"Consider this ...."

It’s always fascinating to watch small children when they’re out for a walk. They take note of everything with a keen interest, examining their world in minute detail. They are captivated by things that grown up’s hurry past unseeing- like the veins of a leaf, petals from a flower, a snail’s shell. They may not make speedy progress but, for them, the journey is as important as the destination; the getting to as satisfying as the getting there.

The Christian life is often characterised as a journey and, as such, allows for similar opportunities for growth, maturing and lifelong learning, if only we keep our eyes, ears and minds open. Faith is not static and, although we are encouraged to press on towards the goal of salvation, we are also encouraged to be still and to grow in our awareness of God, other people, and ourselves.

These offerings are written to provide a moment for you to draw aside, reflect, and pray. They are based on the weekly Collect, Scripture readings and Post-Communion Prayer of the Church of Ireland. Wherever you may be on your own journey of faith, you are welcome to join us and to consider this…

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The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The First Reading - 2 Kings 2: 1-2, 6-14
The Psalm - Psalm 77: 1-2, 11-20
The Second Reading - Galatians 5: 1, 13-25
The Gospel Reading - Luke 9: 51-62
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Post Communion Prayer
Holy and blessed God,
as you give us the body and blood of your Son,
guide us with your Holy Spirit,
that we may honour you not only with our lips
but also with our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

No doubt you’ll be surprised to learn that I am sometimes accused of talking too much: imagine, a longwinded minister! One particularly frustrating trait, I am reliably informed, is giving long and (allegedly) tangential introductions to perfectly straightforward requests. This drives my family- I mean, my anonymous hearers- to distraction: “please, just tell us what you’re asking!”

To be fair though, it’s a reasonable question: we like to know what’s being asked of us. In the domain of faith, we’re sometimes unclear as to what Jesus may ask of us should we choose to follow him, or what he is asking of us in a given situation. It doesn’t always seem clear in the moment.

In the first reading Elisha is fearful and anxious about his mentor Elijah’s impending departure. He knows he has been groomed to ‘take on the mantle’, but he clearly neither wants nor feels adequate for that. Next, Paul asserts the Gentile Christians’ freedom from Jewish ceremonial law, but establishes a basic understanding that Christian freedom is about responsibility, not profligacy. Then there’s that snapshot of a prickly, grouchy Jesus making seemingly unreasonable demands. Maybe being confused about what he’s asking of us is better than knowing, after all!

Could it be that our emphasis should be on our desire to please God rather than specific requests God has for us? Elisha was being asked whether he was wholehearted in his vocation; Paul challenges the Galatians regarding the appropriate application of their freedom while wholeheartedly following of Jesus; and Jesus’ comments reveal an urgent sense of where the path of his own wholehearted devotion to God and others was leading him. Whether or not we believe God has a detailed ‘will’ for us, the question this combination of Scriptures asks is: how wholehearted are we in our love of God and other people, and how will we act accordingly?

Revd Mark Niblock

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The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Collect
O God, the protector of all who trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy:
Increase and multiply upon us your mercy;
that with you as our ruler and guide,
we may so pass through things temporal
that we finally lose not the things eternal:
Grant this, heavenly Father,
for Jesus Christ’s sake, our Lord.

The First Reading - 1 Kings 19: 1-4, 5-7, 8-15a
The Psalm - Psalms 42, 43
The Second Reading - Galatians 3: 23-29
The Gospel Reading - Luke 8: 26-39
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website

Post Communion Prayer
Eternal God,
comfort of the afflicted and healer of the broken,
you have fed us at the table of life and hope.
Teach us the ways of gentleness and peace,
that all the world may acknowledge
the kingdom of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

While we were on holiday in Canada we bought various things. Some of these were designed by what are described in Canada as first nation people; this pleased because not only were these items made in Canada but the proceeds from their sale went to first nation people.

Canada's first nation people are those who inhabited the country fist, the indigenous or native people of Canada. It has always seemed to me that this phrase gives dignity to such people and accurately describes their status as the original Canadians.

One of the things that Jesus does is to give dignity to people. In some cases he restores dignity to those who have lost it. In the incident recorded in today’s gospel we read of a man who was described as being demon possessed. We are told he wore no clothes and lived in tombs, which in those days would have been cave like structures. This man had no dignity and would have been widely despised. Parents would have told their children to stay away from him, others may have jeered and laughed at him, while some would go any length to avoid him.

But Jesus did none of these, instead he performed a miracle, which, although it is hard to understand, gave the man back his dignity and his place in society. We read that he was left sitting quietly and in his right mind.

This leaves me with the question as to how we treat those who have lost their dignity. How do we treat those who are unemployed or homeless? How do we treat those who beg on our streets, those whose disability affects their appearance? Do we pass by on the other side or do we greet them as a fellow human being and treat them in such a way as to restore some of their dignity?

Rev. Janice Elsdon

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The Third Sunday after Trinity

Collect
Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The First Reading - 1 Kings 21: 1-10, 11-14, 15-21a
The Psalm - Psalm 5: 1-8
The Second Reading - Galatians 2: 15-21
The Gospel Reading - Luke 7: 36 - 8: 3
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Post Communion Prayer
O God,
whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
Give us a glimpse of your glory on earth
but shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen

Have you ever been invited to a social occasion or attending a social occasion and on arrival all is ‘not as it seems’ – perhaps a ‘stiff atmosphere’, or a coolness to yourself or others, which makes the whole experience uncomfortable or you wishing you were somewhere else!

Jesus in our gospel reading (ante) was invited by one of the religious leaders to his home, no doubt there was an ulterior motive with this Pharisee wanting to ‘check him (Jesus) out. When we read the story we find that even though invited, the host did not extend the customary common courtesies that would have been expected being offered to welcome Jesus. For example, providing water for guests to wash their feet – usually one of the lower servants would wash and dry guests’ feet, was not extended to Jesus. Nor was he formally greeted with the customary kiss – (today we would shake hands) or was his head anointed with oil as a sign of respect. I suppose, in short, treating a guest like this was both offensive and insulting. But if Jesus was not really welcome another person in the story, described as a ‘women in the city who was a sinner’ was certainly not welcome! She seems to have gate-crashed the gathering and she stands behind the reclining Jesus weeping. Her tears fell on his feet and she, stooping down, begins to dry them with her hair and then anointed them with ointment. The host, (we now know was called Simon), made an instant judgement which appear to confirm his already held prejudices about Jesus and so Jesus addresses Simon and relates a story about two debtors whose debts were cancelled – one owing a small sum and the other a large sum – ‘which he asks would love the creditor the most’ Simon rightly replies the one who owed the greater debt. Jesus then appears to turn his back on Simon and facing the woman outlines how she extended the courtesies and welcome that he had not offered, adding that her sins, which were many, were forgiven. Of course this added to the discussion between the other guests as to who Jesus really was.

I am inclined to think that this ‘women of the city’ had very recently been in contact with Jesus, and such was her joy of having her sins forgiven, was simply expressing her love and in the way described at her first opportunity.

There is so much to tease out of this little story but perhaps we could simply ask ourselves, how much of Simons prejudices and judgemental attitudes do we possess – how do these affect our treatment of and behaviour to others. How often do we place ‘others’, whoever they may be, outside the scope of Gods forgiving grace (how easy it is to do so here in Northern Ireland)! May God open our hearts in love for, and reaching out to, others.

Jesus said: ‘The one to whom little is forgiven, loves little’.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

Revd Campbell Dixon MBE

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The Second Sunday after Trinity

Collect
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.

The First Reading- 1 Kings 17: 8-16
The Psalm- Psalm 146
The Second Reading- Galatians 1: 11-24
The Gospel Reading- Luke 7: 11-17
Click here to view the readings via the oremus Bible Browser website.

Post Communion Prayer
Loving Father,
we thank you for feeding us at the supper of your Son.
Sustain us with your Spirit,
that we may serve you here on earth
until our joy is complete in heaven,
and we share in the eternal banquet
with Jesus Christ our Lord.

As a former Subterranean Travel Agent I have witnessed many and varied attitudes of motorists to funerals, from utmost respect to downright ignorance. Some drivers slow down for an approaching hearse, dip their lights, even switch off their engines altogether. Others will speed up to get past- or through- the hold-up, to the extent of cutting between the hearse and limousine: a crime that, I believe, ought to carry the same punishment as that of treason.

However, I’ve never encountered anyone bringing the funeral to a complete halt. It just isn’t done. It would be considered quite out of order. Yet, entering Nain, Jesus does just that. There’s no suggestion that he knew the woman or her son. We’re just told that he acts out of a deep sense of compassion: one of those occasions when Jesus is so moved by another person that he can’t help interfering.

But, whereas any other interruption of such a solemn moment would constitute disrespect, here Jesus gives back life, reuniting mother and son. The moment, the day, the next day, the rest of life, was utterly transformed by Jesus’ interruption. And this is no isolated event, as Paul alludes to in the second reading: while starting out completely convinced that Jesus was a menace, Jesus interrupted Paul, with similarly transformative results.

Side by side, these are two completely contrasting situations into which Jesus intrudes uninvited, with profoundly unexpected results in both cases. Yet, whilst his interventions aren’t sought, they are neither insensitive nor self-serving, but designed to awaken freedom, love and hope in the lives of others. And, when you think about it, this seems to be the whole point of the Incarnation: to intervene for our good. This week Jesus may well have moments of interruption and transformation for us too.

Revd Mark Niblock

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