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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 18 Year C

Year C, Colour = Green


Jesus said conider the lilies Introduction

We live in a very materialistic culture, we like things ! This is a consumer society and whereas not very long ago shops were closed on Sunday and purchases could not be made online, now we can visit the shopping centres every day of the week, and if desired we can shop 24hrs a day and have the stuff delivered to our doors. Huge shopping malls have arrived in the UK where we can shop indoors and each shop encourages us to have their own plastic credit card to enable us to stock up on things we really can't afford. We are bombarded by an advertising industry which is utterly compelling in its creativity and uses the most potent images to bombard us from every angle with messages to entice us to believe that we are what we own. Deep down most people know that searching for satisfaction in man made goods or the accumulation of wealth is futile. Enough will always be just more than we alreay have. The pop star Jessie J sings 'It's not about the money',.... 'forget about the price tag.' .

Modern consumersim is very high tech but of course human nature has always been the same and Jesus identified it as a problem 2,000 years ago. He cautioned that ownership of things does not produce the security or happiness for which human beings strive. We are encouraged to recognise that we are not just physical beings with material needs, we are spiritual people, created to experience the love of God. If our hearts and minds are set only things which we can see and touch and buy, then we will be dissatisfied. The key to real fulfillment is to recognise that our true value is not measured in what we possess.

Opening Verse of Scripture  Psalm 107:1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day —Before we read we pray

Almighty God, who sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your Church: open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love and joy and peace; 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

Gracious father, revive your Church in our day, and make her holy, strong and faithful, for your glory's sake in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Common Worship Shorter Collect.

Almighty God, your Son has opened for us a new and living way into your presence. Give us new hearts and constant wills to worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.   Methodist Worship

Lord and giver of life, you alone nourish and sustain your people, through Christ, the bread of life. Feed our hunger and quench our thirst, that we may no longer work for that which fails to satisfy, but do what you require, in obedience and faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Methodist Worship  

First Bible Reading  Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 12-14, 2: 18-23


Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labours under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.

Second Reading  Colossians Chapter 3:1-11

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

Gospel Reading   Luke Chapter 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Post Communion Prayer

Holy Father, who gathered us here around the table of your Son to share this meal with the whole household of God: in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace, gather people of every race and language to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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. Amen.
 

Commentary

People often called upon rabbis to settle disputes. In this case a man asks Jesus to help settle an issue where a brother had failed to divide an inheritance. The eldest son would always receive double what the other sons would receive. The proportion was therefore fixed and the man has a reasonable expectation that the brother should give him his fair share. Jesus uses the opportunity to issue words which deal not with the fairness of the distribution but a harsh warning against possessions.
In Sepphoris, one of the largest Jewish cities in Galilee, archaeologists have found large grain silos on farms where wealthy absentee landowners lived. Jesus uses the image of one of these huge barns, which his listeners would have marvelled at, to make an important comment on wealth. Just like other times throughout history and indeed today there were some people who had extraordinary wealth. At the time it was about 1% of the population. These rich and famous people have always provoked envy and desire. Jesus makes the point that it really doesn’t matter how rich these folks are now, shrouds do not have pockets, and one day we will all have to give an account to God of how we used our earthly material resources. If this life alone was important, then eating and drinking and being merry might be the best that mortal life could offer. However we need to contend with God’s demands. Many Jewish texts were critical of self sufficient people who thought that they had it all and did not reckon with their own death.

There are three reasons why the man in the parable is considered by Jesus to be a fool.

The first reason was that he hoarded his wealth for himself, he did not care or give to others because he failed to realise that everything belongs to God. He thought that materials things were his own. He thought to himself, '
What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself,
"You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."
It is all about ‘I’ ‘my’ and ‘myself’ but our stuff is not our own. The earth is God’s, we are entrusted to look after it and to look after one another, not to think that the purpose of life is to get more and more for ourselves. This was God’s ground and God’s crops. When God created the world Adam was not given ownership he was asked to look after it. It was not ownership it was stewardship. However the man never thought about God, he never considered that the stuff we have is not our own.

The second reason the man was a fool was because he was greedy. Jesus says
‘Watch out ! be on your guard against all kinds of greed’. The rich man was a fool because he thought that if he was greedy he would be happy. The fact is that for a greedy person to be satisfied they will always need a little bit more. No amount will ever be enough. Greed is a thirst which can never be satisfied.
If we keep wanting more then we will never have enough. Greed is like drinking saltwater, saltwater can never satisfy our thirst, we will just become thirstier and need to drink more and if we keep on doing it eventually it will kill us.

The third reason why the man was a fool was because he thought that things could bring happiness. There is a tendency to think that possessions will make us happy, but life is not helped by having lots of possessions. There is within each one of us a spiritual part. In the parable Jesus said that one day that spiritual part of us will be called to meet with God. At any moment any one of us could find that our bodies die and God calls our spiritual souls. So we have to make sure that we look after our souls. We need to stop thinking about earthly things and think about heavenly things. This rich man was a fool because he thought that a man made in the image of God could be ultimately satisfied with eating, drinking and worldly pleasure. In Psalm 42.1-2 we read that the soul of man thirsts for God just as the soul of a deer thirsts for water. Augustine famously stated ‘my soul is restless till it finds it rest in thee.’

The man came to Jesus because he was concerned about his material wealth, he wanted money out of the will. Jesus said he should be concerned about his spiritual health. We care for our souls when instead of gathering for ourselves we learn to give. Instead of spending time on our leisure we learn to serve others. God needs neither our good works nor our wealth, but our neighbour does. We live in times which are full of fear and increasingly we need to care for each other and our neighbour. Living together is not easy it means getting on with people we find difficult or who have perhaps hurt us, which is why forgiveness lies at the heart of our faith. Nevertheless it is God’s will that we care for and share with others and this is the message which the rich farmer never understood. Charles Royden


icon of rich manOne traditional Orthodox icon of the parable of the rich fool depicts laborers busily building new barns on one side of the icon, the rich man dying alone in bed on the other, and Christ dining alone at a large table in the center.

Meditation


In one of his books Leo Tolstoy tells the story of a young Russian who inherits his father’s small farm. He immediately starts dreaming of how to expand his property when one morning a well-dressed stranger visits him and makes him an offer that is too good to be true - he could have free of charge all the property he could walk around in one day. The only condition was that he returns to the same spot from which he started, the grave of his father, before the sun went down. Seeing the rich fields in the distance, he sets out without taking any provisions or saying goodbye to his family. He figured he could cover six square miles in a day. After a short while he decided to make it nine, then twelve and finally fifteen square miles. By noon he makes it to the halfway point. Though hungry with his legs aching he continues. He was near the point of exhaustion but the obsession to own the land drives him on. With only a few minutes left before the sun went down, he gathers all his strength, stumbles across the line, the new owner of fifteen square miles of land, and then collapses on the ground, dead.
The stranger smiles and said, "I offered him all the land he could cover. Now you see what that is, six feet long by two feet wide, and I thought he would like to have the land close to his father’s grave, rather than to have it anywhere else." Having said that, the stranger whose name is Death vanishes, saying "I have kept my pledge." Sam Cappleman

Hymns

  1. Sing to God new songs of worship
  2. Be still for the presence
  3. As the deer pants for the water
  4. Love divine (Tune Blaenwern)
  5. O for a thousand tongues to sing
  6. Immortal, Invisible, God only wise

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian.
If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit,
but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.


Guide and rule your church forever, Lord, that it may walk warily in times of quiet and boldly in times of trouble. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Franciscan Breviary

Lord Jesus Christ, as those who are sick we come to the physician of life; as unclean, to the fountain of mercy; as blind, to the light of eternal splendour; as needy, to the Lord of heaven and earth; and as naked, to the king of glory. Amen. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

May we see your glory, O God, in all your works. May we feel your presence in all circumstances and may we hold to you through times of good and ill; through Christ our Lord. Amen George Ridding, 1828-1904

Strengthen us, O God, to relieve the oppressed, to hear the groans of poor prisoners, to reform the abuses of all professions; that many be made not poor to make a few rich. For Jesus Christ’s sake.  (Oliver Cromwell 1599-1658 adapted from letter after battle of Dunbar)

Father of everlasting goodness, our Creator and Guide, be close to us and hear our prayers. Forgive us when we forget to trust You to provide us with every blessing in this life. Giver of all good gifts, help us not to seek things for ourselves, but to seek ways in which we might be of service to others

Teach us to treasure Christ and His grace above all earthly possessions. Help us to continually cast our lot with life and not with death; with grace and not with judgement, with love and not with hate, with giving and not with receiving, with praising and not being praised., with trusting and not with fear

As we pray for ourselves, we pray also for blessing to be upon others, bring to pass that which they most need in their lives right now:

Lord, I pray for all who suffer from hatred and prejudice, from abuse and ill-treatment, and for all who are victims of what others do. I pray, too, for the people of violence, that they may change their ways and learn to respect others. I pray for myself, that when I face what is negative or evil I may have the courage and generosity to break the cycle of violence, hatred, fear or distrust, and make my own choices and take responsibility for the direction in which I want my life to go. I pray that I may always do to others as I would wish them to do to me. Amen.

 

Additional Material

God, good beyond all that is good, fair beyond all that is fair. In you is calmness, peace and concord. Heal our divisions, draw us into your divine nature, and through the embrace of your love make us one in Spirit. Amen. Dionysius of Alexandria (d. 264)

Commentary

copyright panoramia photo.com/photo/421

Balancing Values
Jesus was teaching His disciples when He was interrupted by someone who wanted him to resolve a family dispute over inheritance. He was not really asking for advice. He wanted Jesus to stand on his side and "tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." He wanted Jesus to get the money for him, but Jesus saw the true problem in his heart - greed. And He uses the opportunity to warn the people of the danger of greed and placing one’s confidence in earthly possessions. Ultimately Jesus did act as judge for the family member; He pointed out to him the danger in his request to settle the family dispute!

Ancestral inheritance was one of Judaism’s central symbols and getting it right was part of obedience to God’s will. The nation of Israel too had traditionally prided itself on national identity and security, claiming for itself more and more ‘ancestral’ territory. But all the time God was calling both individuals and the nation back, not to be a people with great wealth and land but to be a holy community who could be a light to the world. It’s a task that the Jews never came to fulfil and one which according to Luke in the Nunc Dimitus, is passed to Jesus who is ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory to your people Israel’. Israel had lost the true focus of their inheritance; an inheritance which was based on a covenant relationship with God, not just in promised lands and possessions.

The gospel reading forces us to think about our values and the balance we need to maintain between our earthly and our heavenly inheritance and birthrights. A balance between seeing wealth as evil and seeing it useful to fulfil the purpose of God. Indeed, Luke doesn’t say that money is sinful, but rather that greed is the problem. What do we do with our worldly riches and, in particular, what do we do with the surplus each one of us enjoys? Do we keep the surplus for ourselves, storing it up for a rainy day, or do we share our wealth openly and generously with others, especially those in need? Do we focus on our ‘lands and possessions’ or do we focus on our covenant relationship with a generous God who calls us through Christ to be lights to the world and to be rich towards God? Selfishness in God’s communal world is destructive to all, leading to violence and to war, in families, communities and even nature itself. Jesus reminds us that He wants us to invest in things that have eternal value not just earthy possessions.

God wants us to enjoy life, but not without a relationship with Him. In the epistle reading Paul exhorts all followers of Christ to ‘set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’. And it’s as we set our minds on Him that we achieve the balance between current and future needs and using our money, and all that God has given us, wisely. And in so doing we come into our ultimate inheritance, the promise of eternal life.  Sam Cappleman

 

Commentary

For thousands, of years there have been examples of people from all religious faiths who have renounced the world in order to devote themselves to the spiritual life, without the distractions of material possessions. We might think immediately of Saint Francis and many who have entered into religious communities.

This tension between material possessions and spirituality is even more of an issue today, because we live in a society which is incredibly materialistic and enjoys unparalleled material prosperity. It is interesting that there has been a slight shift of late towards a more responsible attitude towards consumption. People are being encouraged to think about whether we are consuming the world’s precious resources too fast and without proper responsibility. But this change has not been brought about by religious people, more by politicians and the green lobby. These people are not so much concerned about the damage which materialism can do to the soul, but rather to the planet. The problem which is faced by us all as we struggle to restrain industrial growth and its effects is that other countries are not so pleased with our new found global conscience. We enjoyed the fruits from the industrial revolution, now other nations are discovering their appetite and consider it unfair that at this time they should be told to cut back.

It is clear from the teaching of Jesus that he did not consider wealth or possessions in themselves as either inherently good or bad. Rather he set out clear choices which make it abundantly clear that we should develop a dependence on the goodness of God,  not a dependence on material, created goods. Jesus wanted this not because he wanted to stop us from enjoying ourselves, clearly he was accused of being a party guy. Instead Jesus knew that pursuit of fulfillment through materials, wealth and greed, was utterly self-destructive.

The challenge facing us all is to strike the right balance between using our hard work and God given creativity and becoming consumed by consumerism. There is nothing great about being poor, Christians should work to alleviate all kinds of poverty. However if we are all concerned with our own wealth creativity, and fail to be mindful of the needs of others, then that greedy attitude will inevitably cause others to be poor.

  1. The manner in which we create wealth is important, we should not be mean, cheating or exploit the vulnerable.

  2. The way in which we use wealth is important, we should be considerate of the needs of others and not just spend it on ourselves.


Each one of us needs to examine our attitudes towards wealth and materialism. If we devote ourselves to amassing material things, neglecting moral, spiritual and intellectual well-being, then we will eventually destroy ourselves—and coincidentally also the planet.   Charles Royden

A reading from Peter Abelard
From somewhere near them in the woods a cry rose, a thin cry, of such intolerable anguish that Abelard turned dizzy on his feet, and caught at the wall of the hut. ’It’s a child’s voice,’ he said.Thibault had gone outside. The cry came again. ‘A rabbit,’ said Thibault. He listened. ‘It’ll be in the trap. Hugh told me he was putting them down.’ ‘O God,’ Abelard muttered. ‘Let it die quickly.’ But the cry came yet again. He plunged through a thicket of hornbeam. ‘Watch out,’  said Thibault, thrusting past him. ’The trap might take the hand off you.’ The rabbit stopped shrieking when they stooped over it, either from exhaustion, or in some last extremity of fear. Thibault held the teeth of the trap apart, and Abelard gathered up the little creature in his hands. It lay for a moment breathing quickly, then in some blind recognition of the kindness that had met it at the last, the small head thrust and nestled against his arm, and it died. It was that last confiding thrust that broke Abelard’s heart. He looked down at the little draggled body, his mouth shaking. ’Thibault,’ he said , ’do you think there is a God at all? Whatever has come to me, I earned it. But what did this one do?’ Thibault nodded. ’I know,’ he said. ’Only I think God is in it too.’ Abelard looked up sharply. ’In it? Do you mean that it makes him suffer, the way it does us?' Again Thibault nodded. ’Then why doesn’t he stop it?’ ’I don’t know,’ said Thibault. ’Unless it’s like the prodigal son. I suppose the father could have kept him at home against his will. But what would have been the use? All this,’ he stroked the limp body, ‘ is because of us. But all the time God suffers. More than we do.’ Abelard looked at him, perplexed. ‘Thibault, do you mean Calvary?’ Thibault shook his head. ‘That was only a piece of it - the piece that we saw - in time. Like that.’ He pointed to a fallen tree beside them, sawn through the middle. ’That dark ring there, it goes up and down the whole length of the tree. But you only see it where it is cut across. That is what Christ’s life was; the bit of God that we saw. And we think God is like that, because Christ was like that, kind and forgiving sins and healing people. We think God is like that forever, because it happened once, with Christ. But not the pain. Not the agony at the last. We think that stopped.’ Abelard looked at him, the blunt nose and the wide mouth, the honest troubled eyes. He could have knelt before him. ’Then, Thibault,’ he said slowly, ‘you think that all this,’ he looked down at the little quiet body in his arms, ’all the pain of the world, was Christ’s cross?’ ‘God’s cross,’ said Thibault. ‘And it goes on.’
 

Commentary 

We have today from the Old Testament a reading from the Book of the prophet Hosea. Throughout the writing Hosea uses symbolism to tell of the way the people of the northern kingdom of Israel have forsaken God's ways: they have deserted God and their covenant with him. Much of the book of Hosea warns of the consequences they will suffer for their waywardness. They have insisted on worshipping pagan gods ("kept sacrificing for the Baals", v. 2). (Baal was a god in the religions of both Canaan and Tyre.)

Hosea knew about waywardness, he was married to a woman who went off with other men and through the bitterness of his own disappointment was able to see how God too would have felt betrayed..

Hosea recalls the Exodus from Egypt (vv. 1-4). He compares God's loving leadership of the Israelites with a parent nurturing a child. Off worshipping other gods, they are unaware that God cared for them, healed them, and fed them. ( "Ephraim", v. 3, means Israel: this tribal territory was a particularly important part of the north.) Verses 5-7 tell of the punishment which the people will suffer for their rebellion, they will be exiled to "Assyria." Since they did not return to God, they will be in bondage, as they were in "Egypt". There will be fighting "in their cities" (v. 6); their priests will be killed. Even though they will call upon God for help, he will not hear them (v. 7).

Characteristically however the later part of the passage in verses 8-9 is in a very different tone. God speaks in a human, emotional way, his anger (unlike human anger) does not last; he will again be compassionate. He will not cause the utter destruction of the cities and their inhabitants. Many commentators find it hard to reconcile the messages of doom and destruction found in the prophets alongside the messages of hope and reconciliation. This is however a recurring theme, God loves his people and cannot desert or punish them ultimately, no matter how much they deserve it. God will forgive and does always love, just as Hosea forgave and took back his wife in spite of her waywardness. If Hosea found it in his heart to overlook the sin and forgive, how much greater was the compassion and grace of God.

Meditation

Lord, our God and King, your greatness is seen throughout the earth. When I gaze at the heavens which your fingers have formed, and look at the moon and the stars which you have set there, I realise how small we are in the magnificence of your creation. Yet you treasure us above all that you have made, and you give us control over all the works of your hand - animals both wild and tame, birds in the air, and the creatures of the sea. Lord, our God and King, your greatness is seen throughout the earth.

Meditation

Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you. Oscar Wilde, 19th century

Prayers

O God, the King of Righteousness, lead us we pray, in the way of justice and of peace. Inspire us to break down all oppression and wrong, to gain for everyone their reward, and from every one their due service; that each may live for all, and all may care for each, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in our asking; have compassion on our weakness, and give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Lord, Jesus Christ, let me seek you by desiring you, and let me desire you by seeking you. Let me find you by loving you, and love you in finding you. Amen. St Anselm

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.  Amen

Hymns

  1. Stand up and bless the Lord
  2. Sing of the Lord's goodness
  3. Now thank we all our God 486 Mission Praise
  4. Love divine
  5. Sing to God new songs of worship
  6. All creatures of our God and King
  7. Jubilate everybody
  8. All people that on earth do dwell
  9. As the deer pants for the water
  10. Immortal invisible