Prayers at Mid-day for Thursday, 2 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.
11 Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but now you have done nothing but bless them.’ 12He answered, ‘Must I not take care to say what the Lord puts into my mouth?’
13 So Balak said to him, ‘Come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only part of them, and shall not see them all; then curse them for me from there.’ 14So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. 15Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stand here beside your burnt-offerings, while I meet the Lord over there.’ 16The Lord met Balaam, put a word into his mouth, and said, ‘Return to Balak, and this is what you shall say.’ 17When he came to him, he was standing beside his burnt-offerings with the officials of Moab. Balak said to him, ‘What has the Lord said?’ 18Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying:
‘Rise, Balak, and hear;
listen to me, O son of Zippor:
19 God is not a human being, that he should lie,
or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
Has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?
20 See, I received a command to bless;
he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
21 He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob;
nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
acclaimed as a king among them.
22 God, who brings them out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for them.
23 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob,
no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
“See what God has done!”
24 Look, a people rising up like a lioness,
and rousing itself like a lion!
It does not lie down until it has eaten the prey
and drunk the blood of the slain.’
25 Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.’ 26But Balaam answered Balak, ‘Did I not tell you, “Whatever the Lord says, that is what I must do”?’
1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvellous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 14For many are called, but few are chosen.’
Commentary (Father Michael)
As a young man, I had little time for passages of scripture such as today’s psalm, 121. The idea of humility, one of the ancient Christian virtues, like the pre-Communion prayer of humble access (“We are not worthy”) in the old Book of Common Prayer, were highly unpalatable to young me. Why should I not walk around with my head held high? Why should I “not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me”? Such sentiments seemed to young me like a call to self-abasement, and I was too rebellious to want to take them on board.
Having been gifted with a little of the wisdom that comes with grey hair, I’m more favourably inclined to Psalm 121. The sentiment is not, I think, “know your place and don’t look above your station”, for that idea would be incompatible with St. Luke’s Magnificat, a revolutionary text if there ever was one! Rather, I suggest, Ps 121 reminds us that spiritual peace and discipleship are profoundly incompatible with ambition. How often do we hear Jesus encourage his disciples to aim high? Never, to my knowledge. Jesus’ response to the mother of Zebedee, who wanted her sons to have an honoured place in the courts of heaven, is to say “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Mt 20:20-27).
Discipleship in the gospels is invariably associated with humble service. As the early church developed the sacrament of baptism, it filled out this idea of the death of the old self and its earthly ambitions (what St. Paul shorthands as “the flesh”) through texts such as Romans 6:3-5, where our new life is tied to the death and resurrection in Jesus. In the early centuries of the church, the most revered bishops, such as Ambose of Milan and Anselm of Canterbury, were humble priests who did not want the office, fearing that it would fill them with pride and vanity. Psalm 121 thus points us towards an authentic discipleship by telling us to calm and quiet our souls so that we can hear God’s calling above the din of self and ego.
Are there times when you feel that your soul needs to be calmed and quieted? How do you feel about the word “humility”? 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.
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