Sunday, 25th October

Together in Prayer

Greeting
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.
Silence

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.
Amen.


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.
Amen.


Reading: Matthew 22: 34 – end

The Greatest Commandment
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
The Question about David’s Son
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this
question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son, is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


Thought for the week: Nigel Hughes
We all have an undying love for Jesus as we know how he suffered for our sins. Throughout his ministry he preached and taught about having compassion and love for all. In the past few weeks Matthew has portrayed him as being passionate to the point of physical demonstration (21:12), stubbornly mysterious in insisting on his authority to teach and act in radical ways (21:23-27), and subversive in his use of story as an ideological weapon against his opponents (21:28-22:14).

We have seen the conflict escalating further with a series of confrontational verbal duels between Jesus and various religious authorities in Jerusalem. Jesus passes their three test questions with flying colours (22:15-22, concerning taxes; 22:23-33, concerning resurrection; and 22:33-40, concerning the law), before posing a question of his own that stuns his adversaries, leaving them speechless (22:41-45). In this reading we witness the last two duels: the question about the law posed by a “lawyer” (professional theologian) on behalf of the Pharisees (verses 34-40), and Jesus’ question concerning the identity of the Messiah (verses 41-46).

We have no reason to doubt Matthew’s words and in doing so we need to confront the possibility that our Lord discovered that, sometimes in this life, there are things worth getting worked up about, things worth arguing about, things that call for those who are able to be both loving and formidable in the cause of righteousness. I believe the only reasonable conclusion we can draw is that the Jesus depicted in these stories sees no contradiction between his formidable actions and the love he preaches. This may cause us to reconsider what Christian love actually looks like in daily life.


Many would say that too often in the church, “love” is used as an excuse to take the path of least resistance instead of the path of excellence. When telling the truth would be uncomfortable, we practice evasion and call it “love.” How frequently “love” is code for smiling at biblical illiteracy and perhaps turning a blind eye to theological disappointment.

Our definition of “love” is often suspiciously easy on and for us. But I believe that this is not the definition of love that Jesus is working with in Matthew. The Jesus we see in these stories thinks that to love God with the whole self, with “all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind” (verse 37) is demanding and risky. Following the path of love leads him to jump into debates and conflicts with his whole self. Love leads Jesus into all kinds of situations that are not just uncomfortable, but dangerous. Eventually, love gets him killed.


Of course, we are none of us Jesus. For us, charity always demands humility. But there is much to learn by seeing the love of Jesus in action. The same love that inspired Jesus to eat with the outcast, reach out to the untouchable, and embrace the powerless, also drove him to confront the demonic, outmanoeuvre the manipulative, and correct the clueless.

Jesus was no pushover and the story of his ultimate decision to relinquish power for the sake of his Father’s mysterious will is all the more fascinating against the backdrop of these accounts of his prowess in the face of his enemies. Jesus is a lot more complicated than we sometimes pretend, and the love he taught demands that we expand our whole selves for God and neighbour by striving for excellence in all we think, say, and do.

Collect for the Last Sunday after Trinity
Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen.


Intercessions

Father we give you our thanks and praise
for all who have had the courage to speak out boldly for the gospel,
for all the saints and martyrs of the past,
for holy men and women who now stand for justice and freedom.
May we join with them in serving you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


We pray for all who have shared their lives and their faith with us.
We pray for all who teach the faith,
for preachers and evangelists,
for theological colleges,
for Religious Education teachers,
for Sunday-school teachers.
We remember all who have been led astray
by false teachers and vain promises.
Lord of grace and glory.
Lead us from despair to hope.


We pray for all who are working for peace in our world,
for all who stand up for the exploited or the underdog,
for those with vision who seek to care for and conserve our planet.
We pray for ecologists,
for all who work on the land,
for all research workers and scientists.
We pray that they will come up with a vaccine for the Corona virus.
Lord of grace and glory.
Lead us from despair to hope.


We give thanks for all who share their lives with us and are dear to us.
We pray for a spirit of good neighbourliness in our communities;
may no one be neglected or forgotten.
We pray for all who are estranged from loved ones and friends.
We pray for the building up of community life,
for community centres and places where locals can meet.
Lord of grace and glory.
Lead us from despair to hope.


Lord we give thanks for all who have sought to love you
with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their mind.
We remember all who have served you by serving others.
We give thanks for all who in the past have enriched our lives
and our community by their goodness.
We pray that we may have a share with them in your kingdom in glory.
Lord of grace and glory.
Lead us from despair to hope.
Amen


You may wish to add your own prayers at this time.

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.
Amen.


The Peace
Delight in the Lord in his love and light
Proclaim his peace by day and by night.
The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you

The Blessing
The love of God be in your heart,
The peace of God be in your mind,
The grace of God be in your dealings:
and the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ
with us all ever more.
Amen.