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Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources for Ordinary 27

Year C, Colour = Green


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

But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him NRSV

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers of your people who call upon you; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them; 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. CW

Lord of creation, whose glory is around and within us: open our eyes to your wonders, that we may serve you with reverence and know your peace at our lives’ end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

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

The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw. O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous – therefore judgement comes forth perverted.

I will stand at my watch-post, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith. NRSV

Second Reading 2 Timothy 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to God – whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did – when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. NRSV

Gospel Reading   Luke 17: 5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.

Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!”’NRSV

Post Communion Prayer

Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love is the fulfilling of the law: grant that we may love you with our whole heart and our neighbours as ourselves; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW


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 St. Francis of Assisi – more than cuddly animals and fluffy birds

On Friday 4th October the Anglican Church commemorates the death of St Francis of Assisi. He is often thought of as the saint with animals at his feet and birds fluttering and cooing around him. This rather child-like image does not capture the true significance and world-wide impact of Francis. Born into a rich merchant family he went to war as a knight to win glory and status but, instead, ended up a prisoner and a mentally tortured soul. He would probably be diagnosed with PTSD in today’s world. From this experience Francis turned to faith and, whilst seeking guidance through prayer in the church at San Damiano, he heard God telling him to, “Rebuild my church which is falling down”. Taking this literally Francis began to rebuild the crumbling building and lived in poverty, begging for stones for the work and food for his labours. His commitment to God grew deeper and ended with him giving up everything, his clothes, possessions, family and home to live the gospel life. Living with lepers he was joined by other men who formed the first group of Brothers. They worked with the poor, sick and marginalised in society having a vow of poverty in all things.

Francis saw God in all people and in all creation and his work for peace included a lone visit to the Sultan at the time of the Crusades to try to bring peace to Muslims and Christians. This year is the 800th anniversary of that meeting.

Francis was an ardent preacher who spurned the use of books and spoke from his experience and heart. He was devoted to God in the Eucharist and became a Deacon in the Church. He had a prayerful perception of God as Father and had a vision of every person and everything as a brother and sister. His adoration of God was made manifest through receiving the Stigmata whilst at the sanctuary of La Verna in Tuscany. These wounds he carried to his death.

Francis’ legacy includes the Canticle of the Creatures (which we sing as All Creatures of Our God and King) and the prayer of St Francis – “Make me a channel of your peace”. He was a peacemaker, a man of selfless poverty, he had a reverence for all creation and founded an Order of Brothers that continues today across the world including being Guardians of some of the holiest sites in the Holy Land. Following Francis is a hard calling and, as we remember him this weekend, we can take on some of that challenge as we look to restore our world and bring peace to all people. Mike Warren


  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


I want to be a Moses Lord and part the sea out wide
I'd lead the people out from Egypt and I would be their guide

I want to be a David Lord and drop Goliath on his back
I chop his silly head off and put it in a sack

I dare to be a Daniel and I'd walk bravely through the flames
I'd calm those big old lions and I'd give them cuddly names

So why like things so little Lord and short of all the fuss
You make your kingdom sound so dull like riding on a bus

You know we want the big stuff to satisfy our greed
So why do you liken it to a tiny mustard seed?

But take my seed Lord and water it and with you I will go
I guess from small beginings amazing things can grow


Christ Blesses the ChildrenA Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Christ Blessing the Children 1652-53
Nicolaes Maes. 1632-1693. Oil on canvas, 206 x 154 cm National Gallery, London

Greta Thunberg has been making waves recently, some literally as she chose to sail from Sweden to New York to speak at t the United Nations Climate Action Summitt against the inaction of adults over climate change. Not everybody is sympathetic towards her call for children to protest to draw attention to the deepening crisis. However most of those who disagree with her strongly held beliefs at least acknowledge that she has started something of global proportions and awakened a large movement demanding better care for the environment. Few children of her age have ever made such an impact and few people of any age would have the courage to speak at international events in the face of fierce opposition from some of the most powerful people in the world. Sadly language in public debate has now degenerated into insult over substance and it was no surprise when a guest on a Fox News debate referred to her as a ‘mentally ill Swedish child’. Greta has autism and at 6 she is still a child, but neither should be an insult or reduce the contribution which she makes. Why should we not listen to a child? In Birkenhead last week Sir David Attenborough was present at the launch of the RSS Sir David Attenborough (not Boaty McBoatface) which will be used by the British Antarctic Survey. Sir David said

‘The world at the moment is facing great, great problems.
And the most aware of that are the young people of today who will inherit this world.’

There has always been a contempt for those who have no power or influence but Jesus understood that being a child was not a bad thing! When they tried to stop children being brought to him he admonished the adults and he told them that they needed to be more like the children they considered to be such a nuisance. The painting this week ‘Christ Blessing the Children’ by Nicolaes Maes is therefore very topical. Maes was one of Rembrandt’s students and you can perhaps see that from the style of this painting. The teenager looking on at the far left is likely a self portrait as he was only a teenager himself when he painted this. We know that the Apostles were trying to stop the children gathering around and so Maes has shown the disciples at the rear of the painting in the shadows. He has instead brought women into the foreground and the light falls on them, their children and of course Jesus. Children are the most vulnerable members of society and at the time of Jesus they were of little consequence. What Maes has done is to show Jesus giving the most valuable thing he had to the children, his time. Jesus is seated, he is not going anywhere when these folks are seeking after his blessing. The blessing of Jesus is freely given and he places his hand upon the head of one little girl, her school slate hanging by her side. She seems blissfully unaware of what all the fuss is about and innocently is shown to be holding an apple. It is that innocence which causes Jesus to utter some chilling words in Matthew 18  

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 

We must protect children who are so often the victims of the sins of adults, in war and in exploitation. Jesus taught that we must become like children in their vulnerability and humility if we are ever to be a part of his kingdom. The least we can do is to listen to them. Sadly Maes only painted a few biblical scenes in the early part of his career. He went on to work in Amsterdam painting portraits of the wealthy burghers and died a wealthy man with at least five houses, three of them in Amsterdam.


Gracious God, you are the source of all wisdom and in a time in which so many seek direction we pray that you would inspire the hearts and minds of your Christian people that we might teach and guard the faith which has held fast the lives of generations before us. We pray for our Christian leaders that the Word of God would dwell richly in their heart that they would be led by your spirit to knit together your people in the bonds of love.

We pray for the leaders of the nations, and for those in authority under them. We pray for respect and co-operation to be shown between those of different views, that peace may rule in the nations. Protect those who are called upon to serve in situations of violence, give their leaders wisdom and right discernment to care for all of those entrusted to their authority.

We pray for our church and for all who worship or visit this place. May they be blessed with the knowledge of your loving kindness to all people. Give to us as a Christian community the willingness to give of ourselves in welcome and help us to serve one another as Christ has served us.

We pray for those who lack faith and who do not have an awareness of your love. Open their ears to hear your voice and open their hearts to the knowledge of your love in Christ.

We pray for those bowed down with grief, fear or sickness and mention their names before you. May your living Word bring comfort and healing to all those in need.

We give thanks for all those who have died in the faith of Christ and we rejoice with them and all your saints, trusting in the promise of your word fulfilled.

Lord of life, hear our prayer, and make us one in heart and mind to serve you with joy for ever. Amen.


Additional Resources


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


"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.


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

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


"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.


  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.