Daily Devotional for Wednesday, 17 June, 2020

Today I begin a practice of posting a short devotional, based on the daily readings from the two-year lectionary in the Anglican Chuch of Canada’s Book of Alternative Services.   To be honest I am lifting the practice from the excellent lay leadership of St. Margaret of Scotland, where until recently I’ve been the Honorary Associate Priest.   These devotionals are primarily intended for my new congregation, All Saints King City, and will be updated as often as I can, at least on weekdays.  

Blessings,

Michael+

Prayers at Mid-day for Wednesday, 17 June, 2020  (Proper 11, Trinity 1)

(Today we remember in the Church of England calendar, Samuel and Henriette Barnett).

Invitatory

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.

Amen.

The Lord is our refuge and our strength:  O come, let us worship.

Psalm

Psalm 119: 97-120

97 Oh, how I love your law!

   It is my meditation all day long. 

98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,

   for it is always with me. 

99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,

   for your decrees are my meditation. 

100 I understand more than the aged,

   for I keep your precepts. 

101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,

   in order to keep your word. 

102 I do not turn away from your ordinances,

   for you have taught me. 

103 How sweet are your words to my taste,

   sweeter than honey to my mouth! 

104 Through your precepts I get understanding;

   therefore I hate every false way. 

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet

   and a light to my path. 

106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,

   to observe your righteous ordinances. 

107 I am severely afflicted;

   give me life, O Lord, according to your word. 

108 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,

   and teach me your ordinances. 

109 I hold my life in my hand continually,

   but I do not forget your law. 

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,

   but I do not stray from your precepts. 

111 Your decrees are my heritage for ever;

   they are the joy of my heart. 

112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes

   for ever, to the end. 

113 I hate the double-minded,

   but I love your law. 

114 You are my hiding-place and my shield;

   I hope in your word. 

115 Go away from me, you evildoers,

   that I may keep the commandments of my God. 

116 Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,

   and let me not be put to shame in my hope. 

117 Hold me up, that I may be safe

   and have regard for your statutes continually. 

118 You spurn all who go astray from your statutes;

   for their cunning is in vain. 

119 All the wicked of the earth you count as dross;

   therefore I love your decrees. 

120 My flesh trembles for fear of you,

   and I am afraid of your judgements.

Gospel

Matthew 18:1-9

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

6 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!

8 ‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Commentary (Fr. Michael)

There can be no question that Jesus’ language here, particularly in vv. 8-9 where it is couched in the figure of speech of self-mutilation, is daunting, even horrific.   How can we ever live up to such extreme demands?  Is it not in God’s nature to treat us mercifully?

Before we reject the passage out of hand as being too difficult or too harsh to comply with, consider for a moment that it is consistent with a Saviour who calls on each follower to take up their cross and follow him.    The call to discipleship requires that we give up something to gain something infinitely more precious.

In this case, verse 1 reminds us that the thing we must give up as disciples is a certain conception of the self, our desire for “greatness”.  Too much self-regard or self-importance, any desire to put ourselves firs, is going to be an obstacle or “stumbling block” in our spiritual growth and in our interactions with our fellow disciples.  We have all seen churches where the self-importance of some becomes a toxic environment for others.

Jesus’ strong language, his images of self-amputation, point to an ever harder task, the pruning of our ego’s demand to always be first.   Spiritual growth and discipleship begin when we can get over selves, to put others first and become “like this child”.   

What is a stumbling block that keeps you from becoming the follower of Jesus you want to be?

What questions come to your mind about this passage?

Intercession

Lord, I pray that the people of God in all the world may worship in spirit and in truth.

Lord hear my prayer.

Lord, I pray that the Church may discover again that unity which is your will.

Lord hear my prayer.

Lord, I pray that the nations of the earth may seek after the ways that make for peace.

Lord hear my prayer.

Lord, I pray that the whole of creation, groaning in travail, may be set free to enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Lord hear my prayer.

I pray that all who with Christ have entered the shadow of death may rest in peace and rise in glory, and I pray especially this morning for the souls of the thousands that have succumbed to Covid 19.

Lord hear my prayer.

Amen

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, without you we are not able to please you.  Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive 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