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Worship, Prayer and Bible Resources

27 Sunday in Ordinary, Year B, Green


Introduction

We read this week in Mark's Gospel that people brought  children to Jesus for his blessing. The disciples were not pleased and spoke sternly to these people. I suppose we can understand why the disciples were less than enthusiastic about children. These little people had no money, no power, no strength, how could they contribute towards the establishment of the new Kingdom Jesus was talking about. Indeed children can be a nuisance, they are noisy, distracting and get in the way, better to keep them in the crèche.

Apparently instead of being grateful for the opportunity for a little peace Jesus was actually was indignant. This is understandable, Jesus has spent time healing the leper, a paralytic, a man with a withered hand, a demoniac, a little girl and a woman, a Gentile woman's daughter, a deaf man, a blind man, and a little boy. In his ministry, everything has pointed to his devotion to the powerless and vulnerable, but the disciples have missed the point.

Far from distracting his work, Jesus knows that children are exactly the right people to demonstrate what his kingdom is about. It is because the children have nothing to offer that they are so special. They can only accept the kingdom as a gift, they are totally dependent on the Father. They come with empty hands and trusting hearts. They are totally dependent on God's grace, and that is the only way to receive God's kingdom.
 

Opening Sentence

He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Mark 10

 

Collect Prayer for the Day— Before we read we pray

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. Common Worship Shorter Collect

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.  Amen  Common Worship

Blessed are you, O Lord, and blessed are those who observe and keep your law. Help us to seek you with our whole heart, to delight in your commandments and to walk in the glorious liberty given to us by your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we make our prayer.  Amen.  Methodist Worship

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all dangers and necessities stretch out your hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

 

creation_chagallFirst Bible Reading  Genesis 2: 18-24

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a helper suitable for him."

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground
all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air.
He brought them to the man to see what he would name them;
and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 
So the man gave names to all the livestock,
the birds of the air
and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep;
and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs
and closed up the place with flesh. 

Then the LORD God made a woman
from the rib he had taken out of the man,
and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Second Reading

Hebrews Chapter 1:1-4, 2:5-12


In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour and put everything under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."

Gospel Reading Mark 10:2-16

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" "What did Moses command you?" he replied. They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.


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.


Commentary

God has a very high view of people. After all he created us - a little less than God - as Hebrews has it, quoting psalm 8. We are meant to have dominion over everything as the crown of creation – in the image of God ! This applies to men, to women and to children. Mark 10 shows us Jesus as the champion of women against the customs of his time – Jesus sees women as people equal with men in the sight of God – chattels ! And he made time for children.

But this ideal of what people should be is different from the present reality, which is so often the dark tragic story of failure. Endowed with knowledge we have invented destruction. Given freedom, we have chosen slavery.
C.G. Jung wrote; ‘We are unable to suppress many of our emotions; we cannot change a bad mood into a good one and we cannot command our dreams to come and go.
 

Made for mastery, people are slaves to fears. Made for peace and joy, hearts are so often in torment. Made for love, people hate, made for strength, people are too weak to throw off the shackles of sin.’
 

So we see hatred between races and groups, all sorts of divisions and chaos. We are in a real sense in bondage to sin and death. As Hebrews 2 /8 says ‘At present we do not see everything subject to him.’ Rather, we abuse the planet.
 

Then Hebrews shows us how the actual can be changed into the ideal. But we see Jesus. He changes things by his sufferings and his glory he can make us what we were meant to be, and without him, can never be. He can do this because he has ‘tested death for everyone.’ His death was the defeat of sin and glorious promise to all who believe. And it’s the wonder of his grace that he is ‘not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters too ! ‘ That is how much we all mean to God. Richard Ledger  

Meditation

The state of humanity is often linked to ‘The Fall’ in Genesis and the doctrine of original sin proves the sinfulness of all humankind. Steve Chalk in his book ‘The Last Message of Jesus’ points out that Jesus believed in original goodness ! God declared that all his creation, including humankind, was very good, and it is the original goodness that Jesus seeks out in us. He isn’t denying that our relationship with God is in need of restoring and reconciliation, but he is rejecting any idea that we, or anyone else, are ‘beyond the pale’, beyond the reach of God’s love. Steve Chalke reckons that it is a serious mistake to see humanity as inherently evil and steeped in original sin, instead of inherently made in God’s image and so bathed in original goodness, however hidden it may become. He say that the doctrine of original sin was borne out of Augustine’s view that the material world and everything in it was evil and corrupt. This ‘fallenness’ Augustine said was like a virus that is passed on. The Eastern Church especially followed the teaching of Irenaeus who believed that all people were God’s image bearers and though flawed, were like flowers in bud, slowly coaxed into full bloom by God’s love. Now there’s a thought !


So how do we view other people ? Especially those different from us. What about people who do ‘bad’ things ? Do we write them off – condemn them? Or could God’s love slowly coax them into full bloom ? Isn’t this what we are praying for when we pray, ‘Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ ? Everything – everyone – made new in Christ. One of my favourite Bible passages is the parable of the prodigal son – sometimes called the parable of the loving father. Do look it up in Luke 15. A story of amazing grace. Richard Ledger

 

Hymns and Psalms

  1. Ye servants of God

  2. Majesty

  3. God has spoken by his prophets

  4. Lift high the cross

  5. We have a gospel to proclaim

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead


Blessing and honour and thanksgiving and praise, more than we can utter, more than we can conceive, be unto Thee, O holy and glorious Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, by all angels, by all men, and all creatures for ever and ever Amen. (Thomas Ken 17th Century)

Thanks be to thee, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which thou hast won for us, for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for us. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may we know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee nearly, day by day Amen. (Richard of Chichester, 13th Century)

Eternal God, light of the minds that knows you, the life of the souls that loves you, strength of the wills that serve you; help us so to know you that we may truly love you, so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve in perfect freedom. (Pope Gelasius, 8th Century.)

Dear Master, in whose life I see all that I long, but fail to be, let your clear light for ever shine to shame and guide this life of mine. Though what I dream and what I do in poor days are always true, help me oppressed by things undone, dear Lord, whose deeds and dreams were one. (John Hunter, 19th Century)

Bless our land, O Lord, may we be a nation of laughter and joy, of justice and reconciliation, of peace and unity, of compassion, caring and sharing. (Desmond Tutu, 20th Century.)
 

Additional Material

Divorce

 

Thinking about Divorce

The often repeated claim that the correct Biblical norm for relationships is for a man and a woman in marriage, seems to run contrary to the many great spiritual leaders such as Abraham, King David and Solomon. In the Old Testament the men are able to have sex with wives, concubines and slave girls. The emphasis seems to be placed more upon having children than fidelity to a monogamous relationship.  Even the birth line of Jesus himself involves incest to produce a child when Lot has sex with his two daughters and the resulting offspring come to be Moab and Bennami.(Genesis 19:30)

Marriage and divorce are equally divisive subjects. Some Christians and churches follow the teaching of Jesus in Mark 10:11 that divorce and remarriage are tantamount to adultery. Other churches follow the teaching of Jesus in Matthew which allows for divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances (Matt 19:9).

 

Meditation

Turner was one of Britain’s greatest artists. It has been said that before Turner, nobody painted sunsets. He taught people to “really see” sunsets, even though they were so obvious. In Turner’s water scenes, both the water and the sky are filled with brilliant, golden and hazy light, and it is difficult to see where the water finishes and the sky begins. Living at the same time as Turner was another English painter, John Constable, who saw and painted the beauty in ordinary country scenes. He said: “There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life. Let the form of an object be what it may - light, shade and perspective will always make it beautiful.” Both artists remind us that the physical world and the spiritual are not separate, but overlap and are inter-mingled - the “veil” between them is thin. God’s coming to us as a human being reminds us that it is not helpful to try to draw lines between what is “sacred” and what is “secular”.

Prayers


Time to Pray
Take time to think…
It is the source of power.
Take time to play…
It is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to laugh…
It is the music of the soul
Take time to pray…
It is the greatest power on Earth.
Words written on the wall of the Missionaries of Charity children’s home, Calcutta, India

God provides
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine and bread to strengthen the human heart
Psalm 104:14-15

Love of others
Eternal goodness, you want me to gaze into you and see that you love me. You love me freely and you want me to love and serve my neighbours with the same love, offering them my prayers and my possessions, as far as in me lies. O God, come to my assistance.
St Catherine of Siena (1347-80) Italy

Tempest-Tossed
Lord of the elements and changing seasons, keep me in the hollow of your hand. When I am tossed to and fro by the winds of adversity and the blasts of sickness and misunderstanding, still my racing heart, quieten my troubled mind.
Brother Ramon (b1935)

Writing a letter
Just as day declines to evening, so often after some little pleasure my heart declines into depression. Everything seems dull, every action feels like a burden. If anyone speaks, I scarcely listen. If anyone knocks, I scarcely hear. My heart is hard as flint. Then I go into the field to meditate, to read the holy scriptures and I write down my deepest thoughts in a letter to you. And suddenly your grace, dear Jesus, shatters the darkness with daylight, lifts the burden, relieves the tension. Soon tears follow sighs, and heavenly joy floods over me with tears. Aelred of Rievaulx (c1110-67)

God in every breath
Dear God, be all my love, all my hope and all my endeavour; let my thoughts and words emanate from you, let my daily life be lived in you, and let every breath I take be filled with joy for you. Amen.
After St. John Cassian (c360-435) Scythia.

 

1 God has spoken-by his prophets,
Spoken his unchanging word,
Each from age to age proclaiming
God, the one, the righteous Lord.
'Mid the world's despair and turmoil
One firm anchor holds us fast:
God is King, his throne eternal,
God the first, and God the last.

2 God has spoken-by Christ Jesus,
Christ, the everlasting Son,
Brightness of the Father's glory,
With the Father ever one;
Spoken by the Word incarnate,
God from God, ere time began,
Light from Light, to earth descending,
Man, revealing God to man.

3 God is speaking-by his Spirit,
Speaking to the hearts of men,
In the age-long word expounding
God's own message, now as then,
Through the rise and fall of nations
One sure faith yet standing fast;
God still speaks, his word unchanging,
God the first, and God the last.