LITURGY

Twenty-Sixth Sunday Year A

cross


WORD OF GOD
When the sinner has chosen
to renounce all his previous sins,
he shall certainly live;
he shall not die.
(Ezekiel 18:28)

WORDS FOR WORSHIP
God the Father shows the path to those who stray. May he lead you into the ways of goodness and truth.
Amen.
Jesus Christ did not cling to his equality with God. May he teach you humility and grant you repentance of heart.
Amen.
God the Holy Spirit is the source of all wisdom. May he allow you to see clearly the course that God has marked out for you and support you as you try to journey in truth.
Amen.
And may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, come down upon you and remain with you always.
Amen.

WORD FOR TODAY
Sometimes we know that we have chosen a course of action that is wrong, but we find it hard to give it up. Today we are told that it’s never too late to turn back from a foolish pattern of behaviour, from habits which have become ingrained. God overlooks our stubbornness when we take the smallest step to answer his voice.

FAITH IN FOCUS: ONE STRIKE AND YOU’RE OUT?
Over the past few weeks St Matthew, aided and abetted by the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, has been hammering home one of the most basic points of the Good News. The thrust of his teaching has been that God is so utterly different from us that we cannot reduce him to our petty ways of thinking and acting. For God is kindness itself.
And nowhere is this more obvious than in the area of judgement and forgiveness. Our legal and societal codes are loath to give people the benefit of the doubt. Second chances are few and far between. Lock them up and throw away the key is the order of the day when we find people guilty of transgressing our system of justice.
What Jesus shows is an extraordinary willingness to go the extra mile with those whose lives clearly contradict the mores of the time. And so the gospel pages show him much more at ease with sinners and outcasts than with lawyers and religious leaders.
We know what mercy is, but we often forget that God is pure mercy. Our idea of mercy is only a shadow of God’s. That is because God so loves us that the last thing he ever wants is for us to be condemned and put outside the bounds of reconciliation. Whereas we feel civilised when we operate a three strikes and you’re out system, God only feels civilised when he is still offering a person the chance to change their mind and return to the straight and narrow.
That’s why God never gives up on us. God is not lenient with crime and sin, but he is unconditionally lenient with sinners. The arrogance of those in society who would claim to be upright citizens when in their hearts they are only too aware of their own deceit is what angers Jesus. When people recognise their transgressions and genuinely turn to God they are always assured of a welcome. But those who have no time for giving people second chances Jesus calls hypocrites. Those you consider to be the scum of the earth, he says, will make it to heaven before you.

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