Sermon for Bible Sunday – Year A 25th October 2020

This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
(Matthew 24.35)

“The kingdom of this world
is become the kingdom of our Lord,
and of His Christ;
and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

Well known words from the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah which was first performed in Dublin in 1742. Using words from Old Testament prophecies to the book of Revelation, the oratorio tells the story of Christ’s redeeming love reconciling God and humankind.

Since that first performance, Messiah has been played and sung by thousands of choirs and orchestras reaching the ears of countless lovers of music in ways that Handel could never have imagined. We can watch and listen to it on television or radio, buy recordings on CDs and DVDs. [Update: live streaming etc]

In all these performances the foundation of the words, brought together by Charles Jennens, and Handel’s music remains essentially unchanged and instantly recognisable by listeners, however it reaches them and however they are interpreted by the conductor.

Messiah is the Word of God set to inspiring music and sung in the hearts of those who know and love it.

The Word of God, written in the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian Bible, has been proclaimed and heard in many different ways down the centuries.

The Commandments of God were proclaimed by Moses to the people of Israel living in the wilderness. They needed to learn how to live out those commandments in their particular situation and in the future once they reached the land promised to them by God.

Some 400 years before the birth of Christ, the rediscovered Law of Moses was read and explained to the people of Israel in Jerusalem soon after they had returned from exile. They then needed to learn how to live out the law in their newly re-formed community.

And then we come to Jesus, the Word of God in human form. When we hear Jesus say, “Heaven and earth will pass way, but my words will not pass away” we believe that he is talking about the Word of God. And like themes that run through a piece of music so too the Word of God carries the great theme of love which Jesus puts at the heart of his teaching. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. … you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (from Matthew 22.37-40)

The Word of God which Jesus reveals to us is, like him, the same yesterday, today and forever – it will never pass away. Whether it’s proclaimed in the wilderness or a city; to a whole nation or to twelve followers of a rabbi; by word of mouth, in the written word, on television, radio or any other modern media that Moses could never have imagined, the Word of God always carries that great theme of Love – a Love that conquers death and lives in the hearts of all who come to know and love it.

Unfortunately, just as in Jesus’ time, many people today cannot or will not hear or believe the Word of God choosing instead to twist its truth to suit them. Even amongst Christians different people put conflicting interpretations on the same scriptural words and believe with equal conviction that they are right. How do we respond to these differences other than to support the interpretation we personally believe and so deepen the divide?

Perhaps one approach is to ask, in prayer, “what would Jesus do or say about this?”. Part of the answer will surely be that Jesus would do or say only what is loving, life-affirming and gracious. We need to hear his words telling us to “Go and do likewise”.

We are called to love God with our whole being and to love others as Jesus loves them. We are called to listen for the words of God with humility and a willingness to grow in our faith.

If we follow that calling we will bring the word of God alive to be seen and heard by people who need it and who will learn to know and love it.

1. Jesus is the Word of God revealed in human form.
2. The foundation of Jesus’ teaching is Love and his words will never pass away.
3. The Word of God today is made known through modern media but the message remains the same.
4. We are called to live out the Word of God in our lives so that others may come to know and love it.


Let us pray to God our loving Father whose Word is Love and who understands our needs and concerns.

We pray for all who proclaim and interpret the Word of God that they may be true to its message of love and salvation.

We pray for all the kingdoms of this world that they may indeed become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

We pray for those with whom we share our lives at home and at work that we may be good neighbours to any who are in need.

We pray for those in pain or distress and who need to hear the loving Word of God speaking to them of peace and healing.

Heavenly Father we thank you for your love and for the gift of your Son, Jesus, who shows us what it means to live a life of love and service. Help us to follow in his footsteps and to allow your word to dwell richly within us to the glory of your name.

Sermon and Intercessions for Proper 25 (Year C) Last Sunday after Trinity: 27 October 2019

This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission. 

Luke 18.9-14

Imagine giving a present to a child you love.  Maybe it’s your own child or grandchild, or the son or daughter of close friends.  Imagine this child unwrapping your gift which is exactly what he or she had hoped for.

Now think about how that child might respond to your gift:  he might laugh and smile in delight; she might look with wonder at what she’s been given, lost for words; he might look up at you and say, “Wow! Thank you!”; she might rush over to hug you, still lost for words.  And you’d be glad to have given so much pleasure to a child you love.

But how might you feel if, instead of this simple and innocent delight the child stood up and addressed everyone there like this:  “Thank you for this present which I will treat with respect and care.  I’m pleased I’ve been given such a good gift and not something cheap and badly made.  I believe I deserve this:  I have done well at school and been obedient to my mother and father at home …… “ and so on.

Can you imagine how that would affect your relationship with that child?  What you gave in love is received as no more than what the child expected and believed he or she deserved.  It was your duty to reward him or her in this way.  The giving and receiving of a gift has been turned into almost a business transaction devoid of love and grace. 

Perhaps the Pharisee in today’s Gospel reading thinks of his relationship with God as being something like a business agreement with little or no room for divine love and grace.

His prayer is like the speech we imagined a child making on being given a present.  He thanks God that he is a highly respectable religious man who studies and keeps Jewish law.  In fact, he reminds God, in his fasting and giving he does more than the law requires.  He’s thankful that he’s not like others, he’s better than them and certainly a lot better than this tax-collector who happens to be praying at the same time.

There is no humility or honest acknowledgment of any wrong-doing in this prayer.  There is no room for God to respond in the life of this Pharisee who leaves the temple in much the same state of mind as when he arrived.

Meanwhile the despised tax-collector approaches God very differently.  An outcast from society, he collaborates with the Roman authorities and makes money in doing so.  Rejected by all around him he doesn’t expect to be welcomed by God and cannot raise his head heavenward.  But he does ask God for mercy, beating his chest in an expression of guilt and regret.

With what must have seemed quite shocking authority Jesus declares that it is that wretched tax collector who goes home justified or vindicated by God – God takes his side and upholds him. 

It might be worth thinking about our relationship with God and whether we truly believe that we are completely loved and accepted and that nothing we say or do can ever change that love or stop it reaching us.

Sometimes we might find it hard to believe that we can be loved like that – our image of ourselves might be damaged and distorted so that we have come to think we are unlovable and unforgivable.  Perhaps it’s very painful to acknowledge that that’s how we feel and so we bury the feelings and seek ways of living that mean we will somehow earn or deserve love and acceptance in that way.

One of the problems with living like that, though, is that there will always be others to compare ourselves with.  We might think we’re doing better than other people in our congregation or among our friends and colleagues.  But we will also always find people around us who make us feel inferior.  This is not a way of living that will bring us the peace that comes from knowing ourselves truly loved for who we are, not for what we do.

Jesus invites us to dare to be honest about ourselves, trusting in God who will always be on our side because he loves us completely and perfectly.   If we delight in giving good things to the children in our lives how much more must God our heavenly father delight in giving us, his children, good things and seeing us grow into being the people he means us to be.    


  1. We are God’s children and he loves us completely and unconditionally.  There is nothing we can say or do that will change that.
  2. If we think we can earn or deserve all that God gives us and all he does for us we are rejecting his gifts of grace and love.
  3. We can become too proud of our religious lives and think that we are “better” than others.
  4. Only by being honest about ourselves and by trusting completely in God’s mercy and compassion can we be fully reconciled with him.



In faith and trust let us pray to the God of our salvation that his mercy and love may be known throughout the world and by all people. 


We pray for God’s church that with humility and honesty she may proclaim the good news of God’s loving mercy and forgiveness towards all who seek him.

We pray for the brokenness of this world that God’s generous provision for all of us may be shared equally and that God’s blessing of love and peace may be known wherever there is hatred and violence. 

We pray for our communities of families, friends, neighbourhoods, schools and places of work.  We pray that God will give us grace to reach out to others with true humility and with open and generous hearts.

We pray for those who are in pain or distress, grieving or lonely and those whose suffering is known only to God.  May his love, compassion and strength be known in their lives and bring healing into their hearts.


Lord God, we bring our prayers to you.  We thank you that you are always ready to hear us and that in your love and mercy you are always working for the salvation of us all through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Sermon for Proper 23 (Year C) 17th Sunday after Trinity: 13 October 2019

Luke 17.11-19 

The Tenth Leper 

There was once a good family man, called Simeon who lived with his wife and children in Samaria, near Galilee.  He made a modest living from his land and on the whole was content with his lot.  An ordinary man, living an ordinary life day by day – like most of us do.

But suddenly disaster struck, as it does sometimes, with no warning.  Simeon developed painful lesions on his skin which would not heal and within a very short time he, and everyone around him, knew he had leprosy.

Leprosy:  a deadly disease which meant he could no longer live with his family or even in his village.  He was forced into isolation, keeping well away from healthy people and warning them not to approach him by calling out “unclean, unclean”.

From being a loved and respected husband, father and friend he became someone to be feared.  He became a Leper.  A man defined by his illness.

Sometimes with little or no warning our lives can be rocked to their foundations.  Things can happen that make us instantly feel isolated, separated from everyone else, even those closest to us:  sudden illness of body or mind; a bereavement; redundancy – all sorts of difficulties and crises.

And sometimes when we’re at our most vulnerable and most in need of love we can’t reach out and others can’t or daren’t reach out to us.  Sometimes people fear those who suffer great misfortune or loss.  Perhaps they fear it’s somehow catching – like leprosy – or perhaps they just can’t face thinking about what it must be like for the person they now try to avoid.

And so Simeon lived in his lonely isolation for months sinking deeper and deeper into an abyss of pain, despair and loneliness.

Then, one day, he hears that a Jewish Rabbi called Jesus is in the area.  He hears that Jesus has cured people of all kinds of diseases including leprosy and a tiny, glimmer of hope flickers in Simeon’s heart.

That evening he joins a group of other outcasts gathered around a fire.  He knows them all –  they’ve become a sort of family.  Without leprosy they probably wouldn’t have much in common: there are Jews and Samaritans who normally would despise each other, a rich merchant, a former servant boy, a religious scholar.

Quite often shared experiences bring us closer together.  Differences that once seemed important become insignificant when we’re faced with disaster or extreme hardship.  And knowing someone else has experienced something similar to us can make us feel just that bit less lonely in our aloneness.

Simeon and the others talk about Jesus and the stories they’ve heard about him curing lepers.  It seems unlikely but they can’t help thinking “but what if …..  what if ….?”

So early next morning, while it’s still dark, ten of the lepers, including Simeon, set out to find Jesus.

It’s not difficult – from every direction people are heading for one particular village, calling out to each other that Jesus would be passing through there today.

The Lepers keep their distance.  There may be ten of them but they’re weakened by illness and malnourishment.  The gathering crowd would have no difficulty in forcing them to run away by threatening them with sticks and stones.

How often do the most vulnerable in our society have no voice or are silenced by the powerful majority?  How often do we fail to hear the real human stories lying behind failure, addiction, destitution and a desperation that leads to violence?

The excitement of the crowd intensifies as a small group of figures approaches the village along the dusty road that leads to Jerusalem.

That must be Jesus, the man near the front of the group – he has an air of authority although he’s talking and laughing with those around him as if they’re equals.  Simeon feels a strange attraction to this man, even from a distance, and a longing that is stronger and deeper even than his desire to be cured of leprosy wells up in his heart.

Sometimes when we’re hurting in our bodies or our minds we become aware of that deeper level of dis-ease that lies under the surface of our pain or distress.  In the quiet of a sleepless night, we understand that we are exposed at the core of our being and whatever the outcome of our present condition we will never be quite the same again.

Simeon stands stock still for a moment then realises the others have begun shouting out:

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
and he joins in
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

They go on shouting until Jesus hears them.  He steps away from the crowd and approaches them.  He gets closer to them than is safe and stretches his arms out as if he wants to hold them all in an embrace of love.  Quietly, with compassion in his eyes, he speaks,

“Go and show yourselves to the priests”
That’s all he says,
“Go and show yourselves to the priests”

He smiles at them then turns back to the crowd.

Simeon and the other nine turn to walk away, dumbstruck, dazed, not quite sure what just happened – is that it?

Priests – go to the priests – the priests can certify a leper clean….  They look at their skin, at each other’s faces, almost unable to believe what they see.  Clean, smooth skin, no sores, no open wounds, no disfigurements, nothing to suggest they’ve ever had leprosy.

They are cured and nine of them can’t wait to see the priests, to get official certificates of clean-ness and then, oh and then, to see their loved ones, to feel human touch again, to return home and be men again, men – not lepers.

And nine of them run.

But Simeon stays still, staring at his arms and touching his face and wrestling with a terrible thought.  He can’t go to the priests like the other nine.  He’s a Samaritan.  Their priests are not his priests.  He is not one of the people of Israel as Jesus is.

Was it a mistake that he was healed?  Has he stolen something from Jesus which will be taken away from him if anyone finds out about it?

When you’ve become used to being an outsider, locked in isolation, hating your own body and feared by others it’s hard to believe you deserve a gift of love.  It’s hard to believe you might have worth in someone else’s eyes, especially God’s.  Self-hatred and self-doubt can keep us from believing we are precious to God, that we are his beloved children.

As Simeon struggles he feels a pull back towards Jesus, he feels a need to tell Jesus who he really is – a double loser:  a leper and a Samaritan who should not have been associating in any way with Jesus.

He starts walking back, slowly, wondering what it is that’s filling his heart and mind and soul.

That deep deep longing he felt when he first saw Jesus is turning itself into something so strong he cannot resist it – it’s coming to life in him, driving him through the crowd until he is once again in front of the man who has changed his life.

Jesus looks Simeon in the eyes and Simeon knows that Jesus knows who he is and loves him anyway, loves him enough to set him free from his disease and his inner darkness.

And Simeon is overwhelmed with love and thankfulness and awe. Caring nothing for the onlookers he throws himself down before Jesus and tries to express what he feels: that he has never before felt so alive and whole and loved and that he wants only to offer thanks and praise to the one who has done this for him.

Sometimes it happens, during very dark times or in our ordinary everyday lives.  We sense our deep longing – a longing to be loved, to belong, to be fully who we can be.

And sometimes we sense the stirrings of grace within us, a joy we cannot explain, a love and a peace of mind that transcends all that holds us captive and stunts our growth.

God touches us and blesses us, knowing who we are and loving us anyway, even when we can’t love ourselves.

And we, like Simeon, can give thanks and praise then get up and go on our way – our faith is making us well.  Amen.

Reflection and Prayer for Proper 20 (Year C) 14th Sunday after Trinity: 22 September 2019

This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.

1 Timothy 2.1-7

Your Kingdom come

Kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, senators and members of parliaments, oppressors and tyrants, fanatics and self-appointed dictators.

We are praying for you all because what you say and do affects our lives each day for better or for worse.  We need peace and security in our homelands.  We need freedom and stability in our towns and cities.  We need economies and markets that will support us in working for our families’ livelihoods.  We need education and opportunities for our young people so that they can look to their future with confidence.  We need to be free of the fear of prejudice and intolerance because of our nationality our colour or our faith.  We need to be able to be ourselves, beloved children of God, just as you are.

To those of you who truly work for the good of all people, thank you and may God bless you in your exercise of authority and power.

To those of you who have only self-interest in your hearts, think again.  God desires your salvation.  He wants you to know the truth about his Kingdom in which humility and service go hand in hand with Kingship and where the King’s hands and feet are scarred by nails.

Let his kingdom come and his will be done in the places where you have the power to make a difference.

Prayer:    Lord Jesus, we pray for kings and all who are in high positions.  We pray that in their exercise of power they will be mindful of the needs of all people and always work for peace and reconciliation in your world.  Amen

Sermon Reflection and Prayer for Proper 19 (Year C) 13th Sunday after Trinity: 15 September 2019

This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.

Luke 15.1-10

Lost and Found

Who is really lost in this Gospel reading?  At first it seems to be the tax collectors and sinners:  the lowest of the low; loathed and avoided by all who consider themselves respectable, decent people.  But Jesus is enjoying himself with them, sharing their food (and probably wine too!)  His behaviour is really quite disgraceful and shocking to religious leaders who consider themselves above such depravity.

Then Jesus tells the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.  He talks about a shepherd who doesn’t leave the lost sheep to fend for itself in the dangers of the wilderness.  Instead he sets off to search for the animal and bring it safely home.  He talks about the joy, and perhaps relief, of a woman who couldn’t afford to lose even one coin.

Perhaps he tells these stories from amongst the people with whom he’s having a good time.  And when, from there, he talks about joyous celebration in heaven over the finding and bringing home of a sinner it’s the Pharisees and scribes who begin to look a bit lost and uncertain, suddenly insecure and exposed.

Surely there would be rejoicing in heaven if just one Pharisee dropped his air of superiority and found a seat between two tax collectors or just one of the scribes threw aside his disapproving air and took a cup of wine from one of the sinners?  I think there would!

Prayer:   Lord Jesus, when we are lost and afraid and can’t find our way home, please come and rescue us and bring us back to safety with you.  Amen.

Sermon Reflection and Prayer for Proper 18 (Year C) 12th Sunday after Trinity: 8 September 2019

This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.

Luke 14.25-33

Counting the Cost

We’ve been following Jesus, my brother and I.   But tonight we’re having a re-think.  It’s not that we don’t want to travel with him.  Anyone who’s heard him or seen him in action wants to see and hear more.

But today he gave us a warning about going any further with him. He said we’d have to give up everything we had if we really wanted to be his disciples – everything.  And he wants us to work out what that would mean for us.  He wants us to think of our relationship with him as being more important than any other relationship in our lives.

So we’ve been talking, thinking, trying to reach a decision.  We could ignore what he said, carry on as we are and see what happens.  We could do as he says and make him our number one priority over everything we own and all the people we love.  Or we could turn round and go home now before it gets any harder to leave him.

We could ask you “What would you do?” but we’re all different.  Only you know what you’d have to leave behind and how hard that would be for you.

So we decide and we go to Jesus early in the morning, while it’s still dark, and we ask him to count us in please.  He grins and suddenly looks years younger and, you know what?, it doesn’t feel as if we’ve lost anything at all! 

Prayer:    Lord Jesus, help us to trust your love and to offer you all that we have and all that we are as we learn to become your true disciples.  Amen.

Sermon and Intercessions for Proper 15 (Year C) 9th Sunday after Trinity: 18 August 2019

This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission. 

Luke 12:49-56
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” 

“ … unto us a child is born,
unto us a Son is given,
….. and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

These are words of the prophet Isaiah included in Handel’s “Messiah”.  We understand them as pointers towards Jesus, God’s Anointed One, and other word pictures show us what Messiah will be like and what he will do:

“He is meek and lowly of heart
and you shall find rest unto your souls”

“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd ….
and gently lead those that are with young.”

We hear the triumphant proclamation of words from Revelation:

“The Kingdom of this world
is become the Kingdom of our Lord,
and of his Christ:
and he shall reign for ever and ever.”

But in contrast to these we also hear of the suffering of the Christ at the hands of his own people:

“He was despised and rejected of men,
a man of sorrows acquainted with grief.”

and that his death in some way brings our salvation:

“Surely He was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities; …..
….. and with his stripes we are healed.”

We may not understand the full meaning of Christ’s passion and his redeeming work on the cross but it is at the heart of our faith that Jesus, God’s chosen one, suffered, died and was buried before rising from the dead.

To understand more about the Gospel reading today we need to remember that the disciples had no concept of a suffering Messiah.  They, like all the people of Israel, were waiting for the One who would establish his rule, free Israel from oppression and bring judgment on everyone else.

This expected judgment was often symbolised by fire so when Jesus says that he came to bring fire to the earth the disciples would make this link between fire and judgment.  When he then referred to a baptism they might also have made a link with the teaching of John the Baptist who foretold the coming of one who would baptise with fire and the Holy Spirit.

But baptism and judgment were surely for gentiles, not for God’s chosen people.  The disciples are in for a shock because not only is this baptism for all people it also has to be undergone by Jesus himself.  Indeed, says Jesus, he is tightly constrained until this baptism is completed.

Another shock wave hits his listeners when Jesus says that far from bringing peace on earth he will in fact bring division and conflict within families and communities.

From our perspective 2000 years later we can see that over the centuries a commitment to Jesus has indeed brought conflict and personal suffering but for the disciples this must have been a blow to their belief in a conquering King and the triumph of Israel with them at the centre of the action. 

Perhaps his followers found these words of Jesus discouraging and daunting and perhaps they are disturbing to us today.

It may be that the belief of the people of Israel that as descendents of Abraham they were safe from judgment is mirrored in any temptation for us to believe that our baptism and regular church attendance give us a similar status.  Some of us may have an uneasy sense that there must be more to it; that if we were true followers of Jesus our lives as individuals and as a church would be having a greater impact on the world around us.

A true commitment to discipleship must surely change our lives so radically that we may cause division in our families and communities.

If we do as Jesus suggests and look at what’s happening in the world around us we may well see the signs of an urgent need for lives to be lived differently; for justice to replace oppression, for reconciliation to replace conflict, for generosity to replace greed and for a sense of humankind as a family united under God to replace prejudice and hatred.

Perhaps in recognising these signs and committing ourselves to doing what we can to turn things around we are undergoing the baptism of fire Jesus brings to the earth.  Perhaps then we will understand more fully these words of Isaiah also in Handel’s Messiah:

“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” 


  1. Our Christian faith teaches us about the suffering of Christ and his death on the cross.
  2. The earliest followers of Jesus had no concept of a suffering Messiah, only of God’s Anointed one who would free the people of Israel and bring judgment on others.
  3. Jesus spoke to them about a baptism of fire and how he would cause division among people on earth.
  4. We are invited to think about how we might live out that baptism of fire so that God’s will is done and is kingdom is established among us. 



Let us bring our prayers to God trusting that in his mercy and love he will welcome us, listen to us and invite us to be a part of his response to the needs of the world for which we pray. 


We pray for the prophets, teachers and leaders of our church today that they may speak God’s truth with integrity and in humility.

We pray for the people in the world who have been given the power and responsibility of leadership that they might follow the example of Jesus, the leader who served others in love.

We pray for people in the world who have taken power upon themselves and imposed it on nations and communities that they might become aware of the signs around them of the coming of God’s kingdom and the need for change.

We pray for families and communities divided because of religious differences and especially for followers of Jesus who today face hardship or persecution and we give thanks for the freedom we have to worship without fear.

We pray for all who are in pain or distress, those who are bereaved or anxious and all who are struggling to find hope and meaning in their lives.  We ask God to lighten their load, comfort them and assure them of his everlasting love and peace. 


Lord God, our Heavenly Father, Jesus your Son taught us that your love for each of us is greater than anything we can imagine.  So in his name we offer these prayers to you trusting in your power to shine light in the darkest of places and to bring new life and hope in lives filled with dread and despair.  Amen.

Sermon for Proper 12 (Year C) 6th Sunday after Trinity: 28 July 2019

Luke 11.1-13 

Once when my brother and I were much younger – about 8 and 5 years old – we wanted to ask mummy if we could do something, go somewhere or have something – I can’t remember now what it was we wanted.  We lived then in a very big house and finding mummy wasn’t always easy.  On this occasion we found daddy first and had the following conversation:

“Daddy, where’s mummy?”
“She’s gone to do a bit of shopping.”
“When will she be back?”
“Quite soon, why do you want her?”
“We want to ask her something”
“Can’t you ask me instead?”
“Why not?”
“You’ll only say no!”

We had a bit to learn about the art of communication and subterfuge!

It’s possible that we might think, from our Gospel reading, that Jesus is saying that whenever we ask our heavenly Daddy for something he will always say “yes”.  We might have to be a bit persistent, make a bit of a nuisance of ourselves, but the answer will always be “yes” in the end.

But we all know that it doesn’t work out like that.

  • A man prays that he will get the job he’s applied for after several months of unemployment, but someone else is appointed.
  • A mother prays that her son will be kept safe when he rides his motorcycle but he’s killed in an accident.

All of us here probably have our own stories to tell of prayers prayed from the deepest places within us that seem to have been ignored or rejected by God.

As parents and adults we know that sometimes we have to say “no” when children ask for something:

“No, you can’t go to the park on your own.”
“No, you can’t stay at home every day, you have to go to school to learn.”

We say “no” for the safety or longer term benefit of the child even though the child doesn’t understand or accept our “no”.

So we might understand it if sometimes it seems that God says “no” to us without our understanding why.  And we might understand it if sometimes it seems that God says “no” to us because he has something better in mind for us.

  • But I was living with my parents when their eldest son, my oldest brother, was dying, aged 34, leaving 5 children, the youngest only just 4 months old when he died.
  • I’ve seen friends facing the death of their husband or wife and the devastating loss they experience afterwards.
  • And I know people with debilitating mental illnesses whose despair and unhappiness keep them shut up in a very dark place.

And I can’t see any reason or justification for God saying “no” to the anguished prayers offered for the recovery of these people.

Nevertheless, Jesus does say:
“Ask, and it will be given to you.”

He also says:
“If you … know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

And these words might help us to think in a different way about prayer.  I’d like to offer you some of my thoughts that come from own experience and the experiences other people have shared with me.

Jesus promises us that his Father will give his Holy Spirit to those who ask him.  And if we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit we are caught up in the life of the Holy Trinity, One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We are caught up in a life and a mystery far beyond our understanding or imagination, a life outside time and space.  And because God is love, we are also caught up in the love of God that again surpasses our understanding.

So the God to whom we pray is the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.  But that doesn’t mean he’s not concerned with the lives of every single one of us.   Jesus tells us that God is also “our Father in heaven” who knows us intimately:  “even the hairs of your head are all counted” he says.  Every single one of us matters to God more than we can know.  He loves every single one of us with a love that cannot be broken.  St Paul says, “I am convinced that there is nothing in death or life …. nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”

Terrible things can and do happen:  road accidents, serious physical and mental illnesses, and bereavement.  But they cannot separate us from the love of God.  When we face such dark times, when we’re feeling frightened, bereft, despairing, hurting or abandoned our God of love, our heavenly Father, is there beside us saying, “I am with you and I love you”.  He is there and through his Holy Spirit he gives us each day the strength to keep going when we’re exhausted, enough hope to keep faith alive when we doubt his presence with us and enough comfort not to be completely overcome by despair.

I don’t believe that God puts us through dreadful experiences on purpose.  What I have come to believe, though, is that into even the darkest places God brings his love, his light, his goodness and healing and out of that darkness he will bring something good and life-giving.  Somehow suffering is redeemed and given meaning.

All this week I’ve been thinking about a very dear and special friend of mine who died of cancer 20 years ago last Monday.  She had an unshakeable faith in the loving-kindness of God’s purposes for the whole of his creation.  She believed with heart and soul that, in the words of Julian of Norwich:

“All shall be well
and all shall be well –
and thou shalt see it thyself
that all manner of things
shall be well.”

Sometimes I still have a sense of her saying to me now, “All is well” and I pray that I too will learn to trust in the love of God as completely as she always did.

Let’s end with a prayer of St Paul:

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”

Intercessions for Proper 11 (Year C) 5th Sunday after Trinity: 21 July 2019

1 Colossians 1.15-28 & Luke 10.38-42 

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the image of our invisible God.  In you dwells the fullness of God and through you all creation is held together and reconciled to God.  Hear us as we pray for your church, your world and all your children whether they know you as their Lord or not.

Lord Jesus, you are the head of the body that is your church in the world.  Sometimes it seems that we and our leaders are too easily distracted by our many tasks.  We are busy with our duties, our meetings and all the administration needed to keep the church functioning from our PCCs to the Archbishops’ Council.  Help us to make time each day to lay aside our distractions and worries and to sit at your feet listening to what you are saying to us.  Keep us centred and steadfast in faith; true servants of your Gospel, revealing the riches and glories of your word among all peoples.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Lord Jesus, you are the firstborn of all creation, born to have first place in everything.  Sometimes it seems that people in authority get distracted by many things:  self-interest; thirst for power or riches; political intrigue and pressure from the media or just the day to day tasks that come with leadership and responsibility for the employment and welfare of other people.  Help all those in authority to make time each day to lay aside their distractions and worries and to sit at your feet listening to what you have to say about justice, mercy, peace and reconciliation.  Help them to become centred on doing your will and establishing your kingdom on this earth.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Lord Jesus, you are at the heart of our communities and families.  We pray now for those around us who are in need of your healing and peace today:

Families troubled by poverty, the threat of unemployment or homelessness, the breakdown of relationships.

Families hurting because of violence or addictions and especially for families where children are exposed to danger of any kind.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Lord Jesus, in you we see God reaching out to those who are ill, broken in body, mind or spirit or weighed down with caring for others.  We pray now that you will reach out and touch those who have asked us to bring them to you:

And in a moment of quiet we ask you to reach out to the people we hold especially close to our hearts.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Lord Jesus, you are the firstborn from the dead and in you we have the promise of resurrection to new and eternal life.  We pray for:

all who have died recently
and for:

who died at this time in years past.

Bring comfort to all who remember and mourn.  Help us all to live in the hope and faith that according to your promises you will grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.

Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, all things were created through you and for you.  We commit into your loving hands all those for whom we have prayed today.  We commit ourselves also to you, thanking you for the love and grace with which you surround us.  May we know your presence with us in all that we do and say in the week that lies ahead.

We ask that you pray with us and for us as we say:

Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.