Prayers of Approach
God of integrity, we come to you, may your word sink deep into our hearts today and move us. May it leave its mark on our minds and inspire us. May it imprint your desires into our actions and guide us. May it instil in us a sense of belonging to that which is true and beautiful, so that we draw others closer to you and they too feel a sense of belonging.
Living God, you are the one we look to, you are the one we would follow, you are the one we adore. Help us, we pray, to become more like your Son, to display more clearly the marks of your love, to give more generously wherever we can, and to imprint on our world the message of your salvation.
Creator God, we worship you, and we praise you for we are wonderfully made. For the living word of your love, we praise you. For the cross where Christ took on our sin, we praise you. For the empty tomb where he rose and overcame death, we praise you. For your holy spirit that emboldened your first disciples, we praise you. And for giving us the privilege of bearing your mark of belonging, we praise you – today, tomorrow and always. Amen.
Hymn Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the king of creation (R&S 74)
Readings: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Religious leaders pose challenging questions to Jesus, testing his position against civil and Jewish Law. Together with the Herodians they seek to entrap Jesus with a question about allegiance to the emperor and to God. Jesus counters with a carefully worded answer: give to each what they are due. The leaders are amazed at his teaching and leave him alone – for now. Jesus’ response to those leaders challenges us about our responses to giving and stewardship as we explore what it means to be a child of God.
In Thessalonica Caesar was openly worshipped as divine and his head appeared on local coins. Now, though, their loyalty to Jesus as Lord has allowed rich resources to be released and Paul commends the Thessalonians as an example of a community trading in kingdom currency with more than enough social and spiritual capital to share.
Hymn Seek ye first the kingdom of God (R&S 512)
Have you found any of the new King Charles 50 pence pieces in your change yet? If you have what similarities and what differences have you noticed to and from previous coins? The first difference of course is that King Charles faces the opposite way from his mother Queen Elizabeth – to the left instead of right. Apart from that the obverse (heads side) of the first King Charles coin issued in 2022 is very much like before with the portrait surrounded by the inscription Charles III*DG*REX*FD and the amount 50 PENCE (although future coins will have the year on the front and the amount on the back). The letters stand for Dei Gratia, (by the grace of God), Fidei Defensor, (defender of the faith), and REX means King. The reverse of the coins will reflect King Charles’ passion for conservation and nature and will feature British plants and animals.
Roman coins were very similar. The emperor’s head would appear on one side with his name and sometimes an inscription or title, and a god, animal or other symbol with which he wanted to be identified on the other. They might have included the goddess of victory or Minerva Pacifera, bringer of peace, and titles such as ‘saviour’ and ‘son of god’. To religious Jews they were therefore blasphemous. The coin which Jesus was handed probably featured the Emperor Tiberius who reigned from 14-37 AD. A few coins exist from Thessalonica showing the head of Cabirus, a local god whose cult was strong in the city. Different systems of coinage coexisted and were used in different contexts.
A denarius in Jesus’ day was worth about a day’s wages for an unskilled labourer. Roman taxation, paid in Roman coinage, was a heavy burden. Many Jews objected on religious grounds to paying taxes to the Romans. Objection indicated
extreme religious commitment. Foreign tax, paid with foreign coins, embodied everything the Jews resented and Jesus could have stirred them up to angry action. Jesus however refuses to take the easy route of opposing Rome and instead offers ingenious and wise advice: pay the powers of this world with money, but give your whole life to the true God. He accepts the needs of government, but shifts the balance of discernment onto the citizenship of God’s kingdom rather than Jewish nationalism. What would God’s coinage look like? We can’t imagine God’s face, but we could list some of God’s qualities…love, gentleness, generosity, truth, humility, self-emptying. This is kingdom currency – what we owe to God: Jesus’ answer to the question in the Gospel.
The Christian currency shared among the Thessalonians was the currency of relationship, a currency of intrinsic value. Their relationship with God, through Jesus, infused not only their ‘personal’ lives, but the whole character and dynamics of their community. It is in accord with Jesus’ advice to pay the powers of this world with money, but to give our lives to God: the currency of the kingdom of God is the way we live our lives. Are we generous with our kingdom currency, inviting God’s guidance in making the choices that shape the little and the big things in our lives?
Hymn Lord Jesus Christ you have come to us (R&S 373)
Prayers of Intercession
We bring to you those who are sick at home and in hospital; those who wait for test results and those who wait for death; those who offer comfort and healing and those who watch and pray. All are your children: we offer your own to you.
We bring you Israeli and Palestinian; policy maker and citizen; soldier and civilian. All are your children: we offer your own to you.
We bring to you all who worship you; those in church and chapel; those in temple and mosque; those in synagogue and meeting house. All are your children: we offer your own to you.
We bring to you Labour and Conservative; Liberal Democrat and Nationalist; Independent and Party Member. All are your children: we offer your own to you.
We bring to you all who grieve; Those whose loss is recent and those for whom it is a time of anniversary. We bring those who face the unenviable choice of food or fuel. We bring to you those who weep because they do not know what to do, and those who weep because they know exactly what the right way forward is. All are your children: we offer your own to you.
We bring ourselves to you; joyful and tearful; anxious and confident; willing and reluctant. All are your children: We offer your own to you.
Loving God we bring you your children whatever their age; whatever their background; whatever their gender. We come in the knowledge that you love and care for each one; that you are aware of our needs and opportunities; that you will offer comfort and challenge; that you will hear our prayer and respond.
Thank you that we are yours. We offer our prayers, spoken, thought and felt, in the name of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. Amen.
Hymn Lord for the years your love has kept and guided (R&S 603)
Lord, this day and every day, bless us with love: may we touch many lives for you by our living, by allowing your love to flow in and through us, reaching all among whom we live, and work.
May we be generous with our time and resources, and may you be glorified in all we do. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.