they were beloved by everyone who knew them. At his death, the King left each of his three sons a gold ring, but no-one knew which one had received the magical ring. They argued for ages and then went to a wise Judge, she said. “I cannot tell you which of you holds the magic ring, but you can prove it in yourself. If you display love, truth and justice in the way you live, then you will show who has the magical ring of perfect love. This little fable reminds us that it is by the fruits of the spirit that we display our faith in Christ, not by winning arguments, scoring points or pillorying opponents.
 

Hymns and Psalms

  1. Jesus shall reign
  2. Alleluia, Alleluia
  3. Come now with awe (Tune Finlandia)
  4. Help us O God (See below)
  5. Lord for the years
     

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead


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. A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

O Lord, guard us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes: and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and your blessed peace at the last. Amen. (John Henry Newman)

Take my body, O Christ, to do your work, for here on earth you have no body now but mine. Take my hands to be your hands and my feet to walk in the ways of your feet. Take my eyes to be the eyes of your own compassion shining forth upon a troubled world; for your own mercy’s sake. Amen Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582

Father of love, we thank you that your rainbow covenant embraces all people and lures them to fullness of life. Jesus redeemer, we thank you that your new covenant brings blessing in brokenness and creates gratitude through grace. Spirit of God, we thank you that you dance through creation, scattering sparks of hope and weaving networks of community. May we, as your covenant partners, work with you in healing the wounds and scars of our violent world. Amen Tom Stuckey, Southampton District Chair
 

 

Additional Material

Verse of scripture

Jesus said .... ‘If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.’ Mark Chapter 9

Collect Prayer for the DayBefore 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.

Post Communion Prayer

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.


Meditation

"Jesus , came to comfort the afflicted ... and to afflict the comfortable." R. Niehbur

Commentary

This week I was asked to participate in a radio programme which was exploring the issue of a nurse who had been forced out of her job because she insisted on wearing a 1" silver cross. Her bosses had said that it was a health and safety issue, although they were prepared to allow nurses to wear a ring on their finger, which I would have thought was more of a serious problem. Anyway I agreed to go on the radio and discuss this. Whilst I was waiting to speak the host of the show was really rather rude towards one elderly who rang in. The lady had made the effort and gathered her courage and was defending the sacked nurse, much to the annoyance of the host. He felt that nobody should display any symbols of faith at all, there was no need. He also enjoyed the now familiar rant about how religion is guilty of causing every war that has ever occurred.

Of course this is very much wide of the mark, not least because it is not religion which has caused the wars, but people who use religion as an excuse for hating others. The same can be true of anything of course, it might be nationality, even something as insignificant as the game of football can become an excuse to start a fight. The cause of war is invariably people who are lacking in tolerance and respect for other people who are different.

Sometimes we are afraid of things which are different, because we do not understand them. Sometimes we resent their success and look for reasons to criticise. In the passage from the Gospel reading today we find such an instance. In this passage from the Gospel according to St Mark, we find the disciples in a cross mood, they are a bit miffed! Someone who hardly knows Jesus has been achieving spectacular success as an exorcist, using their master’s name. It is in this situation that Jesus says that “he who not against us is for us”. It looks a bit odd, because we tend to turn the phrase around to mean that anyone who is not actively on our side, in politics, business or war, is helping the enemy.

This deceptive throw away comment by Jesus holds the key towards how people should cope with religious difference. Like so many of Jesus’ sayings it is hard for us humans to understand and cope with. We are like the disciples, we want to crush rivals whether in secular or religious life. How often have humans used the excuse that they are serving Jesus by putting to death women and men who do not understand the Bible in the same way, feel called to worship in different styles, believe different things from themselves? Here Jesus is saying that difference, unless it is actively dangerous, cannot hurt the new Jesus movement. Jesus was brave enough to allow a stranger, who recognised the saving power of Jesus’ name to use it, unsupervised, for good purposes.

What a message to all control freaks! God does not allow us a limited amount of freedom and then reign us back. In his love for us, He grants us the freedom to love, to create and to serve in His name. But we must allow others to have this freedom too.

Jesus' rebuke most likely surprised the disciples. The Twelve saw themselves as a uniquely-endowed, specially-selected group privy to Jesus' individual attentions and tutorials. They believed that because of their close relationship with the Master they had been "rewarded" with the power to cast out demons, as well as to preach and teach in Jesus' name. They considered this uninitiated outsider to be like we perceive an unlicensed doctor -- one who should immediately be reported to the authorities and whose illegitimate activities should be stopped. The disciples thought Jesus would be angry - but he wasn't. Instead he said - "it doesn't matter to me if those people are a part of your group or not. All that matters is that they are doing the things that God wants. They are a part of God's family.

These words of Jesus, then, are a rebuke to all our blind exclusiveness, our arrogant assumptions, that God's action in the world is limited to the forms which we are familiar. The church has suffered terribly, and the world has suffered terribly, from this fence-building frenzy. If one tenth of the time which Christians have devoted to building fences had gone into building roads as a highway for God, the world would be a far better place today. Jesus throws open wide the doors of the Christian community by proclaiming that "whoever is not against us is for us" (verse 40). Jesus' point is clear. In verse 41 he goes on to stress that anyone who performs a service, no matter how small, because of Christ's name becomes a member of the community and shares in its "rewards." Charles Royden

Prayers for Sunday

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 my lips and the meditations of our hearts. We ask it in Jesus' name.

Lord God - we thank you for making us - a part of your family - help us open our hearts - to all the other parts - of your wonderful family - to those we don't know - to those who do things differently - to those who live in far off places - help us all to work together - and by ourselves - to do what Jesus asks us - we ask it in his name Amen

Gracious God - we thank you for the love you have bestowed upon us all through this past week - for the love that has brought us to this time of worship. We pray that you would bless us with your most Holy Presence this day and build in us an ever stronger faith. Meet us here, amid our doubts and questions, that we may know we are heard and understood. Grant that as we pray and sing your praises that we may be built up in Christ Jesus and made more able to serve you and please you in all that we think, say, and do. We ask it in his name. Amen.

O Lord Christ, who came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, so come that all shall have full opportunity to live; so come that we may open out opportunities to all who are dear to you because they lack and suffer hunger. Come and break down all that hinders life, the iron walls of grim refusal that give life no chance. Come and give us wisdom and patience, courage and resolution to discover how your goodwill may verify itself to all. Give us life that we may give out life. Come and fill us with your own strong desire; with your own brave hope, that all may find their way to live in you. Give unity; give brotherhood; give peace. H. Scott Holland (1847-1918), Theologian and canon of St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me your grace to labour for. Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), Lord Chancellor of England and martyr

Hymns for this Sunday

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

The trumpets sound

Restore O Lord

Lord for the years

Our eyes have seen the glory

Christ from whom all blessings flow

Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen Lord

See how great a flame aspires (Tune: St George’s Windsor)

Go forth and tell! 0 Church of God awake (Tune: Go forth)

Come all who look to Christ today (Tune: Tallis’ Canon)


 

Help us, O God, to hear your word,
your promises believe,
as in the unexpected voice
your challenge we receive.

Through voices we have never known,
of unfamiliar name,
in faith and culture far apart,
your purpose you proclaim.

So save us from religious pride,
and narrowness of mind,
that we may recognise your love
in all of humankind.

Call us, with openness,
to hear the voices of the poor,
then let us of our greed repent
and righteousness restore.

Tune: (Horsley)