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Weekly Bible Study Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 19

Year C, Colour = Green


Introduction

It has been said that when people stop believing in God, then they will believe anything. Without doubt there are many people around who turn to very inadequate sources of help when seeking guidance for their lives. Horoscopes, people who pretend to communicate with dead relatives, there are many people out there who will take advantage of people who have lost or who have never known faith in God.

The Christian faith provides us with a way of living which makes sense of our world and our lives. It is simple enough to be taught to children and yet profound enough to challenge the most intelligent minds.

Opening Verse of Scripture 1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Let your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; 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 of heaven and earth, as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer, give us patience and courage never to lose hope, but always to bring our prayers before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collect.

Living God, you have placed in the hearts of your children a longing for your Word and a hunger for your truth. Grant that, believing in the One who you have sent, we may know him to be the true bread of heaven, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Methodist Worship

O God, the protector of all who put their trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us your mercy that with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading Genesis 15:1-6

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. " But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD  what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars-if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Abram believed the LORD , and he credited it to him as righteousness
 

Second Reading  Hebrews 11:1-3. 8-16

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he[ considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
 

Gospel Reading   Luke 12:32-40

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

Post Communion Prayer

God of our pilgrimage, you have willed that the gate of mercy should stand open for those who trust in you: look upon us with your favour that we who follow the path of your will may never wander from the way of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Commentary

Our Gospel reading today begins with the words ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Jesus spends a lot of time telling people not to worry or be anxious, he knows what we are like. The disciples are told not to worry about their daily bread, now they are told not to worry about kingdom inheritance. He calls them ‘little flock’ an Old Testament reference and a reminder that he is the shepherd who will lead his sheep where they need to go.

It is a human things to try and accumulate and the more that we do so the safer, more confident we will be about the future. Jesus now encourages his disciples to dispose of their goods, ’Sell that which you have and give gifts to the needy.’ This is completely counter intuitive. Last week we heard the parable of the rich fool who would tear down his barns and build bigger ones for his large harvest. Jesus called him, and people like him, fools because they "store up treasure for themselves, but are not rich in what matters to God" (12:21).

We return today to talk about money and treasure. Jesus instructs us how we can have an "inexhaustible treasure in heaven," which is indestructible and not subject to decay by selling and disposal rather than by purchase and acquisition.

Luke, both in this Gospel and in the book of Acts, emphasizes the virtue of charity (Luke 3:10-11; 6:38; 10:33-35; 11:41; 19:8; Acts 6:1-4; 10:4; 11:29-30; 20:35).  He also tells how the first disciples exchanged private ownership for common ownership (Acts 2:44-46; 4:32-37).  It is a radically faith-filled approach to money and property.  None of this makes sense apart from faith that God has already established the kingdom and has invited us to begin life under Kingdom Rules. Since the giving of alms generates treasure in heaven, the wise person will give generously.  The gift of earthly things which are subject to theft and decay, builds an investment in heaven - a purse that does not wear out. 

Jesus’ concern for the poor and oppressed flows throughout Luke. In his inaugural address in the synagogue in Nazareth (4:14ff), he quotes from Isaiah and announces that he has been sent "to bring glad tidings to the poor" (4:18). His healing powers benefit the poor, the oppressed and those shunned by society, lepers, the woman with the hemorrhage, the sinful woman, the dead, etc.

Jesus’ miracles and teaching stress the importance of the poor for his disciples. As we read today, his followers are to be detached from possessions, "sell your belongings and give alms." He chose his disciples from the poor and outcast and sends them on mission, not dependent on their own possessions, but with the assurance that the Father has already given them the kingdom. They are, unlike the rich fool of last week’s gospel, already "rich in what matters to God."
Jesus reminds his disciples that a concern for property closes us to God’s call. "For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart." When wealthy people entered the early church they shared their wealth to help the poor. Jesus taught that the rich, who are attached to their possessions and detached from the poor around them, would not sit at the eschatological banquet – but the poor and outcast would (14:16-24).

Today’s parable focuses on Jesus’ return and the need for our fidelity and preparedness as we wait. The master is returning from a wedding. In light of the marriage customs of the time, the master could be returning with his bride. This would make the master’s actions even more startling. The custom would mean celebration and feasting upon the couple’s arrival. The servants should have been prepared, not just with a quick bite to eat, but with a major celebration.
Jesus has exhorted his disciples not to be afraid because their needs are in God’s hands. Then he shifts to urging watchfulness, faithful service, preparedness for his expected coming.

The parable surprises us. Normally we expect servants to wait on masters and mistresses, but when this master comes and knocks he hitches up his robes and invites the servants to the table and then serves them! The Messiah has come, Jesus says, to serve us and not be served.

If we had been reading the King James Version of the Bible today we would have remembered the words of Luke not as ‘be dressed ready’, but rather as
‘Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning’

The reference to girded loins recalls the passover experience of the early Hebrews (Ex 12:11). Girded loins means fastening your clothes in such a way that you wouldn't trip over them if running, or get caught up in them if working. It's an expression meaning heightened anticipation and readiness for action. The early Hebrews girded their loins because they could smell freedom. Be like that, Jesus says.
Not only must loins be girded, lamps must be burning ! The lamp in our photograph today is an original from about the time of Jesus which I photographed in a roman villa. The thing which amazes me if that they ever managed to keep these alight at all. The important feature of oil lamps - as opposed to our electric lights is that oil lamps require constant attention. Wicks must be trimmed and oil replenished, even a well-maintained lamp takes time to light and constant care and attention. So it should be with us, a constant stet of preparedness, living the Kingdom.

Be like those who wait for "their lord (kurios)" coming from the wedding banquet. The word kurios is used twice (12: 36, 37) and clearly refers to Jesus in each case. Moreover, he is coming from a wedding banquet, an event of great festivity and gaiety. Indeed, the wedding banquet is an important biblical symbol for the Great Banquet at the end of time (Is 25:6, Rev. 19: 7-9). This is a happy occasion, Jesus is not coming to accuse, to dig up the past or remonstrate with those who should have done better. Quite the contrary this is about party and celebration. Charles Royden

Meditation

The Apollo 15 spacecraft splashed down into the ocean in 1971. The astronauts had spent 2 days 18 hours on the Moon. One of them, James Irwin, wrote that the greatest effect of that spaceflight had been to deepen and strengthen his faith and all the religious insight he ever had. “When you lean far back and look up, you can see the earth like a beautiful, fragile tree ornament against the blackness of space. It’s as if you can reach out and hold it in your hand. “As we reached out in a physical way to the heavens, we were moved spiritually. As we flew into space we had a new sense of ourselves, of the earth, and of the nearness of God. We were outside of ordinary reality; I sensed the beginning of some sort of deep change taking place inside me. Looking back at the spaceship we call “Earth”, I was touched by a desire to convince mankind that we have a unique place to live, that we are unique creatures, and that we must learn to live with our neighbours. “I had become a sceptic about getting guidance from God, and I know that I had lost the feeling of his nearness. On the moon, the total picture of the power of God and his Son, Jesus Christ, became abundantly clear to me.” Let us pray using Psalm 8, a copy of which was left on the Moon in a metal canister during the first manned landing in July 1969: 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.

Hymns

  1. New every morning (Tune Melcombe)
  2. Jesus stand among us
  3. Lord they word abideth (Tune Ravenshaw)
  4. Lord you were were rich
  5. Through all the changing scenes of life (Tune Wiltshire)

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."

Enable this church to do your will
Make it vulnerable that it may speak with calm humility;
Make it outward looking that it may care deeply
Make it a community of peacemakers and bridge builders
In the midst of turbulence let the church make space
for the hearing of your still small voice. (Delia Shephard)

Eternal God, in Christ you make yourself our guest. Amid all our cares and concerns make us attentive to your voice and alert to your presence, that we may prize your word above all else; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, you are the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the 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 is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. —Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Knit my soul to your own, O Christ, so that I may never be separated from you. Only in you am I a person fully alive. Only in your light can I see and only in your strength can I pursue my way. To you I come, O wisdom without end. In you I rest, O mercy without limit. To you I give all praise, O crown of all majesty. Amen       Mechtild of Magdeburg, 1210-80

Wonderful are you, God of creation, without whom nothing draws breath.
Wonderful are you, Christ Jesus, without whom our world stays in the dark.
Wonderful are you, Spirit-Friend, without whom our worship remains formal.
We trust you, we love you, we yearn for more of you;
we praise you for your holiness, beauty and inexhaustible love. Amen!

 
 
 
 

God of Abraham and Jesus, you invite your people to contemplate heavenly things and urge us toward faith in you. May your coming among us find our doors open, our tables set, and all your people ready to greet you. Amen.

Additional Material

Opening Verse of Scripture 2 Corinthians Chapter 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

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.

First Bible Reading, Chapter 1:1,10-20

1:1 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

10. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! "The multitude of your sacrifices-- what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Second Bible Reading, Luke Chapter 12:32-40

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

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.

Commentary

In the parable which Jesus tells today in Luke we are presented with one of those one line statements which express so much and challenge us to the core. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also " (Luke 12:34 Jesus deals with the paradox of life, that one who regards wealth as a means of acquiring perfect happiness in this life will be fantastically unhappy and ultimately perish. It is a salient feature of Jesus' teaching that the heart's disposition cannot be centered on earthly possessions. The heart must be centered on God, in whom alone security rests. If we depend upon God, then we avoid a false dependence on material, created goods.

Possessions in themselves are neither inherently good or bad; however it is the choices that one makes concerning them that determines their significance. This is easy to say, but of course a difficult thing to live out in our society. In a sense it was much easier for the followers of Jesus to live a simple life. We have motor cars which require insurance and maintenance and taxes. For travel in first century Palestine you had a donkey if you were lucky, it was not insured, or taxed, there was no pet plan to cover vet bills. The early disciples did not need pensions, most of them had been martyred within a few years. But we are probably going to live a lot longer and we have to responsible enough to make such provision as we can for ourselves.

Life today has so much changed from when Jesus spoke those words, we have to try and take his words and apply them to our situation. Jesus is surely against greed in all its forms. If we take scripture seriously and study it we find that Jesus was not against possessions or reward for our labour. I know that we are studying from verse 32 today, but if we look back to verse 15 of this chapter we are reminded of where Jesus real attentions lie. Listen to verse 15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." The Greek word used here means "to be present in superfluity." In other words the person has more than he or she needs.

Jesus of all people affirms the right of every child of God right to have their basic needs fulfilled, while at the same time he pinpoints the negative, destructive notion of desiring more than we need. If we look at Jesus we know that his ministry was well supported by wealthy women especially who gave of their money. Jesus often associated with the rich, felt quite comfortable to attend meals with wealthy businessmen and was not averse to expensive perfume being poured over him. Even Zacchaeus when he repented for the money he stole, only returned half of the money! 6 Our attitude towards our money and our possessions betrays an inner spirit of heart, that is what is so important.

John Wesley's rule of life was to save all he could and give all he could. When he was at Oxford he had an income of 30 pounds a year. He lived on 28 pounds and gave 2 pounds away. When his income increased to 60 pounds, 90 pounds, 120 pounds a year, he still lived on 28 pounds and gave the balance away. The Accountant-General for Household Plate demanded a return from him. His reply was, "I have two silver tea spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate which I have at present; and I shall not buy any more, while so many around me want bread."

The Romans had a proverb which said that: 'money was like sea-water; the more a man drank the thirstier he became'. And so, to have the attitude always to get more, is the reverse of the Christian way. Dependence on the goodness of God is the only thing that will prevent us from a false dependence on material, created goods. Possessions in themselves are neither inherently good or bad; it is the choices that one makes concerning them that determines their significance. Charles Royden

 

Commentary

Many of you are familiar with the childhood prayer "Now I lay me down to sleep, it is a shortened version of an Old English prayer, which goes like this:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, bless the bed that I lie on.
Before I lay me down to sleep, I give my soul to Christ to keep.
Four corners to my bed, four angels there aspread,
two to foot, and two to head, and two to carry me when I'm dead.
I go by sea, I go by land, the Lord made me by his right hand.
If any danger comes to me, Sweet Jesus Christ, deliver me.
He's the branch, and I'm the flower, pray God send me a happy hour.
And if I die before I wake, I pray that Christ my soul will take.

The prayer has an important refrain, that Christ is the keeper, the caretaker of our soul. And, when we slip into the unconsciousness of the night I suppose, on a daily bases, we are never nearer death. It was out of this fear of sleep that this prayer was written. At night, when we are vulnerable, we want someone watching over us. So, we prepare ourselves with a prayer: If I should die before I wake. Our text this morning asks us to be prepared, to be dressed ready for service. We are to keep our lamps burning for we do not know when our Lord returns.

The parable presents in a persuasive form the paradoxical fact that one who "regards wealth as a means of acquiring perfect happiness in this life . . . becomes what he loves; if he loves what perishes, he too shall perish." Expressed with consummate simplicity, the tremendous one-liner: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also " (Luke 12:34), focuses upon the significance of one's basic stance toward possessions. It is a salient feature of Jesus' teaching that the heart's disposition cannot be centered on earthly possessions. The heart must be centered on God, in whom alone > power and security rest.

Dependence on the goodness of God would prevent one from a false dependence on material, created goods. Possessions in themselves are neither inherently good or bad; however it is the choices that one makes concerning them that determines their significance. Charles Royden

Commentary

Fear Not

It has been said that when people stop believing in God, then they will believe anything. Without doubt there are many people around who turn to very inadequate sources of help when seeking guidance for their lives. Horoscopes, people who pretend to communicate with dead relatives, there are many people out there who will take advantage of people who have lost or who have never known faith in God. The Christian faith provides us with a way of living which makes sense of our world and our lives. It is simple enough to be taught to children and yet profound enough to challenge the most intelligent minds.

Fear is not only one of our deepest instincts, it is generally one of our most constant companions in life. We fear all kinds of things. There are people obsessed with fear of heights, crowds, confined places, leaving the house, having dirty hands, and the like. Other fears are more commonplace. We may fear bad health, making ends meet, losing employment, what other people think, how our children will turn out. In some cases, fear is providential because it saves us from danger or getting into trouble. We do well, for example, to fear the consequences of engaging in criminal activity or insulting an employer. For the most part, however, fear is not providential but the result of certain ways of thinking that we play out in our imagination. In such cases, fear is non-productive and crippling. Nowhere is this more obvious, for instance, than in our fear of change. Fear has little tolerance for risk and the unknown and, as such, is the single most significant factor preventing our spiritual growth and improvement in the quality of our lives.

In the gospel reading from Luke, Jesus tells us: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." This is wonderful encouragement, but how do we "fear not"? How do we end fear, or at least bring it under control? To find a solution, we turn to the reading from Hebrews, where we are told: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." In other words, faith is an antidote to fear. If we truly feel assured in one way or another, fear disappears and the unknown ceases to be threatening. Fear can only exist where our thoughts keep us unsure of ourselves, or of the world around us. Consider for a moment how fear arises in these respects. We think poorly of ourselves, put ourselves down, refuse to acknowledge our abilities, judge ourselves primarily by what others think, and deny ourselves forgiveness for our mistakes. Self-esteem takes a constant beating; feeling we are bad and poorly equipped for life, we set ourselves up for fear. Or we think about the world: what an awful place it is, how much bad news there always is, how jumpy the economy remains, how dishonest and mean other people can be-and we are predictably fearful. Faith, however, switches our perspective. Faith is a way of seeing. Faith allows us to look at things from a divine viewpoint and focuses our thinking according to the teachings of Jesus who assures us that, as members of the "kingdom," we have nothing to fear. Faith doesn't see things blindly, or unreason- ably, it is true vision from an elevated point of view. With faith, ; we see ourselves as miraculous beings, intelligent, resourceful, and more than equipped by a loving God to meet our destiny in life, or any challenge life might throw our way. The world certainly has its problems, but it is still a beautiful place, with wonderful opportunities, and populated with significant numbers of caring and loving people. Is this perspective any less reason- able, or less authentic, than the negative outlook of fearful people? Is it inconceivable that we adopt this point of view and thus attain the assurance that dissolves fear? Adopt faith as an antidote for fear. Which means, work on changing your perspective. Be aware of your thoughts and thinking patterns. See how your negative viewpoint, rather than "reality," affects your sense of security. Use the eyes of Christ when you look upon yourself, other people, and the world around you; his teachings provide a way of seeing. "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." From a kingdom perspective, you have nothing to fear.

Commentary

Jesus’ words to His followers must be understood in terms of the culture in which they lived, where wealth and happy circumstances were considered to be signs of God’s favour. Remember how Job’s “friends” began to speculate how his misfortunes must have been a punishment for some fault against God. Jesus is turning the theological thinking of the age on its head. He is promising those who follow Him that though they have poverty in this life they will receive treasure in the next. The Lord’s words remind me of a staff team briefing in a company or a business. He varies the tone from the touchingly affectionate ”little flock” to the frankly bracing “You must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” You can almost hear the warning “and don’t expect any concessions!” If this team is going to function well, then they will have to be prepared to shed the things that might hold them back. Jesus warns at other times that possessions can bar the way to salvation. Jesus enjoyed the hospitality of comfortably off friends with nice homes, like Martha, so he can’t have turned his back on the wealthy. But he recognises that the pursuit of prosperity could easily distract from more important spiritual matters. The passage from Luke picks up and expands on the theme of last week’s readings (summed up by Sam as “you can’t take it with you”!) This week develops the argument: we are told that we are to shed not only wealth but other distractions which might stop us answering the Lord’s call. The interesting metaphor of the servants waiting around to serve at table is helpful, because it reminds us that we are merely preparing ourselves for Heaven, or the coming of the Kingdom. Imagine going into a restaurant and finding the staff pottering around in their pyjamas! You would want to find them clean, smart and ready for work. So, Jesus implies, He wants to find us, spiritually clean and totally focussed on love for Him and ready to work for the Kingdom. This life is a mere preparation for the reality we can’t yet see.  Joan Crossley
 

Meditation

Charity gives itself rich; covetousness hoards itself poor. German Proverb

"I am convinced that not even the apostles, although filled with the Holy Spirit, were therefore completely free from anxiety… Contrary to the stupid view expressed by some, the advent of grace does not mean the immediate deliverance from anxiety." St. Makarios of Egypt (5th century):

Meditation

Conflict is a fact of life, and conflict is also an inevitable part of the lives of Christians. We might wish it were not so. We might even pretend that it is not so, that we are always all sweetness and light. But God is not fooled and Jesus was continually warning against hypocrisy. On a larger scale, conflict is inevitable in large institutions such as the Methodist and Anglican churches. There are going to be matters of doctrine on which we cannot agree, details of worship that don’t suit everyone, issues of church policy which cause problems. Both the Methodist and Anglican denominations have had their fair share of hot potatoes to handle over the years. I don’t believe that disagreement is wrong, and that we should attempt to gloss over our differences, even if points of contention are not “good PR”. It is how we deal with difference that demonstrates our commitment to the spirit of the Gospel. Jesus was always warning against legalism and point scoring and directed his followers towards love and forgiveness.
Conflict can be creative. Dispute can persuade people to grow and to move forward. It is how the argument is won which is of the greatest long-term significance. If cruel and reckless language or underhand tactics are used then it means that the greater war, against evil, is lost. On a large scale and a small one, we must guard against winning a battle and losing the real war.  Joan Crossley

 

Prayer

Wonderful are you, God of creation, without whom nothing draws breath.
Wonderful are you, Christ Jesus, without whom our world stays in the dark.
Wonderful are you, Spirit-Friend, without whom our worship remains formal.
We trust you, we love you, we yearn for more of you;
we praise you for your holiness, beauty and inexhaustible love. Amen!

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Forgive us for the narrowness of vision which sees only the clouds and misses the rainbow. Women of Guatemala, 1993

May the presence of Christ be seen in his people - bringing peace to the confused and friendship to the lonely. May his love give us courage to be his presence in the world. Rev Ian White, Chair of the Channel Islands District

Loving God, breath into our hearts and minds at this time your loving and guiding word. Inspire us by your Spirit, that we may hear, and later do, what you would have us hear and do. Lift us up by your still small voice within and grant us the blessing we need and we seek. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen Richard Baxter, 1615-91

One God, awesome in creative energy and power, all embracing in love and grace; you have expressed yourself in Jesus Christ, revealing what is the length and breadth, the height and depth of your divine compassion and care for all creation. Help us, through being open to your Spirit's energising power, to respond with thankfulness: to go about our daily lives as though they were an expression and offering of our thankfulness; and so enable us to reveal that same love and grace, compassion and care to all with whom we share our hours and our days. Rev Ward Jones, Chair of the Bristol District

Hymns

  1. Angel voices ever singing
  2. Jesus, Jesus Jesus, your love
  3. Beauty for brokenness
  4. Lord for the years
  5. O happy day
  6. God is here!
  7. Ye servants of the Lord
  8. Blessed Assurance
  9. I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship
  10. Father I place into your hands
  11. Rock of Ages
  12. Lord thy word abideth