Written Service for 12 September,
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Opening reflection - Isaiah 50: 4-9a

The Lord God has given me a disciple's tongue,
for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary.
Morning by morning he makes my ear alert
to listen like a disciple.
The Lord God has opened my ear
and I have not resisted,
I have not turned away,
I have offered my back to those who struck me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
I have not turned my face away
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God comes to my help,
this is why I have set my face like flint
and know that I shall not be put to shame.
He who grants me saving justice is near! Who will bring a case against me?
Let us appear in court together!
Who has a case against me?
Let him approach me!
Look, the Lord God is coming to my help!
Who dares condemn me?

 

"CMP0518: O Praise Ye The Lord!"

1. O praise ye the Lord!
Praise Him in the height;
Rejoice in His word,
Ye angels of light;
Ye heavens adore Him
By whom ye were made,
And worship before Him
In brightness arrayed.

2. O praise ye the Lord!
Praise Him upon earth,
In tuneful accord,
Ye sons of new birth;
Praise Him who has brought you
His grace from above,
Praise Him who has taught you
To sing of His love.

3. O praise ye the Lord,
All things that give sound;
Each jubilant chord,
Re-echo around:
Loud organs, His glory
Forthtell in deep tone,
And sweet harp, the story
Of what He has done

4. O praise ye the Lord!
Thanksgiving and song
To Him be outpoured
All ages along;
For love in creation,
For heaven restored,
For grace of salvation,
O praise ye the Lord!

Henry W. Baker


Prayers

1. Alleluia!

I am filled with love when the Lord listens
to the sound of my prayer,
when he bends down to hear me,
as I call.

The bonds of death were all around me,
the snares of hell held me fast;
distress and anguish held me in their grip,
I called on the name of the Lord.

Deliver me, Lord, I beg you.

The Lord is merciful and upright,
our God is tenderness,
the Lord looks after the simple,
when I was brought low he gave me strength.

My heart, be at peace once again,
for the Lord has treated you generously,
he has rescued me from death, my eyes from tears,
and my feet from stumbling.
I shall pass my life in the presence of the Lord,
in the land of the living.

2. Lord God, I love you
I praise you
Lord God, you paid attention to me;
you didn't merely hear me,
you did more than listen to me,
so much more.
Lord God, when I was in trouble
you were kindness itself,
you were good to me;
in my helpless weakness you held out your hand
and I was able to get up and carry on.
Lord God, you have saved my life from death,
my eyes from tears.
Lord God, you have saved me from embarrassment,
from humiliation and failure.
Lord God, I will walk at your side,
safe in your keeping.
Lord God, I love you
I praise you. Amen.

3. But wait a minute, Lord,
I don't deserve this.

How often I've let you down!
I've avoided opportunities to hold out a hand of friendship and reassurance to those
that need it.
I've given in to my desires to pamper myself when I could have given basic help to
someone in need.
I've failed to speak out, to stand up for those confronting difficulties which I could
have helped resolve.
Lord God, I'll keep quiet and reflect. Please forgive me.
SILENCE
Lord God, I know your words of reassurance
warm hearted words of forgiveness.

I take them into myself, into my heart, into my soul and as I treasure them I will
try to live more fully in your kingdom and share it widely and freely wherever I have
the opportunity.

The Lord's Prayer.

Gospel reading - Mark 8: 27-38

Hymn StF 673 (chosen particularly for verse 2)

1. Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

2. Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

3. Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

4. Will you love the 'you' you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

5. Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I'll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

 

John L Bell (b1949) & Graham Maule (b 1958)

Comments on the gospel

In the pew bibles we have at Lutterworth this passage is divided into two. For verses 27-30 the heading is, 'Who is Jesus?'. The remainder of the chapter is headed, 'Jesus speaks about his suffering and death'. Both of these passages occur in Matthew and Luke, suggesting that the ideas they express were deemed of great significance by the gospel writers - Peter (who advised Mark on what to put in his gospel, the first to be written) Matthew (whose gospel emerged from a group of Christians who had originally been practising Jews) and Luke (whose gospel grew out of mission among gentiles). One way or another, the content of these verses in Mark is pretty basic stuff.Here in the UK, 2000 years after the lifetime of Jesus, our faith is rooted in the answers to the issues raised here.

At the end of the first section of this passage, after the disciples have carefully avoided answering Jesus's question as to his identity and Peter has opened his mouth on his colleagues' behalf, Jesus warns his close associates to NOT TELL ANYONE what they've just heard from Peter's impetuous lips!

You might wonder why Jesus imposed this veto on his close circle of friends. I don't know why - I may be old, but I'm not that old so as to have been able to quiz Jesus about this! But I do know that while a word in season can be a precious help to whoever hears it, a word out of season can do great damage - such as Jesus would have wished to spare anyone contemplating the pro's and con's of following him.

Prayer. Lord God, give us the wisdom, and courage and the patience to speak out when it is timely to do so, and also to hold our tongues when it accords with the well-being and furtherance of your kingdom here among us. Amen.

New Testament Reading - James 3: 1-12

Hymn StF 412(NB the connection between verse 1 in the hymn and verse 5 in the reading)

1. See how great a flame aspires,
kindled by a spark of grace!
Jesu's love the nations fires,
sets the kingdoms on a blaze.
To bring fire on earth he came;
kindled in some hearts it is:
O that all might catch the flame,
all partake the glorious bliss!

2. When he first the work begun,
small and feeble was his day:
now the word does swiftly run,
now it wins its widening way;
more and more it spreads and grows
ever mighty to prevail;
sin's strongholds it now o'erthrows,
shakes the trembling gates of hell.

3. Heirs of God, your Saviour praise!
He the door has opened wide;
he has given the word of grace,
Jesu's word is glorified;
Jesus, mighty to redeem,
he alone the work has wrought;
worthy is the work of him,
him who spoke a world from nought.

4. Saw you not the cloud arise,
little as a human hand?
Now it spreads along the skies,
hangs o'er all the thirsty land:
Lo, the promise of a shower
drops already from above;
but the Lord will shortly pour
all the Spirit of his love!

Charles Wesley (1707 - 1788)

 

Comments on the reading from James

James was a very common name in first century Palestine and several people with the name feature in the New Testament. The James who wrote the document from which our reading comes doesn't feature very much in the gospels but we do find out a bit about him in Acts - the second volume of Luke's writings. This James was Jesus' brother.

I don't want to delve into detailed discussion of James's (and Jesus's) family history, let alone the convoluted arguments put forward to try to support the notion that Jesus's mother remained a virgin throughout her life. James, the author of the NT letter was Jesus's brother, and he became the head of the young church in Jerusalem - a very important rôle.

In today's passage he writes about the tongue. This passage may well have begun life as a separate document, to be later inserted into the rest of the writing we know as the letter of James. However, the history of its origin needn't concern us today. James speaks of the tongue:

". . . if you can control your tongue you are mature and able to control your whole body."

I've done a bit of research and have unearthed quite a lot of interesting information about the human tongue. I'd like to share some of this with you and draw out its significance.

Your tongue is an extremely movable set of muscles and when your mouth is closed your tongue almost fills the cavity of your mouth. The muscle fibres in the tongue are arranged so as to allow your tongue to move in all directions; no other muscle has such flexibility.

The tip of your tongue is more sensitive to touch than any other part of your body and it plays a vital part in the process of eating.

Your tongue is extremely agile - essential in its rôle in facilitating speech. Using more than 20 distinct movements you are able to produce more than 90 words per minute. Just think how differently your tongue has to work to produce these sounds: t, d, l, r, k and s!

So now you know (or have been reminded) something of the working of your tongue you can, perhaps, appreciate a little more fully the layers of meaning in verse 2 that I quoted above:

". . . if you can control your tongue . . . "

In verses 9 & 10 James reminds his readers (or more likely hearers back in the first century AD) that with their tongues they can speak both praises and curses. This is true of all of us and, as I've been writing these words, I've been speaking them to you in my mind.

As we move into a new Methodist year let's resolve to be more mindful of the powerful impact of the words we speak and the tone of voice with which we utter them. Let us pray that our voices may carry the sound of a smile that will warm the hearts of those to whom we are speaking. In Jesus's name, Amen.

Prayers

Today I could move mountains with my joy!
Could drink the golden liquid of the sun
Or stride the sky, or wilder means employ
To shout to heaven my gladness as I run.
I am stretched out to endless space and time,
There is no distance where I cannot be;
The stars behind the starry fields sublime
Are but the marrow and the flesh of me.
There is no measure made for me today -
A universe has opened in my soul!
I feel me not a part of worlds at play
But strangely and convincingly the whole.
Who knows but some bright shaft from God's hand given
Has split my mind and poured it full of heaven?

Dora Hagemeyer in Spirit in a Strange Land:
A selection of New Zealand Spiritual Verse

Lord God, we ask that our thoughts and our spoken words may reflect the language of heaven. We pray now for the many people, groups of people, organisations, pressure groups which are struggling to bring about improvements in the lives of people throughout the world. We hold them now in our hearts. Silence.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Gracious God, like a mother you give us new life, and make us your children in Jesus Christ. Look on us in your love, and bring us to the inheritance which you promised. Grant this through Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

Hymn StF 658

1. A charge to keep I have:
a God to glorify;
a never-dying soul to save,
and fit it for the sky;

2. To serve the present age,
my calling to fulfil;
O may it all my powers engage
to do my Master's will

3. Arm me with jealous care,
as in your sight to live;
and O your servant, Lord, prepare
a strict account to give!

4. Help me to watch and pray,
and on yourself rely,
so shall I not my trust betray,
nor love within me die.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Blessing

Share the words of the grace as circumstances allow.

In order to help if you wish to reflect further on the substance of today's service you might find help among the hymns 659-672 in Singing the Faith.