Prayers at Mid-day for Thursday, 9 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.
18 At that time, I charged you as follows: ‘Although the Lord your God has given you this land to occupy, all your troops shall cross over armed as the vanguard of your Israelite kin. 19Only your wives, your children, and your livestock—I know that you have much livestock—shall stay behind in the towns that I have given to you. 20When the Lord gives rest to your kindred, as to you, and they too have occupied the land that the Lord your God is giving them beyond the Jordan, then each of you may return to the property that I have given to you.’ 21And I charged Joshua as well at that time, saying: ‘Your own eyes have seen everything that the Lord your God has done to these two kings; so the Lord will do to all the kingdoms into which you are about to cross. 22Do not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.’
23 At that time, too, I entreated the Lord, saying: 24‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your might; what god in heaven or on earth can perform deeds and mighty acts like yours! 25Let me cross over to see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and the Lebanon.’ 26But the Lord was angry with me on your account and would not heed me. The Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you! Never speak to me of this matter again! 27Go up to the top of Pisgah and look around you to the west, to the north, to the south, and to the east. Look well, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. 28But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, because it is he who shall cross over at the head of this people and who shall secure their possession of the land that you will see.’ 29So we remained in the valley opposite Beth-peor.
1 I love you, O Lord, my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
so I shall be saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of perdition assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
7 Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens, and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub, and flew;
he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering around him,
his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
there broke through his clouds
hailstones and coals of fire.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice.
14 And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
16 He reached down from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of mighty waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy,
and from those who hated me;
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity;
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.
19 You will say to me then, ‘Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ 20But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is moulded say to the one who moulds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; 23and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As indeed he says in Hosea,
‘Those who were not my people I will call “my people”,
and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”. ’
26 ‘And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”,
there they shall be called children of the living God.’
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; 28for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.’ 29And as Isaiah predicted,
‘If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,
we would have fared like Sodom
and been made like Gomorrah.’
30 What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling-stone, 33as it is written,
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ 4Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
9 ‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13But anyone who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.
Commentary (Father Michael)
Small wonder that the ancient Israelites envisioned their god as a conqueror. The biblical scholar N.T. Wright explained once that if any powerful army in that region wished to travel far, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were the highway they had to traverse. In a region of dangerous neighbours, the Jews put their faith as much in the power of Yahweh as they did in armies and alliances. After all, the God of Israel brought Moses and his fugitive followers to the land God had shown them, and gave them the power to seize it. Psalm 18, attributed to David after his escape from King Saul, maintains this portrayal of a warrior god who will protect his people.
By the time of the prophet Isaiah, who Paul references today in Romans, Israel’s military and political fortunes were in decline. Isaiah attributed this waning power to the faithlessness of Israel’s kings and ruling elites, and warned, as Paul quotes him, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved” (Rom 9:27). While the Hebrew prophets asserted God’s right to punish God’s people for their sins, they always put their greatest emphasis on God’s ultimate mercy and faithfulness to the covenant.
While there is a way of reading scripture which interprets contemporary catastrophes to human sin and divine punishment (this sort of reading was common in American evangelical circumstances after the 9/11 attacks, and has been updated for the coronavirus), it’s worth noting that Jesus never promises his followers immunity from adversity. In Matthew’s gospel, he warns instead of wars, division, and persecution, which must be endured until the true “end”. In tomorrow’s commentary on Matthew, I talk a bit about what the end looks like in Christian time and in the church’s time, which is eschatological – we see past the end of history because we know how the story ends. Jesus never promises us immunity if we are good. Instead, he calls us to a faithful endurance in which our vocation as God’s people is brilliantly clear and capable of making a difference in the world. In these long months of pandemic, which could have stifled the church’s faith and voice, I see countless examples of God’s people keeping faith, encouraging one another, and making a difference. Perhaps, once we set aside our hope of immunity from trouble, we can realize most fully God’s presence with us.
What are your reactions to books of the Hebrew scriptures such as Deuteronomy? Do you want to read them and, if not, why? 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