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Unforgiving Servant

Resources 24th Ordinary – 17 September 2023

Unforgiving Servant

Let us pray (in silence) [that we may love God in our hearts and in our actions]


Lord, [or God of compassion]
direct our hearts
by the action of your mercy,
for without your help
we cannot please you;
through Jesus Christ
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The above ancient prayer is used by Roman Catholics and Episcopalians/Anglicans and others. It has a long, shared history which you can find here with commentary and reflection: Ordinary 24, or below. The above is my rendering in my Book of Prayers in Common.

Lectionary Readings Introduction

This site provides something different: many sites and books provide a brief summary of the reading – so that people read out or have in their pew sheet an outline of what they are about to hear. They are told beforehand what to expect. Does this not limit what they hear the Spirit address them? This site provides something different – often one cannot appreciate what is being read because there is no context provided. This site provides the context, the frame of the reading about to be heard. It could be used as an introduction, printed on a pew sheet (acknowledged, of course), or adapted in other ways.

Exodus 14:19-31

This story clearly combines a naturalistic version with a driving east wind, and a miraculous version – with walls of water on either side. Mesopotamian kings boasted that their enemies, seeing their divine face, would be terrified. This image may lie behind the LORD looking down upon the Egyptian army.

Genesis 50:15-21

There is a confusing conflation of traditions in the framing story of the death of Joseph’s father, Israel. Joseph is clearly of high status in Egypt and his father is treated accordingly in death.

Romans 14:1-12

Romans 14-15 are two chapters focusing on tolerance and pleasing others not ourselves. It has been suggested that there is a hymn or poem underlying today’s reading’s structure.

Matthew 18:21-35

Last week’s text, which forms the frame for this week’s, focused on sin and its relationship to the community. Today continues this thread of how we relate to each other as sinful. Sin in this non-economic culture is understood as debt. The parable begins with a ludicrous debt: a talent was 6,000 denarii – with a denarius being a labourer’s day wage. 10,000 talents, is hence 164,000 years of work for a labourer – 7 days a week (192,000 years if you stop work for the Sabbath).

Today’s readings online

Creation Season 2023

Many, at this time, celebrate Creation Season.

A creation reading of the lectionary for the Sunday between 11 and 17 September:
The Exodus reading once again, like last week, is oozing with images drawn from creation: cloud, darkness, sea, wind, and fire. It highlights the force of nature and reminds us of recent devastation which may be due to human abuse of nature. Psalm 114 has wonderful poetic images about mountains, sea, earth, and rocks. Paul reminds us of the appropriateness of different attitudes to creation. And the Gospel challenges us to “pay it forward” – we are responsible for what future generations inherit.

Please add, in the comments below, any further creation insights from the lectionary readings, as well as other creation resources that will be useful this month. 

Reflection on the Collect

This is a prayer prayed by Roman Catholics, Anglicans/Episcopalians, and others (even though they may pray this on different days).

This collect is for the fourteenth of the sixteen Sunday masses in the Gelasian sacramentary (#1230). For the Gregorian (effectively) (#1183), Sarum and 1549-1928 Prayer Books it is the collect for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Dirigat corda nostra quaesumus Domine tuae miserationis operatio, quia tibi sine te placere non possumus. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus sancti Deus. Per omnia secula seculorum, Amen.

Literally: Direct our hearts, Lord, we beseech you, by the working of your mercy, for without you we are not able to please you.

Cranmer 1549:
O GOD, for asmuche as without thee, we are not able to please thee; Graunte that the workyng of thy mercie maye in all thynges directe and rule our heartes; Through Jesus Christ our Lorde.

The 1662 BCP revisers altered the collect to include the action of the Holy Spirit. This revision has affected contemporary Anglican revisions of this prayer:

O God, forasmuch as without thee we are
not able to please thee; Mercifully grant,
that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct
and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa page 612:

Almighty God,
you have called us to serve you,
yet without your grace
we are not able to please you;
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord

BCP (USA) p.233 Proper 19; Sunday closest to September 14:

O God,
because without you we are not able to please you,
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things
direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Chrsit our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Common Worship (CofE) Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity:

O God, forasmuch as without you
we are not able to please you;
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

ICEL’s earlier translation (1973) had:

Lord, guide us in your gentle mercy, for left to ourselves we cannot do your will.

In the failed 1998 English Missal translation:

Almighty God,
let the working of your gentle mercy direct the movement of our hearts, for without your grace
we cannot find favour in your sight.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

(Saturday, 4th Week of Lent)

Current ICEL (2011):

May the working of your mercy, O Lord, we pray, direct our hearts aright, for without your grace we cannot find favor in your sight.

Resources beyond this site:
Resourcing Preaching Down Under
Girardian reflections on the Lectionary

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3 thoughts on “Resources 24th Ordinary – 17 September 2023”

  1. ‘without you we are not able to please you.’

    Saecula saeculorum is age unto age?

    We see it differently in every era.

    No sooner do we gain one understanding (for example of procreation, evolution, electricity, the wind, waves, floods,hurricanes, volcanoes, meteor rocks from the literal heavens of space) human knowledge is superseded by another level…and ambitiously rejected or misunderstood too.

    What God’s teaching via Jesus tells us is to stay close to the fount of knowledge, love that universe power and spirit and the teachings of compassion and understanding born of that spirit, not try to digest the entirety of the universe or universal understanding as individuals even in our brief capacity…then impose it upon others. And never harm in the name of God, the ultimate, the perfect, after the Jesus sacrifice the ‘new covenant’ to unite humanity as the tribes fail, and the perfect creation fails.

    To make it clear- perfection did not fail, God trusted us to accept evil, pick up the slack and be automatically compensating for each other.


    ‘without you’. Outside of you. Outside of understanding you.

    Trust, faith. Not trying to impose surety or exactitude or penance or strife…all God needs of us is our expressions of joy and continuance and especially love for creation….think of the joy we feel when we see another creature feel joy or express joy or compassion or some pure creative spirit which reflects the best of us all or the best of the universe we have experienced?

    That is what worship must be to God. Surely, he could squash the littler creatures loved and nurtured instead…are we not meant to mirror that beauty and wonder and selflessness?

    Is there meant to be hatred and anger?

    ‘Now we see but as in a mirror dimly, but eventually we will see face to face.’
    (1 Corinthians, 13:12)

    That brotherly love or ‘philadelphia’ from the ancient Greek deep friendship and affection.

    Before we can have any of that we have to give up our exceptionalism, self-righteousness and above all- cruelty. But even more so…the moment I, human, speak out that I definitively hold every secret of the universe that mirror shifts…

    Yes, we know it’s not the sun-god, we know it’s not anything that cruel sacrifice can appease- because it’s not that kind of thing drives creativity! Nothing I can ever say or do though will do or undo nature or love or generosity or relationships between us creatures.

    We sit as infants being instructed, in some ways, as the whole divine play unfolds before us.

    Except for one thing- we are not helpless infants. We have the teachings of Jesus, who said ‘love God above all things, love your (neighbor) or fellow person as yourself’.

    It’s like gathering some kind of reflective light or prism to inform a child and watching it move in and out. Sometimes he or she will get it, sometimes he or she takes more time, and latches on to other significance(s)

    Some people never learn to look at the movement of light before their own countenance, so- we all let go and see what happens.

    I like to think that as particles and tendencies coalesce in the universe, if that’s what we all are, things even out on the good side.

    If you ever did anything kind unexpectedly or unnecessarily, or you ever forgave someone just because it was the most lovely or caring thing to do-

    thank you.

    You just set the wobbly universe aright upon its axis in terms of love.

    All of those who worship love and kindness just got into spiritual alignment…

    Love you Bosco. Best of men, worst of times…? Well done!!!

    1. Thanks, as always, Tracy. Might each of us get across to just a few more people that Love is the force that drives reality – this is the One we call “God”, and as we love (and forgive, as you say, and so on), we grow in unity with God and God works through us. Blessings.

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