Prayers at Mid-day for Wednesday, 8 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.
These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan—in the wilderness, on the plain opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di-zahab. 2(By the way of Mount Seir it takes eleven days to reach Kadesh-barnea from Horeb.) 3In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the Israelites just as the Lord had commanded him to speak to them. 4This was after he had defeated King Sihon of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and King Og of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. 5Beyond the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law as follows:
6 The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7Resume your journey, and go into the hill country of the Amorites as well as into the neighbouring regions—the Arabah, the hill country, the Shephelah, the Negeb, and the sea coast—the land of the Canaanites and the Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. 8See, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land that I swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them.’
9 At that time I said to you, ‘I am unable by myself to bear you. 10The Lord your God has multiplied you, so that today you are as numerous as the stars of heaven. 11May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times more and bless you, as he has promised you! 12But how can I bear the heavy burden of your disputes all by myself? 13Choose for each of your tribes individuals who are wise, discerning, and reputable to be your leaders.’ 14You answered me, ‘The plan you have proposed is a good one.’ 15So I took the leaders of your tribes, wise and reputable individuals, and installed them as leaders over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officials, throughout your tribes. 16I charged your judges at that time: ‘Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien. 17You must not be partial in judging: hear out the small and the great alike; you shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgement is God’s. Any case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’ 18So I charged you at that time with all the things that you should do.
1 Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
2 Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 O that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous ordinances.
8 I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
9 How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
11 I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
13 With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
14 I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
17 Deal bountifully with your servant,
so that I may live and observe your word.
18 Open my eyes, so that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
19 I live as an alien in the land;
do not hide your commandments from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your ordinances at all times.
21 You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
who wander from your commandments;
22 take away from me their scorn and contempt,
for I have kept your decrees.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me,
your servant will meditate on your statutes.
24 Your decrees are my delight,
they are my counsellors.
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9For this is what the promise said, ‘About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.’ 10Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ 13As it is written,
‘I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.’
14 What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses,
‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’
16So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ 18So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses.
27 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” 31Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? 34Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.
37 ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38See, your house is left to you, desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’
Commentary (Father Michael)
If you are fortunate enough to have visited a synagogue, you will have noticed that the whole place seems built around the word and law of God. The focus is on a raised stage at front centre, similar to a Christian altar as the focal point of a church, where the Torah scrolls are reverently brought from their decorated resting place, or tabernacle, and read to the congregation.
The Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures, is the law of God as revealed to Moses. Deuteronomy, which our readings starts today, is the last of these books. In Deuteronomy, the aged Moses gives his final teaching to the Jewish people before the cross the Jordan to take control of the promised land. In return for this land, the Jews will live as a distinct people according to God’s law, which as we hear in the opening of Psalm 119 today, is given for Israel’s guidance and benefit, and this arrangement is commonly referred to as the Covenant, which is first made with Abraham in Genesis. The point of the Covenant is to make Israel God’s representative on earth, to show the glory and mercy of God and to bring all peoples to God. As Paul writes in today’s passage from Romans, God tells Israel that “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”
Why do we need to hear these voices from Torah if we are not Jews and if, as is commonly said, the Law has been replaced by Christ? The answer, I think, is that God’s faithfulness and huge generosity is on display throughout scripture. Indeed, we cannot fully appreciate God’s grace if don’t know the whole story. As the theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes, “God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead, having first rescued Israel from slavery”, meaning that both actions point to the same God of grace. As Christians we risk missing this insight into God’s character if we ignore the Hebrew scriptures. By the same token, the mission of the church, to live a fulsome and attractive life that testifies to God’s presence and grace among us, continues the mission given to Israel in the original covenant.
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 4):
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