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Weekly Bible Study Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 20

Year C, Colour = Green


Introduction

 

Those who like to think of Jesus as being always mild and calm should re-read this morning’s passage from the Gospel according to St Luke. Jesus sounds cross and impatient with the blindness of His contemporaries. He lambasts them for focusing on superficial matters, such as forecasting the weather. But the attention and intelligence being used in this task should be applied to something far more significant: their rightness with God. People tend to see what they want to see and ignore things they would prefer not to know. We see aimless spiritual hunger manifested in our times. It is not that people do not believe – it is that some people would believe in just about anything! Money and time is thrown away on false predictions and superstitious methods of “foretelling the future”. It is as if some people are looking for a spirituality that you can buy (crystals, earth worship, numerology, white witchcraft, dream catchers etc.) and then put in a drawer and forget, forming a belief system which is so vague that it requires no effort. The Christian faith, rooted in the Jewish tradition,, offers a way of living which has been tried and tested over millennia by wise and good people. It has transformed lives, inspired great acts of courage and self-sacrifice (Paul lists the “cloud of witnesses” in the passage from Hebrews). Jesus’ teachings offer the two great precepts for living “love God and love your neighbour as yourself”. But the simplicity of the faith belies the great effort it requires on the part of the faithful. The more we learn about our Faith and the women and men who have followed it, the richer and more profoundly satisfying it becomes. It is both simple enough for a child to understand and intellectually challenging enough to absorb the wisest minds in history.

Opening Verse of Scripture Romans Chapter 8

Continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

O God you declare your almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity: mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace, that we, running the way of your commandments, may receive your gracious promises, and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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

God of glory, the end of our searching, help us to lay aside all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom, and to give all that we have to gain the pearl beyond all price, through our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Common Worship Shorter Collect

God of the nations, to whose table all are invited and in whose kingdom no one is a stranger: hear the cries of the hungry and mercifully extend to all the peoples on earth the joy of your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen  Methodist Worship

To set the earth ablaze, O God, your Son submitted to death on the cross, and from his cup of suffering you call the church to drink. When we are tempted give us strength to run the race that lies before us, and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading

Isaiah Chapter 5:1-7

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard:My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.“Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes,why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard:I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed;I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland,neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there.I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel,and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in.And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

Jeremiah Chapter 23:23-29

"Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD , "and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD . "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD . "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!' How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD ."Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD , "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
 

Second Reading  Hebrews 11:29-12:2

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned] ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God

Gospel Reading   Luke 12: 49 –56

"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?

Post Communion Prayer

Lord of all mercy, we your faithful people have celebrated that one true sacrifice which takes away our sins and brings pardon and peace: by our communion keep us firm on the foundation of the gospel and preserve us from all sin; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.


Commentary

The book of Hebrews was almost certainly written to a group of readers thoroughly familiar with the Old Covenant, probably mainly Jewish Christians, perhaps even a group of Jewish priests, as there is a big focus on ceremony of Jewish worship throughout the book. Whether priests or not, having become Christians they have now left Jerusalem to find a place to live and worship, possibly Antioch or Caesarea but still have hankerings for the splendour of Temple worship and the place they played in it. They are beginning to get persecuted for their faith and things are beginning to be a bit tough for them. So, given that the book in part at least is dealing with the threat of apostasy back to Judaism it’s not surprising that it addresses the question of how it is possible to approach God. It does so by presenting the Christian life in the context of a story which is fundamental to Judaism, the Exodus and the importance of faith from the Red Sea encounter forwards. And for the writer of the book of Hebrews, the destination is again the Promised Land, only this time it the Promised Land of Heaven and the Passover of the Jews has become the Passover of Christ.

Importantly the letter shows how the early Christians understood the harmony between the Old and New Testaments and how they understood the redemptive work of Jesus in terms of God’s whole plan of salvation. The writer highlights that Jesus brings a new and living way of entering into a true and spiritual relationship with God. It is for this reason that he states the importance of ‘Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus’, rather than reverting back to their old ways of engaging with God with its material trappings and ceremonies.

We too can sometimes get carried away with the material things that surround our faith, our churches, our organisations our structures, rather than on having a spiritual relationship with God. How much time do we, for example, spend alone with God, reading His word and praying as opposed to coming to church or doing church activities. Clearly there is an overlap but we need to make sure the focus and centre of our faith is in the right place and we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Similarly, the law, with which the Jews were so familiar, was only a means to an end, not an end in itself. Over the years they lost sight of that reality. We can do the same, when the structures of our religion become the end in themselves not the means to an end, a deeper and more spiritual walk with God.

Hebrews, perhaps more than any other book in the bible reminds us of the importance of our spiritual heritage. It also reminds us too that our faith needs to be firmly fixed on Jesus, on our spiritual relationship with God through His ultimate sacrifice. He is the beginning and the end of our faith, the leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection, the author and finisher, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Sometimes it’s easy for us to get distracted by our doubts, distracted by the minutiae of our faith, the things that are not really that important, the things from our heritage, and not on Jesus Himself.

Through their perseverance and radical faith the Hebrew Christians laid the basis and foundation of a church that was to last an eternal lifetime. The theme of true, non-hypocritical faith is also seen in Luke’s gospel. Through hypocrisy and their slavish adherence to their own ways and the unwillingness to hear a new message of salvation, the Pharisees have rejected Jesus. Similarly, in today’s gospel reading, the crowds, because of their hypocrisy, refuse, or are unable to see the key moment of salvation history unfolding before their very eyes. Jesus’ ministry reveals God’s plan and purpose to the world but the crowds do not see this. They seem able to interpret the material world but not the spiritual one, the present time. Sometimes we too find it hard to see God at work in our own world when if we see things from God’s perspective, perhaps miracles are happening all the time. We just don’t recognise them because we are so used to seeing life from our own world view, rather than that of the creator. Sam Cappleman

Meditation

In both the Old and New Testament passages the thrust is on God’s people acting in a way which is real and true to their faith, not something which looks close on the outside but in reality is a long way from the real thing. The peace which Jesus speaks about in Luke is real peace, not something that just papers over the cracks in the name of unity. This quest for real peace stems from our walking with God and wanting to do His will. It is built on a passion and compassion for change, justice, and renewal, themes which Isaiah implicitly challenges the Israelites with in the Song of the Vineyard, the title of today’s Old Testament passage. It’s not a ‘peace at any price’, a peace which fails to place Gods will at the very centre of its existence. For the Israelites and for us the message is clear. Put the Kingdom of God first, and everything else falls into place. Putting the Kingdom first does not guarantee peace and harmony; it will involve personal and societal change and will almost certainly encounter resistance (all change does) and possibly rejection. Seen in its proper context this passage is subversive stuff! But it’s what we are called to do and be as Christians. To take our place and fulfil our role in bringing about God’s kingdom on earth. Sam Cappleman

 

Hymns

  1. Fill thou my life, O Lord my God (Richmond)
  2. Safe in the shadow of the Lord (Creator God)
  3. Dear Lord and Father of mankind (Repton)
  4. It is a thing most wonderful (Herongate)
  5. What a friend we have in Jesus (What a friend)
  6. Ye servants of God
  7. Majesty
  8. Come let us sing of a wonderful love
  9. The kingdom of God is justice and joy
  10. I watch the sunrise
  11. O day of peace
  12. Guide me O thou great Jehovah
  13. Give thanks
  14. Let all the world
  15. Give thanks
  16. Judge eternal
  17. O perfect love 517
  18. Blessed assurance 59
  19. Forth in thy name 159
  20. Praise my soul

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."

You are the great God — he who is in heaven. You are the creator of life, you make the regions above. You are the hunter who hunts for souls. You are the leader who goes before us. You are he whose hands are with wounds. You are ho whose feet are with wounds. You are he whose blood is a trickling stream, You are he whose blood was spilled for us. Prayer of a Xhosa Christian from Africa

O thou, from whom to be turned is to fall, to whom to be turned is to rise, and in whom to stand is to abide for ever; Grant us in all our duties thy help, in all our perplexities thy guidance, In all our dangers thy protection, And in all our sorrows thy peace; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. St. Augustine (340—430)

Father, I am seeking: I am hesitant and uncertain, but will you, O God, watch over each step of mine and guide me. St. Augustine (354-430)

Blessed are you, creator of all, to you be praise and glory for ever. As your dawn renews the face of the earth bringing light and life to all creation, may we wake refreshed from the depths of sleep, open our eyes to behold your presence and strengthen our hands to do your will, that the world may rejoice and give you praise. Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Blessed be God forever. (After Lancelot Andrewes, 1626. Common Worship)

Let me know you, my knower; let me know you as I am known. You are the energy in my soul: enter it and shape it to yourself, so that you may hold it as your possession, without fault or blemish. This is my hope; this is why I speak as I do. This is the hope that brings me delight; for I delight in the source of my salvation. (St Augustine 354-430)


 


 

Additional Resources

20th in Ordinary Time, Year C, Green

Opening Verse of Scripture 2 Tim 1 v 7

God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self control.

Collect Prayer for the Day-Before we read we pray

Ever-loving God, your Son Jesus Christ gave Himself as living bread for the life of the world; give us such a knowledge of His presence that we may be strengthened and sustained by His risen life to serve you continually; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen    (New Zealand Prayer Book)

First Bible Reading, Isaiah Chapter 5:1-7

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.

He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. "Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it." The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. 

Second Bible Reading, Luke 12 v 49 - 5

"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?

Post Communion Prayer

God of our pilgrimage, you have willed that the gates 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

Jeremiah tells us something of God’s greatness — He is everywhere - not just a ‘local’ God of limited influence. The children at Thurleigh Lower School used to sing the song “ Far beyond the Universe,” that contains the line, “There is nowhere I can go where His love cannot reach me” - a wonderful thought for us all in our daily lives - and in Jesus, God who “fills the heaven and the earth” dwells with us.

Luke and his readers would understand that Jesus and his message were the signs by which everyone ought to have interpreted “the present time”. They ought to have known that the age of God’s rule had already begun. The kingdom of God was breaking in on history: life would never be the same again; God was disclosing his nature and purpose; God in Jesus was reconciling the world to himself. But people who were (like us) weatherwise, remained spiritually insensitive.

May we recognise, welcome and respond to signs of God’s kingdom today. And may we rejoice to run our race of faith looking to Jesus who died for us, rose and is exalted on high. He was obedient to death on the cross as Paul says in the letter to the Phillippians, “so God exalted him to the highest place…. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What encouragement this is to us all. And we are invited to do it in company with the millions of saints on earth — and all those who have gone before! Richard Ledger.

I find this very helpful in thinking about the nature of God. God is….

God is the Word, which became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1.14)
God is the Light, that no darkness can totally obliterate. (John 1.5)
God is the Peace, that reaches out to us in life’s fiercest storms. (John 14.27)
God is the Hope, that gives confidence of a brighter future. (Romans 15.3)
God is the Comfort, that reaches even our deepest sorrows (2 Corinthians 1.3)
God is the Healing, for self-inflicted wounds of wilfulness and sin. (Revelations 22.2)
God is the Forgiveness, that shoulders the burden of our follies. (John 1.9)
God is the Love, that never writes us off, whatever we have done. (John 3.16)
God is the Life, which hold us secure to the gates of death and beyond. (John 11.25)

Edmund Banyard

 

Commentary

In some ways the New Testament reading seems rather strange, especially in the context of Partnership and ecumenism! Peace, harmony and unity are exactly the results we would expect through a relationship with Jesus aren't they? And indeed they are the results, if we understand peace and this passage in the way Jesus is speaking. The peace and harmony we have in Jesus arises from the unity we have with God and with what God is doing in our world and the solidarity we have with those travelling along the same path.

The play on words in Hebrew in the last verse of the Old Testament passage gives us an insight into this. The Lord looked for justice mishpat, but saw bloodshed mispat; He looked for righteousness tsedaqua, but heard tseaqua (a cry that attends anarchy, for example, just like the cry of the rabble by which justice when Jesus was before Pilate). The words, spelling and pronunciation are close, but in reality their meanings are very different.

In both the Old and New Testament passages the thrust is on God's people acting in a way which is real and > to their faith, not something which looks close on the outside but in reality is a long way from the real thing. The peace which Jesus speaks about in Luke is real peace, not something that just papers over the cracks in the name of unity. This quest for real peace stems from our walking with God and wanting to do His will. It is built on a passion and compassion for change, justice, and renewal, themes which Isaiah implicitly challenges the Israelites with in the Song of the Vineyard, the title of today's Old Testament passage. It's not a 'peace at any price', a peace which fails to place Gods will at the very centre of its existence.

For the Israelites and for us the message is clear. Put the Kingdom of God first, and everything else falls into place. Putting the Kingdom first does not guarantee peace and harmony; it will involve personal and societal change and will almost certainly encounter resistance (all change does) and possibly rejection. Seen in its proper context this passage is subversive stuff! But its what we are called to do and be as Christians. To take our place and fulfil our role in bringing about God's kingdom on earth.

And our Partnership at St Marks and Putnoe Heights is proof of the reality of God's peace. The strength of our unity and harmony comes from the fact that we try not to paper over the cracks but try to understand each other's point of view, whatever is being discussed, and then move forward together. Clearly there is always room for improvement, ways that we could do things better and areas that we still need to work on, but often as Christians we look at the things we need to change and forget to give thanks for the progress we've made! (Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman)

Commentary

Those who like to think of Jesus as being always mild and calm should re-read this morning’s passage from the Gospel according to St Luke. Jesus sounds cross and impatient with the blindness of His contemporaries. He lambasts them for focusing on superficial matters, such as forecasting the weather. But the attention and intelligence being used in this task should be applied to something far more significant: their rightness with God. People tend to see what they want to see and ignore things they would prefer not to know. I am continually amazed by the aimless spiritual hunger manifested in our times. It is not that people do not believe – it is that some people would believe in just about anything! I am continually appalled by the money and time thrown away on false predictions and superstitious methods of “foretelling the future”. It is as if some people are looking for a spirituality that you can buy (crystals, earth worship, numerology, white witchcraft, dream catchers etc.) and then put in a drawer and forget, forming a belief system which is so vague that it requires no effort. The Christian faith, rooted in the Jewish tradition,, offers a way of living which has been tried and tested over millennia by wise and good people. It has transformed lives, inspired great acts of courage and self-sacrifice (Paul lists the “cloud of witnesses” in the passage from Hebrews). Jesus’ teachings offer the two great precepts for living “love God and love your neighbour as yourself”. But the simplicity of the faith belies the great effort it requires on the part of the faithful. The more we learn about our Faith and the women and men who have followed it, the richer and more profoundly satisfying it becomes. It is both simple enough for a child to understand and intellectually challenging enough to absorb the wisest minds in history. The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley

Commentary

Although the sermon today is based on the passage from Hebrews and Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke, I do not want us to ignore the prophet Jeremiah. Because the Book of Jeremiah has a steady lament running through it, his name has become a byword for misery and complaint. Is that a fair summation of the prophet? The prophet Jeremiah was active in Jerusalem during the tragic period of the city's destruction by the Babylonians, So it is very much a history of a period of violence insecurity and conflict. Jeremiah prophesied during the reigns of various kings: beginning in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah (626 BCE), and then Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, and during the brief rule of Gedaliah ben Ahikam, whose assassination in ca. 585 BCE marked the end of the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem.

Jeremiah famously prophesied disaster. For him the doom which he felt threatened his people was caused by their neglecting of their faith and turning away to false idols and preoccupations. So disgusted was he with his fellow Jews that he suggested that it might be better to surrender to the Babylonians and accept their domination by the Superpower rather than struggle on in spiritual decay. Jeremiah was regarded as a traitor or defeatist and was declared an outlaw during the reign of Zedekiah and placed in detention until the destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar. So why should we read the Book of Jeremiah, which appears to be a long list of incomprehensible names interspersed gloom and doom? Jeremiah bears re-reading because in amongst the darkness is a bright thread of hope in God’s fidelity to his people. The prophet continued to believe in God’s love even in the midst of war and utter destruction. It takes great courage to hold the faith when everything points against it. Jeremiah knew that God was faithful, even if His people were not, and believed in the ultimate triumph of love.  The Rev Dr Joan Crossley
 

Meditation

My name is 'I Am'

I was regretting the past, and fearing the future Suddenly my Lord was speaking: ‘My name is I am’.
He paused. I waited. He continued.
‘When you live in the past, With its mistakes and regrets, it is hard to stop.
I am not there. My name is not ‘I was’.
When you live in the future, with its problems and fear. It is hard. I am not there.
My name is not ‘I will be’
When you live in this moment, It is not hard. My name is ‘I am’
Found in a church in Porchester

Not there when needed? ‘Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,”’ (John 11.21 NRSV)

Where were you, Lord, when I really needed you? Why was there no answer to my prayers, the most urgent prayers I have ever prayed, was it some fault on my part? And it’s not just me — an unexpected diagnosis, tragic accident, sudden redundancy, marriage breakup, untimely death. . .. Where are you, Lord, when our world falls apart and we need you so very much? Lord, when we do have to face really dark times, help us to hold on to our faith, that you have been that way before us, and that you are with us now, sharing our distress and supporting us, even though for the moment you seem very far away.
The risen Christ says: ‘And remember, I am with you always, To the end of the age (Matthew 28.20 NRSV)

Edmund Banyard

 

Meditation

Frank Baum was a newspaperman who put his writing talents to use in a series of children's books about a fairyland called the Land of Oz. His characters had wonderful adventures. Frank Baum later adapted his book into a musical. 20 years after his death, a musical film called "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" in 1939. In the story there are four unhappy characters: a scarecrow who thinks he has no brain; a tin woodsman who thinks he has no heart; a lion who thinks he has no courage, and a girl called Dorothy who thinks she has no power to change anything in her life. These four characters - all thinking little of themselves - believe that if they reach the Wizard of Oz he will change them so that they have the qualities and talents they would like. What they discover is that the Wizard doesn't force people to change; instead he cares about them. He sends each of them an invitation to see in themselves what they had not seen before. And so the scarecrow discovers that he already does have a brain. The tin woods-man realises that he does already have a heart. The lion possesses all he needs to be courageous. Dorothy has what it takes to change things in her own life. When Dorothy returns to Kansas (from where she had been taken by a tornado) she says to her aunt: "Oh, Aunt Em, I've been to many strange and marvellous places, looking for something that was right here all along...right in my own back yard!"

God our Father, each person is unique and special to you. We pray that individuals may discover in themselves the treasures you have given them, and develop and put to good use the qualities they hold in trust from you. I pray that I may promote goodness and happiness, by treating others with respect and care and understanding.

Meditation

“Stand up! Stand up for Jesus! Ye soldiers of the Cross, lift high his royal banner; it must not suffer loss.” That well-known hymn was written in the reign of Queen Victoria, when Britain was at the height of its period of Imperial expansion. This was a time when huge tracts of Africa and the Indian sub-continent were under British rule. The seizing of other nations’ possessions: dominating them, converting them to British customs and laws not only seemed right but was perceived as being our destiny as a nation – it was known as the “white man’s burden”. Christianity went hand in hand with this kind of military domination. Christianity was imposed on the native populations and was seen as being a way not only of saving the souls of the benighted foreigners but of imposing discipline and order on them. Imperial warfare therefore had a spiritual dimension, since it brought new souls to the faith. This hymn seems to be both about battle against an external enemy and about fighting spiritual battles. There are still battles to be won for Jesus. The enemy, though, isn’t as easy to identify or as easy to dominate. The last great battle we all fight is against ourselves, against our own greed, materialism, self-centeredness and indifference. It is a constant battle, against an enemy which is evasive and hard to put down, but we have to continue to “fight the good fight” against our personal weaknesses, so that the truth of Jesus may triumph.

Meditation

Being judgemental is a very unlovable characteristic. “Judge not that you shall not be judged” is a phrase we all know, but most of us do judge others. Apparently 60% of your view of someone is established within the first ten seconds of seeing them. In an instant your mind sums up someone and either accepts or rejects them as a potential ally, love-object or friend. It is probably a useful human trait, dating back to more violent times when it was vital to be able to sort out who was likely to want to kill you on sight. But we all have to exercise self-restraint on this issue. I have heard really good people scornfully summed up and dismissed because their face, clothes or manners don’t fit the acceptable mould. What a dangerous and short-sighted approach to our fellow humans! It would be nice to think that churches were immune to this kind of careless cruelty, but actually they aren’t. One of the churches in a neighbouring deanery was worried about attracting “the wrong sort of people” from a new housing estate because “we might not be able to control them”. Churches can all to easily become a club for Christians, where everyone is expected to conform and fit in.

Prayer

Saviour God, humanity longs to live in peace. We pray for your healing peace; for those racked by guilt or regret, for those caught up in turbulent relationships, for those burdened by illness or sorrow. Humanity longs to live in peace, but not peace at any price. We pray for those who stir up dissension; by questioning the ways of society, by being open and honest, and by searching for the truth. Amen

Spirit of God, your church longs to live in peace. We pray for your healing peace; between denominations, within individual churches, in our own hearts. Your church longs to live in peace, but not peace at any price. We pray for those who stir up dissension; disturbing us with new visions and ideas, criticising our apathy and complacency, and provoking us o think afresh about our calling. Amen From Companion to the Revised Common Lectionary, Intercessions, Christine Odell

Here, O Lord, is my poor heart, an empty vessel ready to be filled with your grace. Here, O Lord, is my sinful soul, waiting to be refreshed by your love. Here, O Lord, is my mouth created for your praise and ready to proclaim the glory of your name, now and for ever. Amen Dwight Lyman Moody, 1837-1899

God, who from old, taught the hearts if your faithful people by sending to them the light of you Holy Spirit: grant to us by the same spirit to have a right judgment in all things and to evermore rejoice in his holy comfort. Amen.

Heavenly Father, help us to live this day and each day, as if it were our last. Amen

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

God our Father, be near to our children growing up in the peril and confusion of these times. Guard them from the forces of evil at work in our society, and lead them in the paths of goodness and truth; enable us as parents, grandparents, family members or as friends to give them at all times the security of our love and the help of our example and our prayers. Amen (Edward Peck)

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
I long for you like dry, weary land without water.
Give me your strength and your glory.

I wish to praise you all my life fill my soul as with a banquet.
I cling to you; hold me close in your hands.
Psalm 63

Increase your grace in us, O Lord, that we may fear your Name beyond which nothing is more holy; that we may love you, beyond whom nothing is more loveable; that we may glorify you beyond whom nothing is more worthy of praise, and that we may long for you beyond whom nothing is more desirable; and grant that thus fearing, loving, glorifying and longing we may see you, face to face; through Christ our Lord. Amen   Desiderius Erasmus, 1466-1536