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Weekly worship

Sermon pointers and prayers for putting social justice at the heart of your church service each week.
Sunday 23 July

Spot the difference

Gen. 28:10-19      Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43      Romans 8:12-25

Many children love to play a game of ‘Spot the difference’ but even the best of them would find some difficulty in telling what was wheat or weed in the parable for today. Bearded Darnel, or the ‘cheat-wheat’ Jesus mentions, looks identical to the real thing until it finally bears seeds. And all the time it’s growing, the roots are intertwined with the genuine crop, making it impossible to root out without damaging the good wheat. Jesus intends this as a picture of evil and one that the parable suggests has been deliberately sown by an enemy for their own advantage.

The servants want to rip it up, keep their field pure and unblemished, but the master knows this cannot be done, or at least not yet. Here Jesus acknowledges the necessity of getting rid of what is wrong in the world, but also some of the difficulties in doing so. Such an approach has been a challenge to the Christians down through the ages. There has been a tendency for the church to follow the servant and think they know the difference between the genuine disciple and the false pretender, moving quickly to exclude the latter to ensure the piety of the former. But such actions have not always worked out so well.

Equally supporters of Christian Aid might prefer their work for justice to be simple and clear cut. Well, we might, of course, rightfully ask who today sows seeds of injustice amidst the most vulnerable of the world, purely for their own advantage. But perhaps we are too quick to spot the difference between the ‘goodies and the baddies’ of global poverty and climate change, naming and shaming the obvious ‘cheat-wheats’ of tax injustice. And we might wonder with confusion why some injustices and evils are given time to flourish.

For sure, there are key moments in the cycle of sowing and harvest when the fruit their action becomes finally clear. At such times there ought to be a rooting out of what sucks the life from individuals and communities around the world. But equally there may be times for a greater wisdom that says: ‘Let them grow together for now, we cannot always tell what might yet be helpful, to tear this out right now, would do more damage than good.’ Such patience ought not to be understood as apathy or the avoidance of conflict. It is hard won and it’s practiced in the certain knowledge of a final reckoning. This will be when the powers of evil will be overcome, the ‘cheat-wheats’ rooted out, when Jacob’s vision of a stairway brings the blessings of all heaven to the earth.

For those whose lives are currently frustrated by how of poverty and injustice continue to be sown and flourish, these biblical passages affirm that there is a hope of glory yet to come. This is the time noted by St Paul, when the differences will be there for all to spot. When the children of God are revealed and all creation is finally liberated from this bondage to decay.

 


Merciful God,

forgive us when are too quick

to label others good or bad

when we ourselves are both wheat and weed.

Give us patience amidst the injustices of today

and yet sustain our vision for a world transformed for good tomorrow.

Amen.  


Points for prayer

Tuesday 18 July was Nelson Mandela Day. Give thanks for Mandela’s inspirational legacy.

  • Pray for South Africa and the challenges of inequality that it still faces.
  • Pray for the Christian Aid South Africa country manager, Julie Meighan, and for Gerhard Buttner who is covering her maternity leave.
  • Pray for effective joint work with ACT Alliance partners in South Africa, that together we can address challenges of evictions, inadequate shelter and housing, lack of clean water, sanitation or electricity, and land grabbing.
  • Pray for Christian Aid partner Bench Marks Foundation as it seeks to hold businesses to account for their corporate social responsibility to local communities. For example, they are raising awareness of the health risks presented by the large, unprotected mine dumps near Soweto, Johannesburg.

May we burst into song

with the mountains and hills,

into a protest song

for peace and prosperity for all in South Africa.

Amen.

A Prayer for Nelson Mandela Day

God of all life,
we give thanks with our whole hearts
for the life of Nelson Mandela,
who served his people faithfully,
spoke freedom from a prison cell,
brought unity out of division
and hope out of despair.
Stand firm and see what the Lord can do.

We give thanks for his sacrificial commitment to justice,
for his unswerving opposition to the evil of apartheid,
for his wise leadership in government,
for his modelling of costly truth and reconciliation.
Stand firm and see what the Lord can do.

We give thanks for the legacy of his leadership,
a prophetic voice that cried in the wilderness,
a shining light to the young,
a father to his nation,
a wellspring of humour and joy.
Stand firm and see what the Lord can do.

We ask for the courage,
tenacity and perseverance
to stand as firm as Mandela did
in the struggle against injustice
and for the discernment to see
what you are doing and
to join you there.

Amen.

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