Let us ask for God’s help to understand his word. Let us pray.
Gracious God, when we read the stories in our Bible we do not always grasp their real meanings. In Jesus’ name we ask that your Spirit will guide us to a clearer understanding, and help us to apply your word to our lives today.
Our reading this morning is from the New Testament, Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 17 and verses 24 to 27. If you are using the pew Bibles you can find this on page 27 in the New Testament section.
Matthew’s Gospel tells us that just before this story which is known as “The Temple Tax” Jesus and the disciples had gathered in Galilee, and Jesus had again told the disciples that he would be betrayed. The events in our reading take place in Capernaum which in biblical times was an important village for trading and for fishing on the Sea of Galilee. It was a busy place, and is estimated to have had about 1500 inhabitants.
Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 17 and verses 24 to 27.
24 When Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked, "Does your teacher pay the Temple tax?"
25 "Of course," Peter answered. When Peter went into the house, Jesus spoke up first, "Simon, what is your opinion? Who pays duties or taxes to the kings of this world? The citizens of the country or the foreigners?"
26 "The foreigners," answered Peter. "Well, then," replied Jesus, "that means that the citizens don't have to pay.
Now let us all, including those of you at home who are listening to the CD, come before God in prayer. Let us all pray:
Great and wonderful God, the creator and sustainer of life, you alone are worthy of our praise. You are far beyond anything that we humans can imagine or visualise. You have made us, and you have given us the curiosity to want to explore your creation. As we learn more and more, we see that everything is indeed marvellous. You have arranged everything, and we are in awe of you.
Merciful God, we confess that we continually get things wrong.
We often put ourselves first, and we let our own comfort and convenience be more important to us than making proper use of your generous gifts. We are possessive of what we have, and we are reluctant to use our talents, our goods or our money to help those who are less fortunate. Too readily we forget the plight of those who live in poverty, and we ignore the impact of our actions on them.
We fear what others may think, or say, and we let this prevent us from doing what we know we should, and we do things that we know to be wrong simply in order to be part of the crowd.
We do not always treat strangers, or even our own family and friends, in the way that we should. We have not tried to overcome our petty disagreements, and we have not offered our help to others when we could have done so
Forgive us Lord for all our many failures to obey you, and to follow in your ways. Give us the wisdom to know what we ought to do, when we ought to do it, and may we have the strength and courage to do what is right, irrespective of what others may think or say.
Lord, help us to remember that all people are equally valuable in your sight.
Loving God, we praise and thank you for all the amazing things that you have given us. We especially thank you for Jesus, who through his teaching and example, showed us that you do not give us what we really deserve, but that you are always ready to listen to us, to forgive us, and to let us have a fresh start.
Generous God, you have given us the ability to develop ways of using the natural resources that you have provided for us, so that we can produce food, make many forms of shelter, communicate around the world, and have the ability to travel.
Thank you for all these wonderful things. Lord, help us to use all your gifts wisely, and to share them with others.
We thank you also for the many people in our lives, not only for our family and friends, but also for all the strangers who do many things for the benefit of others. We sometimes forget about all the folk whose work is not visible to most of us, those who are in support roles, and in the background, but whose efforts are equally vital.
We do not know their names Lord, but you do. We thank you for them. Bless them, support them in their difficult and sometimes tedious work, and give them the strength and determination to continue. May they know that they are making a valuable contribution, and that their efforts are appreciated.
Merciful God, there are so many terrible things happening in our world that we can become despondent. Every day we hear news of natural disasters, conflicts, atrocities and crimes. The tide of bad news seems to be relentless, and we often feel powerless. We forget that good news is rarely publicised, and that there are many organisations and people who are working to make things better. Lord, may we remember that we all have our parts to play, by supporting and encouraging the organisations, and the people, who are working for good, so that evil will eventually be defeated.
Compassionate God, we know that there are many people who are grieving, or who are suffering from illness or injury. You know all those who need your help, and we ask that your Spirit will bring peace, healing and comfort to all who are finding life difficult.
Remind us that we are your hands, and that we should do our best to show your love and care to all people everywhere. Lord, we ask that when the need arises, that your Spirit will prompt us to offer whatever help we can, and that we do not let our fear of rejection stop us from doing what we know to be right.
We offer our prayer in the name of Jesus, who taught his followers to pray:
Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen