Sunday, 27th September

Together in Prayer

O Lord, open our lips
And our mouth shall declare you praise!

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;
let us pray with one heart and mind.


As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever.

Preparing our hearts
Almighty God,
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.

Reading: Matthew 21:23-32
When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you; the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Thought for the week: Nigel Hughes
How often do we find ourselves asking a question only to realise at virtually the same time that we already know the answer or that the question has a blindingly obvious answer? I seem to find myself doing it more often these days. My wife of course puts it down to my age, smiling at me, tongue in cheek, as she says it in that knowing way that she has.

Voltaire the famous French writer and philosopher once said that we ought to judge a person by their questions rather than their answers and, I would suggest there is certainly wisdom in that. We find many examples throughout Matthew’s Gospel of people asking Jesus different questions and his answers are always considered and remarkably striking.

We find John the Baptist and Pilate asking questions about his identity; whilst John asks if he is in fact the one that they have been waiting for. The Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, chief priests, and elders on the other hand all seek to ask questions in order to try and trap Jesus. The disciples ask him questions such as “who is greatest amongst us” or “what good deed do we have to do to receive eternal life?”

These questions are all revealing. With the exception of John and ironically Pilate, the questions are all self-serving. Those who ask Jesus questions want to trap him, or impress him, or get something from him. And to every one of those pointed questions Jesus offers an equally pointed answer, which reveals the truth about the Kingdom of God, the King, and God’s subjects.

Here in Matthew 21 we find Jesus doing exactly that. He answers a question by posing one of his own, and once again uses a parable to illustrate it. Jesus neatly turns the trap around on the chief priests and elders who are trying to set him up. Suddenly they are lost for words, refusing to answer lest it incriminate them in front of the people.

The parable sets up a comparison of two sons. One saying he will do as his father asks but does not and the other says he will not but then does. For everyone who hears this it forces them to ask the question, which one am I? The one who presents as obedient whilst causing havoc or the one portrayed as a ‘black sheep’ but who in fact is not? Does that resonate with us?

Jesus’ parable is, in the end, a challenge, in which he asks us how we will respond to the truth of the gospel. It shows us that those who believe they have failed to live in the right way, will be given entry to the kingdom of heaven first. It gives us hope, it shows us the goodness that is God’s love, and it nurtures us to try and do better in our lives and service to our Lord.

Collect for the sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
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.

Lord, as you came down to lift us up,
help us to show compassion and sympathy to others.
Give to your church a sense of service and humility,
May we be obedient to you,
Seeking to do your will at all times,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

As you have called us to know you,
You have called us to love you.
Lord, sustain us by your love
and make us worthy of your calling.
We pray for our church and our community as it works
through these difficult times
Lord by your love
Lead us and transform us.

Lord we pray for the people of the world,
that they may become the people of our God.
We pray that the leaders of people and rulers may govern with
that they may not be full of selfish ambition or conceit,
that they may seek truly to serve and meet the needs of their people.
We pray for all who are exploited,
For all who have been cast aside or treated unjustly,
Lord by your love
Lead us and transform us.

We give thanks for all who have given themselves for us in love,
For the sacrifice of parents and friends.
We pray that we may be generous towards all.
As we have richly received, may we richly give.
Teach us to be accepting and hospitable.
Lord by your love
Lead us and transform us.

Lord, bless all who find life difficult at this time,
We pray for those who have hard decisions to make this week.
We remember those who are having a hard time at home or at work,
all who are suffering humiliation and degradation.
We pray for all who are brought low by sickness.
We especially remember any known to us at this time…….
Lord by your love
Lead us and transform us.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today 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 for ever.

The Peace
The deep peace of God be in your hearts and minds, in your actions and in your life, and the peace of God be always with you.
and also with you

The Blessing
Trust in him who raises the dead, and gives new life to our mortal bodies: place all your
hope on him; and the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all ever more.