Prayers at Mid-day for Wednesday, 15 July, 2020 (Proper 15, Trinity 5)
Today we remember Swithun, bishop of Winchester (died 862), scholar and pastor.
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.
Psalm 38 (A Pentitent Sufferer’s Plea for Healing)
1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.
5 My wounds grow foul and fester
because of my foolishness;
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all day long I go around mourning.
7 For my loins are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am utterly spent and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is known to you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction,
and my neighbours stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin,
and meditate treachery all day long.
13 But I am like the deaf, I do not hear;
like the mute, who cannot speak.
14 Truly, I am like one who does not hear,
and in whose mouth is no retort.
15 But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I pray, ‘Only do not let them rejoice over me,
those who boast against me when my foot slips.’
17 For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.
19 Those who are my foes without cause are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
are my adversaries because I follow after good.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord;
O my God, do not be far from me;
22 make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation.
Matthew 25:31-46 (The Judgement of the Nations)
31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
Commentary (Father Michael)
Today’s gospel reading from Matthew 25 comes very late in Jesus’ ministry. In Jerusalem with his disciples, just days before his last Passover, Jesus has just finished making a series of apocalyptic predictions that have warned of disasters, wars, division and false prophets. At the end of time, Jesus says, he will return to earth, fully revealed as the Son of Man, to judge the peoples of the earth.
What’s fascinating about this gospel reading is how the focus starts collectively, as Jesus gathers the nations at the end of time. This prediction links Jesus with prophetic texts, such Zechariah 14, which describes will punish the peoples who have waged war on Jerusalem. Jesus however quirky focuses on individuals: “he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates he sheep from the goats”.
The distinction between sheep and goats appears to be entirely a matter of ethics. Instead of judging the peoples based on religious allegiance, as in Zechariah, the Son will judge people on whether they showed care and concern for the helpless, the “least of these”, who Jesus identifies as “members of my family”. This judgement is entirely consistent with the focus of Jesus’ ministry, which always focused on the sick, the outcast, and the hungry. Likewise the robust imagery of judgement, however unpalatable it may be, is entirely consistent with how John the Baptist set the stage for Jesus. Thus we go from John’s separation of “wheat” from the “tares” (M 3:11-12) to the separation (and judgement) of “sheep” from “goats” (Mt 25:32-33).
I used the word “unpalatable” because I often find myself challenged by Jesus when he speaks of “eternal fire” (25:41), which seems to me inconsistent with grace and forgiveness. At the same time, a part of me wants this Jesus who comes to punish as well as rescue. Last week we learned that Dutch police arrested members of a criminal gang who had been working on preparing torture chambers in shipping containers. I want justice done for such people, on earth and, I confess, in heaven. I want those goats separated from the sheep.
At the same time, Matthew reminds me that I had best tend my own garden. As the theologian Stanley Hauerwas notes, once we hear today’s gospel reading, we have no excuse when Jesus asks us what we did for those in our sight who needed our care and compassion. In this respect, the Son of Man has already returned, his gaze is on us, and his question stands: what have you done for the least among you? Perhaps no other question in the gospel is as urgent or as pointed as this one. We, the church, had best have a good answer.
How do you use the psalms for prayer? How could you use them more?
What other questions come to your mind about these passages?
(Borrowed with thanks from https://oremus.blog/2020/07/14/oremus-for-wednesday-july-15-2020/)
God of all mercies, we praise you that you have brought us to this new day, brightening
our lives with the dawn of promise and hope in Jesus Christ.
Especially we thank you for
the warmth of sunlight, the wetness of rain and snow, and all that nourishes the earth…
the presence and power of your Spirit . . .
the support and encouragement we receive from others . . .
those who provide for public safety and well-being . . .
the mission of the church around the world. . . .
Merciful God, strengthen us in prayer that we may lift up the brokenness of this
world for your healing, and share in the saving love of Jesus Christ.
Especially we pray for
those in positions of authority over others . . .
the lonely and forgotten . . .
children without families or homes . . .
agents of caring and relief . . .
the church in Asia and the Middle East. . . .
Almighty God, by whose grace we celebrate again the feast of your servant Swithun: grant that, as he governed with gentleness he people committed to his care, so we, rejoicing in our Christian inheritance, may always seek to build up your Church in unity and love; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of 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