Monday, 5 August 2019

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 11 August 2019,
Eighth Sunday after Trinity

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return … so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks’ (Luke 12: 35-36) … figures on the open West Door of Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Next Sunday, 11 August 2019, is the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

The Readings:

The appointed readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland, are in two groups.

The readings are:

Continuous Readings: Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20; Psalm 50: 1–8, 23–24; Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16; Luke 12: 32-40. There is a link to the continuous readings HERE.

Paired readings: Genesis 15: 1-6; Psalm 33: 12–22; Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16; Luke 12: 32-40. There is a link to the paired readings HERE.

‘Be like those who are waiting for their master to return … so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks’ (Luke 12: 35-36) … the open West Door of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Introducing the continuous readings:

Having had a few short introductions to the prophets Amos and Hosea, the next two weeks introduce the Prophet Isaiah and then the Prophet Isaiah.

We have also completed our readings from the Letter to the Colossians, and for these four weeks we are reading our way through the Letter to the Hebrews.

Our readings for Sunday morning challenge us to re-examine how our priorities are reflected in our worship, and challenge us to be prepared for the coming Kingdom as we would prepare for either an intrusive or invading thief, or as we would prepare to join the celebrations when we are invited to a wedding banquet.

The Prophets Isaiah (left) and Jeremiah (right) in a window in Saint Michael’s Church, Pery Square, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20:

Biblical scholars divide this book into two – and sometimes even three – sections:

1, Chapters 1 to 39 were written before the exile, between ca 740 BC and ca 700 BC. These were difficult times for the southern kingdom, Judah. There was a disastrous war with Syria. The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom, Israel, in 723 BC, and threatened Judah. The Prophet Isaiah identifies the cause of these events as social injustice.

These first 39 chapters (‘First Isaiah’) tell of Isaiah’s vision, past, present and future:

● Back to the historical origins of Israel and the covenant with God;
● Israel’s present disobedience to God, and the impending judgement;
● Forward to the restoration of the relationship God wants to have with his people.

2, Chapters 40 to 66 were written during and after the Exile in Babylon. They are filled with a message of trust and confident hope that God will soon end the Exile.

3, Some scholars says that Chapters 56 to 66 form a third part of the book, written after the return from Exile. These chapters speak of hope and despair; they berate the people for their sin, for worshipping other gods. They speak of the hope that God will soon restore Jerusalem to its former glory and make a new home for all peoples.

Sunday’s reading tells of God’s father-child relationship with Judah, the southern kingdom. It is like a rebellious child who has rebelled against the caring parent. Among the cities, only Jerusalem remains free, but it is isolated and besieged (verses 7 to 9).

Isaiah addresses the rulers and the people, telling them to listen to God’s teaching. God is tired of people who go through the motions of worship but without sincerity. Because they mistreat the poor and the helpless, God will not accept their worship, sacrifices, prayers and festivals, and sees them as futile and as an abomination, the hands lifted in prayer ‘are full of blood.’

God’s lists nine expectations (verses 12-17):

● trample my courts no more (verse 12);
● wash yourselves ritually (verse 16);
● remove the evil of your doings (verse 16);
● cease to do evil (verse 16);
● learn to do good (verse 17);
● seek justice (verse 17);
● rescue the oppressed (verse 17);
● defend the orphan (verse 17);
● plead for the widow (verse 17).

God will no longer listen to their pleas. But there is a choice: either be willing and obedient to God’s ways, and so prosper; or refuse and rebel and ‘be devoured by the sword’ (verses 19-20).

‘Let the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge’ (Psalm 50: 6) … sunset on the beach in Platanias, near Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Psalm 50: 1-8, 23-24:

Psalm 50 also addresses the theme of ‘the acceptable sacrifice.’ This psalm is a liturgy of divine judgement.

God calls the heavens and the earth before him as judge.

The sacrifices of the people are acceptable when they are offered. But sacrifices and offerings are not mere ritual. The real offering that God seeks is thanksgiving. Indeed, reciting the Law without intending to keep it is mocking God. The people who befriend thieves and those who are sexually exploitative (‘adulterers’), divide families, have forgotten God and face destruction. But those who give thanks to God know the meaning of salvation.

The Letter to the Hebrews hints at the story in Genesis of the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah … a modern interpretation of Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16:

The Letter to the Hebrews is more like a sermon than an epistle, and is written with an understanding of Jewish religious practices.

Although the Authorised or King James Version of the Bible titles it ‘The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews,’ we do not know the identity of the author. Clement of Alexandria referred to this letter as written by Saint Paul, but around the same time Origen said that ‘only God knows’ who wrote it.

The structure of this epistle is that each statement of doctrine is followed by a practical exhortation. Basing his argument on the Old Testament, the author argues for the superiority of Christ over the prophets, angels and Moses. Christ offers a superior priesthood, and his sacrifice is much more significant than that of the Temple priests. He is the heavenly High Priest, making the true sacrifice for the sins of the people, but he is also of the same flesh and blood as those he makes holy.

Earlier in this letter, the author urges his readers to recall the time after they were baptised: they endured hardships, but accepted them cheerfully, ‘knowing that you … possessed something better and more lasting.’

He urges them to live by faith (10: 32-39), and now reminds them that ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’ (11: 1). Through faith, we know that the invisible God sets the course of history in the visible creation.

The writer then gives examples of Old Testament figures who did not know of the promises of Christ, yet lived by faith in God. Abraham trusted that he would have a land to inherit, even though he did not know where he was going. While he moved through life, he lived in tents, but he continued, in faith, to look forward to the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, a better country.

Abraham is seen as a prototype of the Christian believer. Most translations say that it was because of Abraham’s faith that he had descendants. The original Greek for Hebrews 11: 11 says:

Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα στεῖραδύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας, ἐπεὶ πιστὸνἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον:

The NRSV translates this:

By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old – and Sarah herself was barren – because he considered him faithful who had promised.

But it would be more accurate to translate this is as:

By faith also, Sarah herself, a barren woman, received the ability to establish a posterity beyond normal age, since she was considered the faithful one who had promised.

So, this reading is actually making a point that the promises of God are fulfilled in the future through the faith in the past of both Abraham and Sarah.

These Hebrew figures in the past died in faith, although they could not know what promises the future held. The author says ‘they confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,’ although in Genesis, it is only Abraham who says he is a stranger and a foreigner.

God is not ashamed of them, quite the opposite; because they had faith in God and trusted in him, God prepared a new city, the new Jerusalem, for them.

‘Be like those who are waiting for their master to return … so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks’ (Luke 12: 36) … ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’ … a window in Saint Mary’s Church, Killarney (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 12: 32-40:

Last Sunday [4 August 2019, Trinity VII], we heard how Christ told the parable of the farmer who, keeping his great harvest for himself, planning to live a life of eating, drinking and pleasure in which he turned his back on God and God’s ways.

Now, in the first part of this reading (verses 32-34), Christ tells his disciples, ‘Do not be afraid,’ and tells them to prepare themselves for the kingdom. They are to avoid being over-attached to worldly possessions, they are to share with the poor and the oppressed, they are to give priority to their relationship with God rather than material wealth, ‘for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (12: 34).

In the second part of this reading (verses 35-40), Christ tells a parable about vigilance and loyalty.

At the time, people expected a great banquet when the Messiah came. Christians see this banquet is with Christ, symbolising our union with him and inaugurating the fulfilment of the kingdom.

The disciples are urged to be vigilant, waiting like people in the night fully dressed and lamps lit, watching out for the return of the Master, ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks at the door. When he returns, he serves the slaves at the banquet.

We are to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man at an unexpected hour, like the owner of a house who is prepared for the unexpected arrival of a thied in the middle of the night.

‘They may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks’ … Holman Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World’

Gospel reflection 1:

One of the earliest images I have of Christ is William Holman Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World’ – it was the first image of Christ I remember being shown to me by my grandmother as a small boy in her house in Cappoquin in West Waterford.

There are two original copies of this famous painting. The first was moved to Keble College, Oxford, and became so popular that Holman Hunt was asked to paint a larger copy. The second version was then sold on condition that it toured the world to preach the Gospel and the purchaser would provide cheap colour reproductions.

After travelling the world, the second version of ‘The Light of the World’ was presented to Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1904. It remains there to this day as ‘a painted text, a sermon on canvas.’

There are countless copies of this painting in vestries and sacristies, rectories and vicarages, and homes throughout the Anglican Communion, and it reproduced in stained-glass windows in many churches.

Despite the popularity of this painting, few people know what the artist was trying to say, or the spiritual depths he searched, as he worked on this painting. Yet it remains one of the great artistic expressions of Anglican spirituality.

Holman Hunt was a founding figure in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – those young artists and poets of the Victorian era who reacted vigorously against ‘the frivolous art of the day.’ They included Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his sister, the poet Christina Rossetti.

Their paintings of religious or romantic subjects were clear and sharply focused. They believed that art is essentially spiritual in character and that mediaeval culture had a spiritual and creative integrity that was lost in later eras.

But the work of the Pre-Raphaelites often caused offence. When ‘Christ in the House of His Parents’ by John Everett Millais was exhibited in 1850, it was condemned as blasphemous. Charles Dickens claimed it made the Holy Family look like alcoholics and slum-dwellers with contorted, absurd poses – and Dickens knew better than most how these sorts of people lived in 19th century London.

William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) received his middle name through a clerical error at his baptism in 1827 in Saint Mary’s Church, Ewell, near Epsom. He was raised in Cheapside in an evangelical family, where he spent much time reading the Bible. He left school at 12, but he persuaded his parents to send him to the Royal Academy Schools to train as a painter.

Holman Hunt began painting ‘The Light of the World’ in 1851. When it was displayed in 1853, it was harshly criticised. But John Ruskin defended Holman Hunt, and curiosity about the painting reached such a pitch that it went on a national tour by demand.

Holman Hunt later recalled: ‘I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good subject.’

To achieve realism, Holman Hunt did much of this painting at night by the light of a lamp in Ewell, where he was baptised.

The work is full of symbolic meaning, with the contrasts between light and dark, and between luxuriant, abundant plants and the thorns and weeds. The painting shows Christ, the Light of the World (John 8: 12), knocking on an overgrown and long-unopened door: ‘Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you, and eat with you, and you with me’ (Revelation 3: 20). But it could equally illustrate this Sunday’s Gospel reading.

One person – the person behind the door – can open that door and let Christ in. But Holman Hunt also wanted to convey the clear message that Christ comes to a sinful world and stands at the door of my heart and your heart, indeed at the door of the heart of the Church and the door of the heart of the World.

In his painting, Christ’s head bears two crowns: the earthly crown of shame and his heavenly crown of glory. The thorny crown is beginning to bud and to blossom. These are not thorns from a hawthorn hedge, or briars from an overgrown garden in England. These are thorns from branches thrown by soldiers in Palestine on a barrack-room brazier, with spikes three to four inches long, twisted into a rough-and-ready crown set firmly on Christ’s head, each sharp spike drawing blood.

Christ’s loving eyes look directly at you wherever you stand to view this painting. But the sadness on Christ’s face is painful. His listening aspect shows that even at the eleventh hour he knocks, hoping for an answer. His hands are nail-pierced, his half-open right hand is raised in blessing, but his feet are turned away, as if he is about to go. For he has been knocking, and he has been left waiting.

For Christ’s royal mantle, Holman Hunt draped his mother’s best tablecloth around his model, but the symbolism was lost on many. Christ who knocks at the door invites us to his table and to the heavenly banquet. The mantle might be a liturgical cope, linking this scene with the eschatological promise in the Eucharist. This cope or mantle is secured by the Urim and Thummim, clasped by the Cross in a symbol of Judaism and Christianity being brought together.

Christ’s robe is seamless, symbolising the unity of the Body of Christ.

Christ’s lantern lights up his features, the doorway, and the way ahead. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119: 105). To those living in darkness, Christ is waiting to enter their lives. The cords of the lamp, twisted around Christ’s wrist, symbolise the intense unity between Christ and the Church.

The shut door has no latch, no handle, no keyhole – it can only be opened from inside. But the ironwork is rusted, for it is a long time since this door has been opened. The door to our hearts has to be opened from within, through repentance and faith, faith that flowers and bears fruit.

The door is overgrown with the dead weeds and trailing ivy that choke up flowers and any fruit. They would not be there had the door been kept open. All the plants have been overtaken by brambles, because this a place to which the gardener has not come.

Above flies a bat, blind and unable to see in the darkness, long associated with ruin and neglect. Below, the fruit has fallen to the ground and some are rotten. Yet the light from the lamp shows this fruit has come from a good tree.

In words that echo many of those ideas that inspired Holman Hunt as he painted ‘The Light of the World,’ Christ says in the Gospel reading next Sunday: ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks’ (Luke 12: 35-36).

When he comes and knocks at your door, will the owner of the house be prepared and ready?

Will Christ be welcome to sit down and eat with you?

Will the fruits of our faith be flowering?

Or will they be crushed and scattered on the ground beneath him?

And how do we know if we are ready and are prepared?

We are told in the reading from the Prophet Isaiah how to be ready. We must ‘… cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow’ (Isaiah 1: 16-17).

And if we are ready, then we shall be prepared to open the door and to invite him in.

We must be found to be neither cold nor hot.

We must be refreshed by the living waters of faith, and fired with zeal for the love of Christ and for his world.

Then can we sit and eat and drink with the Lord at the Heavenly Banquet.

‘For you as yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend’ … a bust of John Donne at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Gospel reflection 2:

Have you ever been burgled?

It is a frightening and a traumatic experience for anyone who has suffered it.

It is one thing to come home from a day’s work, or from a holiday, to find your house has been broken into. It is another to wake up and realise that as you were sleeping a thief has broken into your home, and is downstairs or in the next room.

It happened to us once, in another house we were living in.

It was in the days before mobile ’phones and cordless ’phones. I had been working late the night before and came downstairs to answer a mid-morning call.

Unknown to me, the thieves were in the next room, having already gone through our kitchen. They were in there, having made themselves something to drink, had cut the lead to the video recorder, and were squatting on the floor, armed with the ‘kitchen devil,’ straight from the cutlery drawer, sorting through our other possessions.

They must have remained very quiet. Instead of stealing our goods, they stole out the back door before I ever put the ’phone down or realised what had happened.

It is a frightening experience, and it made us extra vigilant: extra bolts and locks, rethinking the alarm system, and so on. The police knew who the ‘likely suspects’ were, but they could offer no guarantees that we were never going to be broken into again … and again.

It is an experience that was also a reminder of our own vulnerability, and a reminder that what I own and possess is not really mine, and not mine for very long. Finding the ‘kitchen devil’ on the floor was also a sharp reminder that even my life is not mine for very long.

And so, the image of Christ we come across at the end of this Gospel reading, of a thief coming unexpectedly to break into my house, may not be a very comforting one for those of us brought up with the image of ‘Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild.’

And yet it is an image that has echoes in the poetry of some of the great mystical writers in Anglican history. It reminds me, for example, of the words of John Donne (Holy Sonnets XIV):

Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

It is the passionate language of love, of passionate love. But then, of course, Christ demands our passion, our commitment, our love.

Christ’s call to us in this reading, the demands Christ is making on us in this reading, are not just addressed to the Disciples.

Christ is speaking to the disciples in particular, and teaching them about the kingdom (Luke 12: 1). But as he is speaking to them, someone in the crowd – like a heckler – interrupts and asks a question (see Luke 12: 13).

The inner circle of the Disciples must have felt they were being broken into by those on the rims, those in the crowd of outsiders, the crowd or multitude following Christ but who were not among the Disciples.

So Christ’s demands are made not just of some inner circle, for some elite group within the Church, for those who are seen as pious and holy.

This is a demand he makes also to those on the margins, for the sake of those on the margins, that he makes on the whole Church for the sake of those on the margins.

We are to be ever vigilant that we do not keep those on the margins on the outside for too long. They may appear like thieves trying to break in. But when we welcome in those on the outside who we see as thieves, we may find we are welcoming Christ himself.

And in welcoming Christ himself, into our inner sanctum, we are making it a sign of the Kingdom. The Church needs to be place not where we feel secure, but where the outsider feels welcome, where they can feast and taste what the Kingdom of God is like.

What is this Kingdom like?

Where is it?

When shall we find it?

In this Gospel reading, Christ tells the multitude – the multitude who are gathered just like the 5,000 who were gathered earlier on the hillside and fed with the multiplication of five loaves and two fish (Luke 9: 10-17) – that the kingdom is already given.

My favoured translation of the Bible, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), says ‘it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (Luke 12: 32), present tense. But the original Greek says ‘your Father was well pleased with you (or, took pleasure) to freely give the Kingdom to you’ … ὅτι εὐδόκησεν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν δοῦναι ὑμῖντὴν βασιλείαν.

God wanted to do something good for the ‘little flock’ (verse 32), and so freely gave them the kingdom – the reign of God – in which tables are open, status is upended, and all people are treated with dignity. In God’s Kingdom – on earth as it is in heaven – there is no scarcity, there are no class or gender barriers, there are no ‘insiders’ and no ‘outsiders.’

Christ compares that Kingdom of God with a wedding banquet.

When we go to a wedding, we have no control over what happens. In the first case, we have, thankfully, no control over who is getting married to whom. But, secondly, weddings break down all our petty snobberies and all our status-seeking.

Whatever we think of the choice of bride or groom, we have no say at all in who is going to be a new brother-in-law, a new mother-in-law, and even into the future, who is going to be a new cousin to our children’s children.

It’s enough to make you laugh.

Sarah laughed when she was told about her future family (see Genesis 18: 12). There is a hint of that story in the Epistle reading, when the writer reminds us of the faith of Abraham and Sarah (see Hebrews 11: 11, 13-16).

My commentary on the Old Testament reading argues that God’s promise of the Kingdom multiplies beyond all our expectations, even beyond the expectations of modern Bible translators.

We cannot control this. Those who come into the banquet may appear to us like thieves and burglars, brazenly breaking into our own family home, into our own family.

But we may find that the thief is actually Christ trying to break into our hearts to let us know that the kingdom is already here.

The word for master here is actually κύριος (kyrios), Lord, the word used in the Greek Old Testament for the Lord God by Jews who found the use of the name of God offensive and blasphemous. But using the word master for κύριος hides away God’s work, confusing the Lord, the ‘Son of Man’ (ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ho yios tou anthropou), with the ‘master of the house,’ the householder (οἰκοδεσπότης, oikodespótēs).

Think of how the word κύριος (kyrios), Lord, was used by Abraham as he addressed the three visitors to Abraham and Sarah at the Oak of Mamre. The strangers become angels, and the angels come to represent the Triune God.

Had Abraham treated his visitors as thieves, where would we be today? Instead he sets a banquet before the Three, and finds not once but three times that he has an encounter with the living Lord (Genesis 18: 3, 13, 14), the Triune God, an encounter that leads Abraham and Sarah to a faith that ushers in the promises of the Kingdom.

The Lord who arrives for the banquet and stands knocking at the door (Luke 12: 36) in this Gospel reading is the same Christ who says: ‘Behold, I am standing at the door knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come into you and eat with you, and you with me’ (Revelation 3: 20).

He comes in ways we do not expect, and at ‘the unexpected hour,’ the time we ‘think nothing of’ (ἧ ὥρᾳ οὐ δοκεῖτε, he hora ou dokeite, Luke 12: 40) – ‘an hour that seems like nothing.’ He does not bother trying to tear down our puny defences. He sneaks around them instead.

Welcome to the banquet.

Welcome to the kingdom.

Allow the stranger among you, and the stranger within you, to open that door and discover that Christ is not a thief trying to steal what you have, but is the Lord who is trying to batter our hearts and tear down our old barriers so that we can all feast together at the new banquet:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Christ constantly compares the Kingdom of God with a wedding banquet … waiting for a wedding banquet in Amalfi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 12: 32-40:

32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39 ‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit’ (Luke 12: 35) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical Colour: Green.

The Collect of the Day:

Blessed are you, O Lord,
and blessed are those who observe and keep your law:
Help us to seek you with our whole heart,
to delight in your commandments
and to walk in the glorious liberty
given us by your Son, Jesus Christ.

The Collect of the Word:

Almighty and merciful God,
it is by your grace that we live as your people
who offer acceptable service.
Grant that we walk by faith, and not by sight,
in the way that leads to eternal life;
through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that holy things have taken;
may the ears which have heard your word
be deaf to clamour and dispute;
may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit;
may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love
shine with the light of hope;
and may the bodies which have been fed with your body
be refreshed with the fullness of your life;
glory to you for ever.

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit … so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks’ (Luke 12: 35-36) … the open door of a monastery in the mountains in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Suggested Hymns:

Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20:

357, I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath
553, Jesu, lover of my soul
587, Just as I am, without one plea
446, Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands
498, What does the Lord require for praise and offering?

Psalm 50: 1-8, 23-24:

501, Christ is the world’s true light
381, God has spoken – by his prophets
97, Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
131, Lift up your heads, you mighty gates
362, O God beyond all praising
140, The Lord will come and not be slow

Genesis 15: 1-6:

10, All my hope on God is founded
501, Christ is the world’s true light
383, Lord, be thy word my rule
595, Safe in the shadow of the Lord
545, Sing of Eve and sing of Adam
323, The God of Abraham praise

Psalm 33: 12-22:

81, Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided
539, Rejoice, O land, in God thy might

Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16:

326, Blessèd city, heavenly Salem (Christ is made the sure foundation)
461, For all thy saints, O Lord
646, Glorious things of thee are spoken
469, In our day of thanksgiving one psalm let us offer
670, Jerusalem the golden
672, Light’s abode, celestial Salem
658, One more step along the world I go
681, There is a land of pure delight
661, Through the night of doubt and sorrow

Luke 12: 32-40:

643, Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
261, Christ, above all glory seated!
86, Christ is the King! O friends, rejoice
570, Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning
363, O Lord of earth and heaven and sea
142, Wake, O wake with tidings thrilling
145, You servants of the Lord

‘Let the heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge’ (Psalm 50: 6) … sunset at Laytown, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

The hymn suggestions are provided in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling. The hymn numbers refer to the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal (5th edition, Oxford: OUP, 2000)

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return … so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks’ (Luke 12: 35-36) … the open West Door of Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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