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Weekly worship: Sunday 21 October

Points for sermons and prayers for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost.

Father Alberto Franco, a leading member of our partner organisation the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP).

Father Alberto at Las Camelias humanitarian zone in Colombia. He works with communities of people who have witnessed conflict, but are now seeking the right to return to their land.

Colombia is a land of great inequality and division. Christian Aid has worked there for more than 30 years, with a particular focus on building peace and helping communities claim their rights. Here is Father Alberto Franco, a leading member of our partner organisation the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace.

His work empowering communities affected by conflict has made him the target of death threats.It is a very real threat: in the first eight months of 2018, at least 90 human rights defenders were killed - nine in four days in the first week of July.

Mark 10:35-45

In the gospel passage, James and John ask for seats near Jesus, in glory. We can imagine positions of great power – the ability to tweet IN CAPITAL LETTERS, and have people listen.

Jesus promises them instead the cup that he drinks, and the baptism by which he is baptised. We interpret that as sharing not just in his life but in his suffering. Sharing in the life that Jesus brings means serving others. It is full of joy – look at the smile on Fr Alberto’s face. But it can also mean putting yourself at risk, even giving your life for many, following Jesus. Through Christian Aid, we can stand alongside such servant-leaders

Isaiah 53: 4-13

The Isaiah text has come to be known as the Suffering Servant. Here is a person struck down unjustly, bruised and suffering. The suffering arises from the iniquities of us all. We can think of the women and men that Fr Alberto serves – the peasants whose lives are weakened by their pitiful allocation of land, in a world where we have so much. They are threatened by the violence of the state, powerful landlords, and bandits. That does not feel like our iniquity – but we recall how our countries’ demand for palm oil products underpinned the displacement of peasant communities from the land in Colombia.

Isaiah gives an image of “a suffering human transcending their own situation to serve as a beacon of hope for others to come” (as Juliana Claasens puts it at www.workingpreacher.org). This goes further than seeing a parallel with the general mass of Colombia’s peasantry. Christians think of Jesus on the cross. Yet, in the face of a Colombian woman determinedly keeping going, in solidarity with her neighbours, we can see somebody who is drinking the cup that Jesus drinks, and living the baptism that Jesus is baptised with.

This week’s pointers have been provided by Paul Spray as part of a group of Methodist local preachers in the Oxford circuit.

Prayer

God give strength
to those who are passed over
for the necessities of life.
For you have always chosen
those who are called nothing,
of no account,
officially not there –
and with them
fashioned your will for our world.

From Janet Morley, Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, Dear Life: praying through the year with Christian Aid

Pointers for prayer

Emergencies: Pray for all those trying to rebuild their lives after storms and hurricanes this season.

Partners: Give thanks for our partner KORAL working to help communities rebuild their lives after Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.

Give thanks for all those who gave, took action and prayed during Christian Aid Week 2018. Continue to pray for all who are displaced because of past disasters and pray for effective preparation and reducing risk in the work our partners do.

Pray for the Christian Aid Week team who plan and prepare the resources each year. Pray for abundant creativity, deep wisdom and clear discernment as they plan for the flourishing of Christian Aid Week.

October is Black History Month. Give thanks for the contributions that African and Caribbean communities make to societies worldwide.

More pointers are available from the Christian Aid prayer diary.