Prayers at Mid-day for Friday, 10 July, 2020 (Proper 14, Trinity 4)
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.
Deuteronomy 31: 7-13, 24 – 32.4
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: ‘Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will put them in possession of it. 8It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’
9 Then Moses wrote down this law, and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10Moses commanded them: ‘Every seventh year, in the scheduled year of remission, during the festival of booths, 11when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12Assemble the people—men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns—so that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law, 13and so that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.’
24 When Moses had finished writing down in a book the words of this law to the very end, 25Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, 26‘Take this book of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God; let it remain there as a witness against you. 27For I know well how rebellious and stubborn you are. If you already have been so rebellious towards the Lord while I am still alive among you, how much more after my death! 28Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officials, so that I may recite these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them. 29For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly, turning aside from the way that I have commanded you. In time to come trouble will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.’
30 Then Moses recited the words of this song, to the very end, in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
2 May my teaching drop like the rain,
my speech condense like the dew;
like gentle rain on grass,
like showers on new growth.
3 For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God!
4 The Rock, his work is perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God, without deceit,
just and upright is he;
1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.’
3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,
in whom is all my delight.
4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink-offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names upon my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
11 You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ 6But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) 7‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say?
‘The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
‘So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), 16then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17someone on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; 18someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 19Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 20Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23Then if anyone says to you, “Look! Here is the Messiah!” or “There he is!”—do not believe it. 24For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25Take note, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, “Look! He is in the wilderness”, do not go out. If they say, “Look! He is in the inner rooms”, do not believe it. 27For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
29 ‘Immediately after the suffering of those days
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from heaven,
and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Commentary (Father Michael)
We don’t need to go to the end of the Bible and the Book of Revelation to find apocalyptic predictions and terrifying prophecies. There is enough of that here in this passage from Matthew’s gospel for the most courageous Christian. Here Jesus makes dark statements about things that will happen before his return: something terrible will defile the Holy Temple, the proper worship of Yahweh there will cease, and the nation of Israel will be scattered. Many false messiahs and prophets will mislead God’s people before the Son of Man (presumably Jesus) will return and reunite the faithful.
While it’s tempting to try and identify Jesus’ predictions with historical events such as the destruction of Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in 70 CE, or to see them as warnings of unspecified perils to come, I think it more helpful to see Jesus as speaking of the end of a long arc of history described in the Hebrew scriptures. The Book of Isaiah speaks of all the nations being gathered together at Mount Zion, the new or heavenly Jerusalem, and Jesus is identified throughout Matthew’s gospel as the heir of King David who would restore his people. Rather than see this reading from Matthew as being about threat and danger, it is better I think to see it as Jesus identifying himself as the messiah who will restore all things.
While Christians still look for this day of restoration to come, in a profound sense, it is already here. The return of the Son of Man, predicted by Jesus here at verse 38, has already begun, starting with the Resurrection. For this reason, as the theologian John Webster writes, the church’s life is eschatological, meaning that we witness to something real that is “far beyond the horizon of human history”, the vision of God’s glory that is entrusted to the church to speak to the world and to live by in the church’s actions. in other words, we do not long for some future day when God in Jesus will return and save us. We already live in that moment. It is the source of the church’s joy and life and mission, and the reason why we should never fear nameless terrors and vague prophecies to come.
What worries about the future do you have? How might you give those worries to God?
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 14, Trinity ):
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ has taught us that what we do for the least of your children we do also for him. Give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave up his life and died for us, but 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