Apologies to our sister churches, but today is the anniversary of St. Maxentius. We will celebrate this with an all age service at church followed by a barbeque in the church grounds.
Hopefully pupils from our school will take part too.
Todays readings are from Luke who tells about Jesus’ teaching about following him and Galatians on the works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit.
Thank you to all who supported Christian Aid, as a team of churches we raised nearly £1,500. Big congratulations to our team administrator Chris Sutcliffe who organised and ran an afternoon tea in the garden and raised £1,800. Lovely to have a social get together and catch up with everyone.
The intercessions today are by myself and the reflection is by Rev Peter.
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people, and kindle in us the fire of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
PRAYER OF PENITENCE
Most merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we confess that we have sinned in thought, word and deed. We have not loved you with all of our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are, and direct what we shall be; that we may do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our god. Amen.
Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us. You are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth: send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
THE NEW TESTAMENT READING
GALATIANS 5. 1, 13-25
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke. Glory to you O Lord
LUKE 9. 51-62
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you O Christ.
This is a difficult section of Luke (not the only one!): the first part reminds us, if we are willing to hear, that tribalism, racism, division is prevalent even among the religious, and that we too can so easily want punishment on others.
The second part seems to make being a follower of Jesus so demanding and difficult, even cruelly indifferent to family needs. Is this really a reasonable request?
There is however a thread that we may not be aware of, which might help us make better sense of these two short passages. Back in the Old Testament (I kings 19) Elisha requests from Elijah that he should kiss his father good-bye before joining Elijah and the wish is granted. Elisha then uses the wood from his plough as a fire to cook his oxen that pull the plough, giving the meat to the people. Elijah however makes clear that receiving the spirit will not be easy, though Elisha really desires to receive this spirit so he can be a good successor to Elijah. Then, a few chapters later, Elijah calls down fire on the soldiers that the king has sent to capture him. So we read the gospel passage in the light of Elijah, his actions and his successor, Elisha.
In contrast to Elijah, Jesus is condemning / prohibiting the violent aggression against opponents but he seems to be upping the ante as to what following him entails. Elisha, who was really keen to follow Elijah, was given time to say good-bye, but following Jesus is another level, and now, even a family funeral must come second.
Jewish teachers used exaggeration for effect, hyperbole, powerful challenging images to help their teaching “stick” – they painted in oils not water-colours, and in bold brushstrokes often. Jewish teaching also, unlike the Greek philosophers, was more episodic, kaleidoscopic, even fragmented; truth is found in the tension created by differing approaches not in the teasing out of an argument; Jewish thinkers seemed to know that the deepest truths are only glimpsed not grasped. We, however, are more programmed educationally to the Greek way of understanding, but I suspect we naturally “get” the Jewish approach – God is beyond rational understanding. If we try and follow the Jewish approach then we should note the tension between thinking following Jesus is not too demanding, maybe just a hobby for Sunday mornings (Jesus demands much more), and thinking discipleship is an elite occupation for only the most committed. Jesus pushes us towards a radical non-retaliatory life-style and to a serious prioritisation of our Christian commitment. Both of these challenge and disturb our human preference- whether to get back at others who we don’t like, or to water down our faith. But he does not give us the final answer, but wants us to think.
He challenges us, by asking us to reconsider the examples of Elijah and Elisha, and think afresh. What does being a follower of Jesus mean to us? In what way does it shape our life and direct it? In what way should we be willing to challenge again previous understandings? I suggest it is better to live with some tension about whether we are doing right, than a complacency which does not question – so an uneasy thank you for a difficult passage to grapple with!
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
During the intercessions, we pray for the church, our country, our government, people in difficulty and those who have died. You can use your own prayers or if you prefer here are some on today’s theme.
In the power of the Holy Spirit and in union with Christ let us pray to the Father.
Lord God on this our St. Maxentius day let us remember the special example and person he was – a humble monk with a special care for animals and people, may we follow his example and live our lives to glorify your name. Lord we ask your blessing on this our church and school, may we learn from our teachers, clergy and lay members, may we make this a caring and joyful place and may we be worthy of your grace. We ask your blessing on Rev Hannah as she prepares for her priesting next Saturday.
Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer
Lord like St. Maxentius we think of the world around us, help us to care for your creation and look after it. Help us to preserve our world for the next generations and use its resources for good and not greed.
Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer
We give thanks for all those that have helped us to develop our skills and abilities. We pray for our homes and for all who have taught us. Bless all schools, colleges and universities and our families who teach us how to care, share and love one another.
Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer
Lord we thank you for our freedom and our health, we pray for those who are not as lucky as ourselves. We especially think of those in war torn countries, for refugees and those who cannot get medical treatment. We pray for those that are ill or suffering in some way. May they have hope and faith and have your blessing through the Holy Spirit.
Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Lord we give you thanks that Jesus came to us, and because of his life with us, gave us an eternal life in heaven. We remember all that have left this earthly life and with the saints share a life with you in heaven. We remember today from our book of remembrance; Ellen Ann Howard and Keith R. Gillespy.
Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayer
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
May we go forth into the world in peace; may we be of good courage and hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour everyone; love and serve the Lord. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.