Prayers at Mid-day for Friday, 3 July, 2020 (Proper 13, Trinity 3)
O God, make speed to save us.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.
The Lord is our refuge and our strength: O come, let us worship.
Now Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, so he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face towards the wilderness. 2Balaam looked up and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. Then the spirit of God came upon him, 3and he uttered his oracle, saying:
‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of the man whose eye is clear,
4 the oracle of one who hears the words of God,
who sees the vision of the Almighty,
who falls down, but with eyes uncovered:
5 how fair are your tents, O Jacob,
your encampments, O Israel!
6 Like palm groves that stretch far away,
like gardens beside a river,
like aloes that the Lord has planted,
like cedar trees beside the waters.
7 Water shall flow from his buckets,
and his seed shall have abundant water,
his king shall be higher than Agag,
and his kingdom shall be exalted.
8 God, who brings him out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for him;
he shall devour the nations that are his foes
and break their bones.
He shall strike with his arrows.
9 He crouched, he lay down like a lion,
and like a lioness; who will rouse him up?
Blessed is everyone who blesses you,
and cursed is everyone who curses you.’
10 Then Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. Balak said to Balaam, ‘I summoned you to curse my enemies, but instead you have blessed them these three times. 11Now be off with you! Go home! I said, “I will reward you richly”, but the Lord has denied you any reward.’ 12And Balaam said to Balak, ‘Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 13“If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will; what the Lord says, that is what I will say”?
1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from those who are violent,
2 who plan evil things in their minds
and stir up wars continually.
3 They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s,
and under their lips is the venom of vipers.
4 Guard me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent
who have planned my downfall.
5 The arrogant have hidden a trap for me,
and with cords they have spread a net;
along the road they have set snares for me.
6 I say to the Lord, ‘You are my God;
give ear, O Lord, to the voice of my supplications.’
7 O Lord, my Lord, my strong deliverer,
you have covered my head in the day of battle.
8 Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
do not further their evil plot.
9 Those who surround me lift up their heads;
let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them!
10 Let burning coals fall on them!
Let them be flung into pits, no more to rise!
11 Do not let the slanderer be established in the land;
let evil speedily hunt down the violent!
12 I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy,
and executes justice for the poor.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall live in your presence.
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ 21They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
Commentary (Father Michael)
As I write this, it’s Canada Day and our house is decked with a maple leaf flag, which I’ve proudly featured on social media, while exchanging greetings with friends around the world. It’s good to be Canadian! And yet … (there’s always an “And yet” when we do theology, it seems!) and yet I’ve just listened to my friend Father Simon Bell’s excellent sermon for Canada Day, on Psalm 47. In that homily, Simon+ asks the question, “Are we Christians who happen to be citizens of country X, or are we citizens of country X who happen to be Christians?”
The point Simon was making was that nationalism, which has roared back into this unquiet 21st century, threatens to eclipse our other, more important identities as God’s people. We’re blessed that Canadian nationalism is particularly benign, but we see more malignant examples in some countries around us.
Jesus was formed in the Hebrew idea that all the peoples of the earth will find their fulfilment in relationship with the creator God, who formed the people of Israel to lead the peoples into this relationship. I think Jesus was working from this understanding when he answered the Pharisees using a Roman coin as his prop. Jesus knew very well that his adversaries hoped to trap him into denouncing Roman rule, but his answer, far more subtle, was to recognize a limited power of the Emperor over earthly affairs, while pointing to the eternal power and authority of his Father in heaven.
It’s often said that historically, Christianity has used such texts to concede politics and matters temporal to earthly rulers, while leaving God in charge of things spiritual, but this I think is a false distinction that Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, to name two examples, never recognized. Christians are called to live in this world, even embrace it, while showing the kingdom of God in their words and deeds. The Bible doesn’t give us a political rule book or ideology, but it does give us a way of making ethical and political choices that are informed by our faith. Jesus’ simple yet subtle teaching with the denarius reminds us that no human politics or ideology should monopolize our hearts and minds which, ultimately, belong to God.
Where do you see the Kingdom of God in the world? in the news? Does the kingdom of God ever challenge your political beliefs? What other questions come to your mind about these passages?
Almighty God, we pray for those who have died of the coronavirus; for those who are sick, and for those who are afraid of getting sick.
Be the shepherd of your people, O Lord, we pray.
In the midst of such uncertainty, we wonder how to keep ourselves, our families, our companies and our churches afloat in a time of economic meltdown.
We ask you to protect us all.
We pray for the millions who are laid off from work, and for those who must continue to work because they provide essential services – or cannot otherwise feed their children.
Give us today our daily bread.
We pray for first responders, doctors, nurses and all who work in health care. We pray for all who are confined to hospitals, nursing homes and institutions – and for family members who are not allowed to visit. We pray for those who are responsible for public health decisions, that they will be guided by science and duty, not ideology or politics.
You are the greatest healer, O Lord.
Lord, have mercy on our public officials. Guide them to create appropriate policies; give them wisdom and good judgment; help them put humanity first, that the people may follow their guidelines and take into account the safety of everyone in all we do.
Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.
Lord, help us guide our children and our parents through this emergency with cheerfulness, optimism and faith. Help us to lay aside our fears and to focus on the needs of others; where we can be helpful, let us act on their behalf, even if only from a distance.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
We turn to you, O Lord, for we have no other help and we know you are sufficient. You are the very power of love, of health and healing, of protection and mercy.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting. Amen.
Collects of the Day (Proper 13, Trinity 3):
Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love fulfils the law. May we love you with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, and may we love our neighbour as ourselves; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with faith in the resurrection of your Son, strengthen us when we doubt, and make us faithful disciples of Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Thanks be to God