Thursday 7 April: Lent 2011

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You are encouraged to pray the prayer, pause, read the scripture, pause, read the reflection, and then pray the prayer again.

The Breastplate Prayer

May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder,
The coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head,
The sign of Christ be on this forehead,
The hearing of the Holy Spirit be in these ears,
The smelling of the Holy Spirit in this nose.
The vision that the people of heaven have be in these eyes,
The speech of the people of heaven in this mouth,
The work of the Church of God in these hands
The good of God and of neighbour in these feet.
May God dwell in this heart,
And this person belong entirely to God the Father.

‘May the work of the Church of God be in these hands’

Romans 16

1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.

   Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.

9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.

   Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.

11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.

   Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.

   Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.

15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

   All the churches of Christ send greetings.

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

   The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

   Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings. [24]

25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Our early Christian brothers and sisters lived in a world where ‘being church; was expressed in small groups of people living communally. It was a world of small, local Christian communities, bound together not by the institutions and protocols, but by the stuff of soul-friendship and a shared spiritual journey.

Both Paul, in Ephesians and Colossians, and Peter, in his letter, show how the Kingdom of God was to come through the church of Jesus Christ. Particular relationships are key to making that vision a reality. These relationships are not the hierarchical or institutional but the relationships of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. The Household of God is most authentic when it is experienced in households of God’s people.

Their vision in turn has its roots in the Jewish way of worship. Passover, Sabbath, teaching and prayer centres upon households of faith. Words meaning home and hearth, affection and family, brotherhood, sisterhood and soul-friendship; to our Christian forbearers these were the words that expressed their way of Church.

Church programmes today often segregate the ages and genders, fragmenting the community of the family: adults into groups for adults, children into Sunday schools, and young people into youth groups. Perhaps the more primitive church of previous centuries shows us a better way.

Today as I speak this line of prayer, I will pray for the Church; congregation; brothers and sisters; and family. But to fully enter this prayer means to keep in mind before anything else the church of my own hearth and household, the church of my soul friends.

Holding them in my heart I will pray: ‘Let the work of the Church of God be in these hands.’