Home Service for Sunday 11th July 2021

Prayers of Approach  

As we come together today, 
let us be mindful of our words and actions 
and the impact they have on those around us. 
Let us seek God’s wisdom and love 
to guide us in all that we seek to do, 
today and in days to come. 

Almighty God, we praise you. 
We come to worship you, 
safe in the knowledge that you are in control. 

Show us how to use power wisely. 
Help us, as we worship together, 
to learn more of your ways, 
to understand that our actions have consequences, 
and to seek your wisdom in making decisions 
that may impact on others. 

This we ask, in Jesus name, 
Amen.  

Music: Lord of all hopefulness (R&S 531) 

Readings: Amos 7:7-15  Mark 6:14-29 

Introduction 

The reading from Amos explores something of the nature of the prophet and of prophecy. It gives us some insight into how Herod viewed John the Baptist and the mixed feelings which John’s teaching evoked. John the Baptist has criticised Herod’s wife, Herodias. Therefore, she becomes angry and wants to kill John. Although Herod is enraged too, he respects John and knows that he is a holy man. At a party, Herod promises his stepdaughter anything she wants, and on her mother’s advice she asks for the head of John the Baptist. Although Herod doesn’t want to kill John, he has to keep a promise made in front of his guests. 

Music: God has spoken by his prophets (MP 831) 

Sermon/Reflection 

Amos was quite a typical Old Testament prophet, chosen by God to speak his word to the people of Israel. As with other prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and more, Amos didn’t choose to be a prophet, or where to go to prophesy. He came from the southern kingdom of Judah but was sent by God to the northern kingdom of Israel, and when challenged by Amaziah, the priest of the national shrine at Bethel, to go and prophesy in his own country protested that he was ‘not a prophet, nor one of the sons of the prophets’, (in other words not a professional prophet), but had been sent by God. 

It’s a sentiment that many ministers today would share. Most of us do not simply choose to become a minister as a career choice, it isn’t going to give us a large salary and no longer gives us great power and influence. It is a call from God that we feel compelled to answer. This hasn’t always been so. There was a time when ‘entering the Church’ was a path to riches and power especially for the younger sons of gentlemen or minor nobles who otherwise wouldn’t have had much of an inheritance to look forward to. And it wasn’t much different in Amos time. Although the priesthood was limited to those who were descended from Moses’ brother, Aaron, there were professional ‘guilds’ of prophets and it is these ‘sons of prophets’ to which Amos declares he does not belong. 

‘I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore-fig trees’, he says, ‘but the Lord took me from the flock and said, “Go prophesy to my people, Israel.” (Amos 7:14). It is to this tradition of prophesy which John the Baptist belongs. Although he belonged to a priestly family, John was chosen by God before his birth to exercise the type of Old Testament prophetic ministry that hadn’t been seen for hundreds of years. He was set apart from the people, living in the wilderness, dressing in a way reminiscent of Elijah, condemning injustice and hypocrisy, and preaching repentance and a turning back to God just as the prophets of old had done. 

Both the passage from Amos and the Gospel account of John’s execution portray the worldly message that religion should keep out of politics. God however has other ideas and his servants cannot remain silent. Amos was critical of international and domestic policies, John was criticising the personal morality of the royal court. It was John’s preaching against the excesses of Herod’s court and in particular his condemnation of Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias, which was against Jewish law, that discomfited and enraged Herod. Despite Herod’s respect for John and his recognition that he was a holy man, he couldn’t allow John to publicly criticise and undermine his authority, but nor could he bring himself to have John killed, so he simply had him arrested and jailed. 

Herodias had no such scruples. As long as John lived her position was threatened. Herod liked to talk with John and there was always the danger that he might listen to him and divorce her. Herod was a weak man, ruled by his emotions and desires of the moment, making grand gestures and impulsive decisions. Such people cannot afford to lose face so when he promised to give Herodias’s daughter whatever she asked for after she had danced at his banquet he could not back down and admit he had made a mistake when, prompted by Herodias, she asked for John’s head. 

Politicians and leaders today face similar problems. It is difficult to admit to mistakes and a change of mind may make them look weak and indecisive. It takes courage to speak out against injustice and immorality, or even just poor policy and decision making. The world still needs prophets such as Amos and John to speak ‘truth to power’ and just like the prophets of old they are often unlikely people. Who are today’s prophets? Can we number ourselves among them? 

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

Prayers of Intercession 

Almighty God, 
we thank you for never giving up on us, 
even when we let you down. 
Thank you for your faithfulness and love. 
Thank you that your actions are always noble and selfless, drawing us in to sit beside you. 
Thank you that you love us even we get it wrong. 
Thank you that you use people like Amos and John the Baptist to bring many people to you –  help us to do the same.

As we give thanks we pray for those who have little to be thankful for. 

We pray for children who are adopted or fostered, 
that they will find the love and security they need. 
Bless them, good Lord. 
 
We pray for social workers and organisations 
that work to bring families together. 
May love and deep understanding guide their steps. 
Bless them, good Lord. 
 
We pray for parents who have 
difficult choices to make for their families. 
Be in their thoughts and decision-making. 
Bless them, good Lord. 
 
We pray for those who 
have yet to find their purpose in life, 
or those who live each day without hope. 
Bless them, good Lord. 
 
Heavenly Father, we thank you so much 
that we have been chosen by you. 
May our lives be worthy of our calling. 
Bless us, good Lord. 
Amen. 

Music: Lord, you give the great commission (R&S 580) 

Blessing. 

Heavenly Father, 
As we leave this place, 
may we be aware of our words and actions. 
May the Holy Spirit guide us, 
so that what we say and what we do 
builds up your kingdom, 
and breaks down barriers. 
 

As we return to the world 
may your blessing go with us, 
and remain with us always. 

Amen. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.