Weekly Prayer and Reflection

Reflections for the First Sunday after Trinity

Collect

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that with you as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

 

Isaiah 65. 1-9

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’, to a nation that did not call on my name. I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.’ These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long. See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the LORD;

because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions. Thus says the LORD: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it’, so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it, and my servants shall settle there.

 

Psalm 22. 19-28

Pointed Psalm

Be not far from / me, O / Lord :

you are my / strength; / hasten to / help me.

Deliver my soul / from the / sword :

my poor life / from the / power of the / dog.

Save me from the / lion’s / mouth :

from the horns of wild oxen.

/ You have / answered / me!

I will tell of your / name to my / people :

in the midst of the congre/gation / will I / praise you.

Praise the Lord, / you that / fear him :

O seed of Jacob, glorify him;

stand in awe of / him, O / seed of / Israel.

For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor;

neither has he hidden his / face / from them :

but when they / cried to / him he / heard them.

From you comes my praise in the great / congre/gation :

I will perform my vows

in the / presence of / those that / fear you.

The poor shall eat / and be / satisfied :

those who seek the Lord shall praise him;

their / hearts shall / live for / ever.

All the ends of the earth shall remember and / turn to the / Lord :

and all the families of the / nations shall / bow be/fore him.

For the kingdom / is the / Lord’s :

and he / rules / over the / nations.

 

Galatians 3. 23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

 

Luke 8. 26-39

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’ – for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

 

Reflection

I’m sure we’ve all noticed how some illnesses have become labels to describe people. Think of the miracles in the New Testament where Jesus heals lepers. The illness has become someone’s name. When people  first meet someone, they use their names, not their labels. People don’t say, ‘Good morning, I’m a diabetic,’ they say, ‘Good morning, I’m Joe Bloggs.’ It’s very easy for us to make the mistake where we consider people by labels about them which have come from other people.  Instead of using labels, there is now an effort for people to describe others as people living with a particular illness, without using words such as ‘someone who suffers with something…’

In our reading today from the Gospel according to St Luke, the man in the story has been labelled, although he already had a name. Jesus’ question is very simple, ‘What is your name?’ The man answers ‘Legion,’ because many demons have gone into him. The man has adopted the description of his condition as his name. The thing that is interesting in the story is the way that Jesus speaks to the man as an individual and to the demons separately from each other. There are many details in this story in comparison to other stories in the Gospels where Jesus heals people. There may be many details because the story is very complex, and we need to join different details in order to understand the story well. The message of the detail where Jesus asked the man what his name is was to show how Jesus treats the man as an individual, and not as his label. We can compare the naked man with the label ‘Legion’ and the man fully clothed and in his right mind. When we have labels about people who are different from each other, people are stripped of their identity. Identity is more than just health. What is the point of us being restored from a disease to health if we are unable to return to the things we have before our health? That is why Jesus insists that he returns home for others to see the difference in him.

Aside from how labels affect how people perceive other people, as I think about this story, I ask myself, ‘Who is completely mad in this story? Legion or the community where he lived?’ They don’t know how to look after the man, with the result that he gets worse. They are seeking solutions that don’t work, with the result that his community can’t give him a home. When people see that the man has been restored to good health, instead of welcoming Jesus, they want Jesus to leave them. They are also the people who are completely mad, but the question in front of them is this: Do they want to keep being mad or do they want to get better? That is one way for us to explain the importance of the pigs in the story, because soundness of mind is contrasted with people’s property. The well-being of people becomes second for the people of the country of the Gerasenes. It is not an individual who is completely mad here, but all the people of the country. It is interesting for us to see how Jesus, who was able to calm the storms on the Sea of Galilee and cast out a legion of demons from an individual decides to return to the other side of the sea because he knows that the attitude of the people means that he is unable to achieve anything great there.

Having said this, Jesus has not abandoned the people of the country of the Gerasenes. The man who was cured has been sent back to them as some kind of witness, if you like. As we read the details at the end of the story, it is clear that the Evangelists have included this story in order to encourage witness to Jesus’ work in people’s lives among Christians. The thing that comes to mind thinking about the witness of only one man is what Jesus said about leaven which can change the whole nature of something. Jesus described the Kingdom of God as leaven, and by the healing of man, people were able to see the power of God’s Kingdom at work. There is no harm for us to experience things that are different from what usually happens; to see something from a perspective other than the one that is usually in our sight. Perhaps that is how the seeds of God’s Kingdom are planted in our lives as individuals and communities. The details of today’s story help us to see how there are different ways for us to understand sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom: There are actions, similar to Jesus’ actions in today’s story, particularly actions that seek to restore wholeness to people’s lives. There is sharing the word of the good news, is similar to Jesus’ mission in the Gospels, where we aim to share knowledge and understanding about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. However, there is explaining to others, not knowledge and understanding about Jesus and the Christian faith, but what God has done for us as individuals.

One of the reasons why there is so much detail in today’s story is to clearly show the difference between the ill health of the man, which was real, and the fact that he had been possessed by demons, which was also the case, in my opinion. At first, both things seem the same: It’s impossible for other people to live with the man, and he’s a danger to himself. Perhaps one reason why people dismiss the issue of evil is the fact that the power of evil is not seen of all, but the power of evil is reflected or included in other things that then make the evil visible. If he was only mentally ill, there is no explanation as to why the pigs enter the sea. The pigs are driven by the power of evil into the sea. He does not come to Jesus in his right mind, but because of the fears of the demons because Jesu is more powerful than them. The man or pigs are not evil themselves, but they become instruments of evil. Evil can drive other things, which are not bad in themselves, but they become instruments of evil. Just because something is wrong doesn’t mean it’s evil. Evil saw an opportunity in the man’s mental illness in order to achieve something. Evil can use things that have gone wrong for them to get worse.

Here, we return to the question that asks, ‘who is completely mad?’ The man was not the only one in the story but all the people, as I said. That is the warning of today’s story to us: Our labels for people and things that are different from us can go further than being wrong, they can become evil without us realizing. When everyone has been misled, this can go further than everyone thinking the wrong things.  There is a risk that everyone starts doing things that are evil without realizing either.

 

Intercessions

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

 

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, you promised through your Son Jesus Christ to hear us when we pray in faith.

 

Strengthen John our Bishop and all your Church in the service of Christ. In the Anglican Communion we pray for the Episcopal Church of South Sudan. In our Diocese, we pray for the Covenanted Churches in Wales, for us to grow in unity. May those who confess your name be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

In our Ministry Area, we pray for everyone who uses our Church Halls for different reasons, giving thanks for the things that bring people together.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

Bless and guide Elizabeth our Queen; give wisdom to all in authority; and direct this and every nation in the ways of justice and peace. We pray for the work of the British Commonwealth. We pray for freedom for the people of Ukraine. May we honour one another and seek the common good.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

Help us to appreciate the roots of our identity and things which are important to us in the present in order to acknowledge our diversity as people and communities.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind or spirit. We pray for those with acute mental health needs and for those who care for them. Give them courage and hope in their troubles and bring them the joy of your salvation.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

Give grace to us, our families and friends and to all our neighbours. Show us the ways that we can improve the life of our communities. May we serve Christ in one another, and love as he loves us.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

Hear us as we remember those who have died in the faith of Christ. Give your light to those who live in the shadow of death. According to your promises, grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

Rejoicing in the fellowship of Saint David, and of all your saints, we commend ourselves and the whole creation to your unfailing love.

 

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Diocesan Vision Prayer

Father, we hold before you our family in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon and we open our hearts and minds to your Spirit:

Bless us as we gather in your name;

Guide us as we grow into the likeness of your Son;

Lead us by your Spirit to go out and make disciples of others.

God of our journeying, be our way and our truth and our life; our beginning and our end. We pray through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Concluding Prayer

Eternal Father, we thank you for nourishing us with your Word: may our life together strengthen us in faith, build us up in hope, and help us grow in love; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.