Sunday Service 21st August 2022

Opening Prayers
The Lord is our refuge,
Our strong tower,
The rock we can build our lives upon.
Today, I use my voice to praise you.
Every breath I take is noted and known,
Every moment is seen;
You will never put us to shame
but instead give us the safety of your arms to return to
as I live my lives.
As I enter this time of worship,
I pray that my words of adoration,
My heartfelt confessions,
And my affirmations of faith will be acceptable to you.
Amen.

You may now wish to say The Lord’s Prayer in a version or translation known
to you.
Hymn:
152 STF – This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made – YouTube

Readings: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Luke 13:10-17

Response to the readings

Today’s gospel reading has always been an important and formational one for me.
Jesus the healer, the bringer of good news, demonstrating that he won’t be held
back by the systems and structures of his day, or the religious institution he is
operating within.
It seems to me to be a story about priorities, and the dangers of being overly pious.
Pious was a title taken by many of the popes in the early part of the Catholic
Church’s history, but the word has increasingly become associated with the kind of
religious behaviour that Wesley might have called ‘a dead sect, having the form of
religion without the power.’ There is some piousness (is that even a word?) in this
story, and there is definitely some confusion about priorities, which Jesus identifies
and calls out.

The synagogue leader in this story demonstrates the pious, rule-bound attitude in
verse 11 when he says his line with what the NIV translates as ‘indignance’: “There
are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
He’s read the rulebook. He knows what is and isn’t allowed. And he’s determined to
stick to it. But this is where Jesus questions the priorities of the rule-book, and sets
up an alternative to the pious narrative of rule-following: so, you’d happily take your
donkey for a drink, but you wouldn’t help a suffering woman? What does this say
about your priorities? What does this say about your pious rulebook?
Getting a drink for the donkey is, of course, not just an act of kindness towards an
animal (which it is – to a certain extent), it is also an investment in your own wealth.
Animal ownership was (and in many parts of the world, still is) a marker of wealth so
this sabbath behaviour that Jesus is criticising was as much about investing in and
protecting your possessions as anything else. And Jesus is pointing out that people
are happy to prioritise their own wealth, but not the wellbeing or health of a woman
who would have been at the margins of society because of her affliction. The system
is broken. The rules aren’t working for everyone. It’s time to re-think.
Which sounds a lot like how the great innovators and entrepreneurs have thought
about rules and regulations for centuries, and are doing again today. Recognising
that systems and structures and rules have value, but they need rethinking and
rewriting as societies change and as people come to see the rules as an end in
themselves, rather than a means of grace. Many of the large institutions that have
been built over the last few centuries (and even millennia) are struggling to stay
relevant and alive in the twenty-first century, because they are clinging too tightly to
systems and structures that need rethinking and rewriting. The established church
denominations in the UK probably all fit into this generalisation to one extent or
another…
What does that mean for us today?
What rules and systems and institutions do we need to hold a little less lightly, or
rewrite, or rethink, or even tear down, so that the good news of God can spread a
little more freely?
What are our priorities?
Where are we a little too pious, and a not quite so gospel-orientated?
You might like to make some time to think about, reflect on, or talk about these
questions this week.
The Jeremiah reading shows us that all this is in God’s hand. We were known and
loved by the divine before we were even formed in our mother’s womb. So, this is
not about us, or our egos. We are not ‘creating new forms of church’ on our own or to
suit us, but are continuing the work Jesus began: bringing the gospel to life in our
context and in our time. We are responding to the gospel invitation to share God’s
love with the people of all nations. Not to build the church, but to see the Kingdom of
God come near.
Let us go and be people who question authority, who are shaped for mission, by the
grace of God, in Jesus’ name and through the strength of the Spirit.
Amen.

Blessing
May Almighty God give you strength to run the race that is set before you, give you
power and hope to persevere to the end; and the blessing of God the Creator, the
Christ and the Spirit go with you.
Amen.

Prayers and Prayer Pointers for the Week
Monday 22nd August

• Today, every year, various different traditions celebrate two separate ‘holy days’
that point to Mary, the Mother of Jesus: ‘the Immaculate Heart of Mary’ and
the ‘Queenship of Mary’.
So today, we give thanks for mothers everywhere. And pray for those who
find the conversation around mothering difficult: those who have lost
children, or lost touch with their children. Those who wanted children but
have not been able to, those on the quest for children. Those who have
difficult or broken relationships with their own mothers, or who miss them.
God, who came to visit a woman 2,000 years ago, and chose to have an
earthly mother, hear our prayer.

Tuesday 23rd August
• As I come to you in prayer, I know that the world is grieving and in pain,
It is a world longing to know you more,
A world full of stories that seek to give meaning, but which are little more
than adverts for the next product or holiday or cause.
In that context, I turn to you, and to the gospel of Jesus Christ,
Who brings hope to us all.
• Amongst all the piousness of human institutions,
the limitations of rules, the selfishness of structures, the greedy priorities of
the world we have built,
I pray for your grace, your peace, your love to reach the nations.
Amen.

Wednesday 24th August
• On this day in 1991, Ukraine declared itself independent from the Soviet Union,
as the USSR collapsed. Our prayers are for the people of Ukraine. Prayers
for peace. Prayers for opportunities to rebuild. Prayers for an end to war and
conflict and oppression.
You might like to light a candle, or hold a quiet space, and pray into this
situation, perhaps using one of the news stories that have emerged in the
last day or two.

Thursday 25th August
• Why not spend some time in silent meditation today?
• You could set an alarm – perhaps for 10-15 minutes, and then find somewhere
comfortable, where you can sit and empty your mind.
• If it helps, you could use the Headspace app or website, or a similar
service, to help you focus on the meditation and get used to the idea of
sitting in silence for a length of time.
• Is this a practice you could include in your daily spiritual life?
Friday 26th August
• If you can, go on a prayer walk. Or ask someone to help you make a journey
around your neighbourhood – just the few houses near you would be fine, or
go on a longer trip if you’d like to take in a whole estate or community.
• As you travel past each house, pray for the people who live there – just in your
mind, or under your breath. Hold their situations, whether you know them or
not, in your heart.

Saturday 27th August
• As we head into a bank holiday weekend, which may change your rhythms, you
are simply invited to notice something new.
Perhaps you have to work extra hours this weekend, or perhaps you can
relax. Maybe you have family-time booked in, or are going away. Maybe you
will be at Greenbelt Festival, or something else that will fill your soul.
Whatever you are doing – notice the newness, the changes of rhythm, and give
thanks for a God who is always revealing new things to us. Isaiah 43:19.

The Vine at Home is compiled and produced by twelvebaskets.