In these weeks before Advent, the Church of England’s readings and liturgy focus on the coming Kingdom of God. As the Eucharistic prayer for this season puts it:
you are the hope of the nations,
the builder of the city that is to come.
Your love made visible in Jesus Christ
brings home the lost,
restores the sinner
and gives dignity to the despised.
In his face your light shines out,
flooding lives with goodness and truth,
gathering into one in your kingdom
a divided and broken humanity.
The Gospel reading proclaims that this Kingdom is drawing near, and interrogates us as to our response to its reality. As we read of the starkness of Jesus’ invitation to his first disciples, and the immediacy and simplicity of their response to him, the passage asks us: are we serious about this Kingdom? Do our lives and our churches participate in it – and draw others to it?
The readings in the Roman Catholic lectionary are different at this point in the year. They continue to read through Mark’s Gospel sequentially. But in fact, Sunday’s passage poses the same question to us. Do the relationships in our church – the hierarchies of authority and power, and the ways we treat our wealth – bear witness to that coming Kingdom? (This is a good question to ask at the end of Living Wage Week…)
The juxtaposition of the stories of the self-important scribes and the humble, generous widow challenge us as to who the true teachers in our churches might be. Are our eyes open to the true signs of the Kingdom – or dazzled by the pomp and power of Empire?
Today is of course Remembrance Sunday. Pray for all victims of violence and war, and for a society that embodies the justice and the peace of God’s Kingdom.
Give thanks for the witness of churches during Living Wage Week – and the progress being made by alliances such as Citizens UK and Church Action on Poverty as they persuade business leaders and politicians of the ethical and economic case for a just wage for all workers. Pray for the General Synod as it prepares to debate the application of the Living Wage within the church.