Home Service 29th January 2023

Prayers of Approach

Lord, we come before you today, knowing that you do not choose us because we are clever or strong or powerful. Rather, you call us to rely on your wisdom, to fight in your strength, and to boast that you are always there for us. Help us to walk humbly with you each step of the way before us. And in our worship today, give us fresh insight and renewed commitment for that journey of faith. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Source of all wisdom, source of all goodness, we come into your presence today to worship you. May we choose justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.

Creator God, source of all life and all wisdom: we adore you and boast in your love.
Christ crucified, who walked humbly on this earth: we adore you and boast in your love.
Holy Spirit, who leads and guides our steps: we adore you and boast in your love.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we adore you. Amen.

Hymn I, the Lord of sea and sky (MP 857)

Readings: Micah 6.1-8

Matthew 5.1-12


In our reading from Micah God sets out a complaint against his people in which he describes the saving acts involved in the exodus from Egypt. The people respond with an extravagant offer of worship and sacrifice. Micah replies with a down-to-earth reminder of what God requires: not extravagance or any attempt to repay God, but a faithful day-by-day relationship in which our character reflects God’s values.

In the Gospel reading Jesus draws huge crowds to listen to him. He declares God’s blessing with something of a reversal of fortunes on those who are suffering, and also on those who are merciful, pure in heart and peacemakers. To help us to truly ‘walk humbly’ with God, through all that life throws at us, we will need to focus in on what God really requires of us.

Hymn Blest are the pure in heart (Singing the Faith 244) https://youtu.be/Z8h3fvk9wGY


Today’s readings cover very familiar ground. The end of the reading from Micah asking ‘what does the Lord require of you…’ (v.8) is a question that we ask again and again when we see unfairness and injustice all around us. It is used as a cry for us to act, especially in the face of institutional and legal injustice, and a response to those who say Christians should stay out of politics. But how do we reconcile that call to action with the assertion in Matthew’s Gospel that those suffering misfortune and injustice are ‘blessed’?

Even harder to understand is the Good News Bible translation ‘Happy are those who…’ The clue lies in our understanding of ‘the kingdom of heaven’. In the previous chapter as Jesus embarked on his ministry in Galilee just before calling his first disciples he proclaimed ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (Matt 4:17). This sets the agenda and provides the context for what we now call ‘the sermon on the mount’ the first part of which (the Beatitudes) we read today.

It helps too to realise that the Greek word makarios translated ‘blessed’ here means something closer to ‘O the happiness of…’ or even ‘Good for you!’ The ‘blessing’ – the ‘good fortune’ – is in the very situation that is difficult or demanding, rather than in some additional divine gift. It carries the sense of God’s favour towards the action and way of life described. The poor in spirit and those who are persecuted for doing right already possess the kingdom of heaven.

The Beatitudes are so familiar to us however that we forget how radical they are, we stop questioning, and they risk losing their surprising and subversive impact. They are designed to draw attention to the jarring disconnect between the reality Jesus proclaims and way things seem to be. Jesus’ words seem ridiculous, his assertion that the poor are blessed (or ‘happy’) are patently counter-intuitive. Out of context we might hear Jesus’ words as a directive to grieve, to be persecuted, to be poor in spirit, etc. Out of context we might misunderstand his words as glorifying suffering. But in the context of Jesus’ ministry to the dispossessed, persecuted and marginalised these “blessed are…” statements can be read as a mission statement, a vision, a manifesto for the new community.

For these blessings Jesus makes a point of singling out the kinds of people who seem to have no reason for hope in this world, however slight their hope in God. The blessings promise reversal of fortune to those who are suffering, and honour and reward for the virtuous and those who suffer for the sake of righteousness and of Jesus. At the same time, the blessings are voiced in the present tense rather than pointing to the future, re-emphasising Jesus’ earlier message that the kingdom of heaven has come close and is now present in Jesus. And in this we see the fulfilment of Micah’s words, ‘what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.’

Both Micah and Matthew offer their audiences the assurance of God’s blessing even in situations of suffering and hardship. Micah calls for justice, kindness and humility, rather than sacrifice, while Jesus pronounces the blessing of God on the poor in spirit, the meek and the peacemakers. They call upon the people to remain faithful to the way of life laid down by God in the Old Testament, and exemplified by Jesus in the New Testament.

Hymn Make me a channel of your peace (R&S 629)

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God of peace, justice, mercy and love, thank you that in you we inherit the earth. Thank you that we are your children. Thank you that as we mourn, we are comforted. Thank you that as we seek for righteousness, we are filled. Thank you that in you we receive your mercy. Thank you that we can see you through our changed hearts. Thank you that in your upside-down kingdom, we find rest, peace, comfort and assurance of your presence. Thank you, Lord, that in life’s darker times, we are never alone – You are always by our side. Amen.

God of goodness and wisdom, we pray for those struggling to maintain integrity in their lives when the easy option would be to compromise. Grant them courage, peace and strength.

We pray for young people trying to cope with peer pressure and feeling that they have to do things they find uncomfortable. Grant them courage, peace and strength.

We pray for those in positions of power and responsibility, tempted to misuse their influence and seek popularity before integrity. Grant them courage, peace and strength.

And we pray for ourselves and one another, that we would seek the values of your kingdom even when it makes us different.

Grant us courage, peace and strength. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hymn Thou whose almighty word chaos and darkness heard (R&S 38)


Lord, you bless us in so many ways. You love us just as we are. And you also want us to grow closer to you. Show us how we can bless others by putting them and you before ourselves. May we walk humbly with you every day. Amen.


Prayers and other material (adapted) © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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