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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 27

Year C, Colour = Green


Introduction

We sometimes look at magnificent Christian people and, respecting their great lives of mission and service, let ourselves off the hook, because we do not possess their great faith. Jesus tells us in the reading this week that size isn't everything!  The problem isn't our lack of faith, Jesus wants us all to know that each one of us can in his strength achieve great goals. We don't need great faith, just a tiny bit, which in his power can be used to great effect.

The question is this - are we willing to reach out in service with just that little bit, or are we afraid of what might happen?

Opening Verse of Scripture  2 Timothy 1

I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

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

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

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us your gift of faith that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to that which is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Common Worship

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

First Bible Reading Habakkuk 1: 1-4, 2: 1-4

The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received. How long, O LORD , must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, "Violence!" but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; There is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Then the LORD replied: "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it peaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. "See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright- but the righteous will live by his faith. 

Second Reading 2 Timothy 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Gospel Reading   Luke 17: 5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you. "Suppose one of you had a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "

 

Post Communion Prayer

Bountiful God, you entrust your creation to our care. Grant us the grace so to order our common life that we may use your gifts to your glory, for the relief of those in need and for our own well-being, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Commentary

A strange request

The disciples’ request to Jesus seems rather strange. Faith is a personal matter. Each one of us is at a different place on our faith journey, a journey which is impacted by our own personal experiences of life and God, and how we have been influenced by such events and interactions. But our faith remains personal; it is dependant upon how we react to the events that have happened around us and to us through the course of our lives. Sometimes these will be life changing events and we can look back and see the impact they had on our lives. Sometimes they will be small and we don’t realise just how they have changed us until we look back many years later and realise that some small event in our past has had a profound effect on our life. So it’s strange that the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, something which is personal to them - but their request is in response to the parables that Jesus has just told, all of which underline the importance of faith, and their desire to be better disciples. And if the disciples question seems strange, Jesus’ reply looks rather odd to begin with. He tells them a story about a servant who is working hard in the fields when his master comes home and demands to be fed. The servant duly does what he is told as its his duty to do so. But in telling this parable, Jesus is giving all His disciples an insight as to just how they can increase their faith. Simply to get on with doing the things we have been charged by our master, God, to do, however mundane and everyday they seem. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that the experiences through which our faith grows need to be spectacular, but so often they are not. For most of us, most of the time our faith develops through the accumulation and culmination of lots of smaller experiences which we have in everyday life. It is through these smaller, much less spectacular everyday events which God gives that our faith is gradually strengthened and deepened bit by bit.

For the disciples, who at this stage were getting used to the extra-ordinary and the spectacular, this was a critical element of faith which they needed to fully understand. God can and does act through the spectacular, but more often he acts through the everyday things of life. He uses ordinary people like ourselves who are getting on with life guided by God’s precepts. The disciples needed to realise that how a believer’s faith is strengthened is ultimately up to the individual themselves. There was no prayer or blessing that Jesus could give them that would deepen their faith in some mysterious way without effort, dedication and service on their part. It is a living out of God’s love, that Jesus demonstrated in His life and death, that is the way of ever deepening faith. For the disciples and for ourselves, that should be an encouragement. As we live out God’s love, so our faith is strengthened and deepened, almost without us realising. Yes, there are things which we can do to learn more about Jesus and His love, time we can spend reflecting on the how God wants us as individuals to live out our lives of faith which will help us on that journey but ultimately it is about living our lives in a manner which is pleasing to God which will strengthen our faith. As Jesus explains to the disciples, ‘…to do our duty’, is the way of every deepening faith. Sam Cappleman
 

Meditation

We are people of faith, but our experiences of trusting who and what we believe differ. Sometimes we too, like the disciples, want to cry out to God to ‘Increase our faith’ as we look at the world around us and the desperate situations we see on the television and read in our newspapers. With Habakkuk we plead for help, wanting God to do something but so often He seems not to listen. Sometimes it seems too much to bear. God responds to Habakuk and to the disciples telling them that there is a bigger picture, one which is measured in God’s time and is everlasting. We are part of that eternal picture and God reminds us that we should not loose sight of that perspective, nor forget that we have a role to play in eternity by being faithful servants now, however difficult it feels at times. Our faith and actions are like frail fires. They expand once lit, bringing light and warmth to those around. Even though our faith, like a fire, sometimes no more than flickers, it can still illuminate the dark cold places of our lives and those around us. Through our faith we can make a difference to the world, however difficult it seems at time. For this reason Paul encourages us to, ‘…fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… … For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power’. God is all powerful but the instrument He chose to demonstrate His power is sometimes frail. Paul encourages us that, however timid we sometimes feel, we should always live out our Christian lives in the spirit of the power of the life changing Holy Spirit.  Sam Cappleman


 

Hymns

  1. New every morning is the love, 636

  2. Be thou my vision, 378

  3. We have a gospel to proclaim,465

  4. Teach me my God and King, 803

  5. To God be the glory, 463
     

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.

Your are never tired, O Lord, of doing us good. Let us never be weary of doing you service. But as you have pleasure in the well-being of your servants, let us take pleasure in the service of our Lord and abound in your work and in your love and praise evermore. Amen

Holy Spirit, light up grace within us. Let us be kindling. Let us burn with love. Stir into flames your acts of love in our lives. Amen

They arrive, one by one. Dragons called Strife come and sit on our chests and they suck all the air out of us. Some come from outside, some from within. Let belief be our armour, Lord; let faith be our shield. Your battles are our battles. Give us your victory. Amen

Lord, help me please to always make a home for you in my heart and to receive within that home the neighbours and friends and especially the strangers whom I meet. I am grateful that you are God and that you include me in your assembly, and in your love. Amen

May God, who in Christ gives us a spring of water welling up to eternal life, perfect in you the image of His glory; and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Lord Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life; grant us never to stray from you, for you are the way; never to distrust you, for you are the truth; and never to rest in anything except you, for you are the life. Teach us what to believe, what to do and where we should take our rest; and this we ask for your love’s sake. Amen. Desiderus Erasmus 1467-1536

Look upon us in your mercy, O Lord, and take away our sins. Be to us both our reward and our redeemer, and defend us against all adversities that may assault us in body or soul; through Christ our Lord. Amen. St Ireneaus, c.130-200

 

Additional Resources

Commentary

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you. Jesus

Do you fancy giving it a go? I am going to guess that nobody has ever done this. If you have ever tried to move a tree in the garden you will know that it is not easy. The roots of a tree are bigger under the ground than above it. Furthermore, even if we were able to move a tree, planting a tree in the sea is a sure way to kill it. Which must lead us to the conclusion that Jesus sometimes said things using exaggeration (hyperbole) to make a point. We can see him doing the same thing when he tells his disciples to chop off bits of their body which cause them to sin. If we took statements like that to their logical conclusion there would not be many ‘bits’ of us left.

Jesus is not being serious, but he is making a very serious point. Professor George Caird wrote that faith in God
"is a power that takes impossibilities in its stride."

Christian faith is something for which we have no proof and yet from the humble acknowledgement of who Jesus is, faith can growth in an amazing and remarkable way, almost imperceptibly. What Jesus is saying is that there is no excuse for anybody not to believe. We don't need to swallow a theological textbook and sign up to thousands of beliefs and practices—we are called to simple trust in Jesus and who he is.

From those humble beginnings the truth can grow and take root in our lives. Your faith might have humble beginnings and yet it cannot be dismissed, it has a destiny. Our faith might be small and insignificant and yet God can transform our meagre faith into something beyond our expectations.
It is not the size of our faith which matters but the quality of the person in whom we place our faith—Jesus. There are things which we might get wrong along the way, ideas which might creep in and which we have to clear out now and then. This is because we are a people on the way, not a people who have arrived. Faith is learning to live with the questions which we cannot answer, in the light of the answers which we have. This parable of the tree is not about triumphalism, it is about those who journey. The kingdom has started but it has not yet arrived. There is much for us all to learn and yet we know that we can trust the one who holds our grain of faith securely in his hand. Charles Royden

 

Commentary

"Increase our faith!" the disciples say to Jesus in this morning's Gospel. Jesus replies with the parable of the mustard seed (Luke 17:6). Jesus frequently speaks in hyperbole and the images are not to be taken literally. A small child on hearing Jesus words said, 'He didn't really mean that, he just said it to make it more interesting.' That is the point, a story told to show that a little faith can have a huge impact. These are encouraging words to people in small congregations, small religious communities around the world, because small numbers of faithful people can make a big difference in the world. Yet when numbers are down, or when we feel overwhelmed by life's odds, many feel they are failures. Today is a good time to examine our thoughts and feelings about being like the mustard seeds in God's dominion.

Jesus' words are meant to encourage his disciples and to encourage his followers everywhere. The message of faith's victory is consistent in the Bible. The Scriptures are full of examples of the potency or strength of small groups of faithful people, and the power of small or insignificant people. David slew the giant Goliath with a slingshot, against all odds (1 Sam. 17:50). In Acts, when the first followers gathered in small clusters and prayed and shared all things in common (Acts 2:43-45), great numbers are said to have become followers. Timothy is reminded by Paul that even though he is young, he is able to be a leader in the community (1 Timothy 4:12). Despite small numbers, youth, or lack of status or prestige, the faith of these people can make extraordinary things happen.

As we face war, we struggle with fear, anger, and confusion. We want to do the right thing. Each of us has been given a measure of faith (faith the size of a mustard seed is sufficient), and now is the opportunity for us to commend the faith that is in us. In the words of the prayer attributed to St. Francis, each of us in our small way can be an instrument of God's peace. "Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair hope; where there is darkness light; where there is sadness, joy..." Jesus turns the disciples' request around on them. "Increase our faith," they ask, and he points out to them that they have enough already. In spite of their fears, anxieties, they have what is needed, and each of his hearers is encouraged to take their rightful place in the exercise of spiritual authority.

Meditation

Forgive endlessly

Jesus seems to be asking for something difficult, but not the impossible. If we are honest most of us do find it in our hearts to forgive people when they are really sorry and repent. If somebody admits their offence and is really sorry, owns up to their crime and apologises, then takes their punishment, most of us will be pleased forgive in these circumstances.
This is very different from having to forgive people who don’t show any remorse. It is hard to forgive those horrible little thugs who keep smashing up bus shelters, spraying graffiti on the walls and stealing handbags. So how do we forgive people who show no remorse but kill mercilessly or show no concern for others? We know how we all feel towards those who killed those people and little children in Beslan, or those who beheaded the American hostages and are still keeping Ken Bigley a prisoner in a cage.
What I find quite remarkable is that divine forgiveness goes far beyond our human capacity to forgive. Jesus forgives those who show no remorse, even when they are nailing him to the cross. It seems that divine grace in God, overwhelms any human sin in us. To really forgive really is divine.  Charles Royden

Meditation

"Littleness" or "minority" is embraced as a vocation by some Christians. For instance, followers of St. Francis are reminded that they are "little brothers (or sisters), friars minor." Being part of a small group in the church or world does not mean that that group or individual is missing something. Smallness is in many ways a gift. Small groups can take on tasks or living situations that are outside the scope of larger institutions: small groups of Christians living in neighbourhoods that are predominantly non-Christian can witness to the power of Christ in a different way. Small groups of concerned Christians can embrace social outcasts, showing the love of God in a particular place and time. Change in our churches and other social institutions generally comes from the fringe, a dedicated minority that won't go away; the embrace of the church has become more generous, more inclusive over the years because of the voices and experience of little people on the edge with great faith.

Being small also means that a group doesn't have to get it right all the time. It is easier to change tactics, to adopt a different focus, or simply to admit an error and mend one's ways in a small group. The small mustard seeds of faith scattered throughout the world generally fall in places and situations where people are struggling to make sense of what it means to be human in the world.

Hymns

  1. Come ye thankful people come
  2. Who put the colours in the rainbow?
  3. We eat the plants that grow from seed
  4. For the beauty of the earth.
  5. We plough the fields and scatter
  6. For the fruits of all creation.
  7. Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore him.