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Wednesday
Morning Prayer
The Birth of John the Baptist

The Opening

Opening Sentence

Their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:4

Hymn: Christ is made the sure foundation

Christ is made the sure foundation,
and the precious corner-stone,
who, the two walls underlying,
bound in each, binds both in one,
holy Sion's help for ever,
and her confidence alone.

All that dedicated city,
dearly loved by God on high,
in exultant jubilation pours perpetual melody,
God the One, in threefold glory,
singing everlastingly.

To this temple, where we call thee,
come, O Lord of hosts, today;
with thy wonted loving-kindness,
hear thy people as they pray;
and thy fullest benediction shed within its walls for ay.

Here vouchsafe to all thy servants gifts of grace by prayer to gain;
here to have and hold for ever,
those good things their prayers obtain,
and hereafter, in thy glory,
with thy blessed ones to reign.

Laud and honour to the Father;
laud and honour to the Son,
laud and honour to the Spirit,
ever Three, and ever One,
One in love, and One in splendour,
while unending ages run. Amen.

Music: Henry Purcell Words: Latin, c7th--8th century, translated by John Mason Neale Congregation and Westminster Abbey Choir

Confession

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

Versicle and Response

Lord, open our lips.

And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. Alleluia.

The Lord is glorious in his saints:
Come let us adore him.

Jubilate

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The Lord himself is God;
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Antiphon

The Lord is glorious in his saints:
Come let us adore him.

The Psalms

82 Deus stetit
or Coverdale

1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
he gives judgment in the midst of the gods:
2 "How long will you judge unjustly, *
and show favor to the wicked?
3 Save the weak and the orphan; *
defend the humble and needy;
4 Rescue the weak and the poor; *
deliver them from the power of the wicked.
5 They do not know, neither do they understand;
they go about in darkness; *
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 Now I say to you, 'You are gods, *
and all of you children of the Most High;
7 Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, *
and fall like any prince.'"
8 Arise, O God, and rule the earth, *
for you shall take all nations for your own.

98 Cantate Domino
or Coverdale

1 Sing to the Lord a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.

2 With his right hand and his holy arm *
has he won for himself the victory.

3 The Lord has made known his victory; *
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, *
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5 Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; *
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

6 Sing to the Lord with the harp, *
with the harp and the voice of song.

7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
shout with joy before the King, the Lord.

8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
the lands and those who dwell therein.

9 Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord,
when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world *
and the peoples with equity.

Gloria Patri

Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be for ever. Amen. Amen.

The Lessons

The Old Testament Lesson

Malachi 3:1-5

1See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

5 Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

Canticle 11 The Third Song of Isaiah
Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19
Surge, illuminare

Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light, *
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.

Your gates will always be open; *
by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord, *
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land, *
ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation, *
and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day; *
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light, *
and your God will be your glory.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Gospel

John 3:22-30

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. 23John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized— 24John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. 26They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.’ 27John answered, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, “I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.” 29He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30He must increase, but I must decrease.’

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

The Commemoration

Our principal sources of information about John the Baptist are
(1) references to his birth in the first chapter of Luke,
(2) references to his preaching and his martyrdom in the Gospels, with a few references in Acts, and
(3) references in Josephus to his preaching and martyrdom, references which are consistent with the New Testament ones, but sufficiently different in the details to make direct borrowing unlikely.

According to the Jewish historian Josephus (who wrote after 70 AD), John the Baptist was a Jewish preacher in the time of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36). He called the people to repentance and to a renewal of their covenant relation with God. He was imprisoned and eventually put to death by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great, who was king when Jesus was born) for denouncing Herod's marriage to Herodias, the wife of his still-living brother Philip. In order to marry Herodias, Herod divorced his first wife, the daughter of King Aretas of Damascus, who subsequently made war on Herod, a war which, Josephus tells us, was regarded by devout Jews as a punishment for Herod's murder of the prophet John.

In the Book of Acts, we find sermons about Jesus which mention His Baptism by John as the beginning of His public ministry (see Acts 10:37; 11:16; 13:24). We also find accounts (see Acts 18:24; 19:3) of devout men in Greece who had received the baptism of John, and who gladly received the full message of the Gospel of Christ when it was told them.

Luke begins his Gospel by describing an aged, devout, childless couple, the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. As Zechariah is serving in the Temple, he sees the angel Gabriel, who tells him that he and his wife will have a son who will be a great prophet, and will go before the Lord "like Elijah." (The Jewish tradition had been that Elijah would herald the coming of the Messiah = Christ = Anointed = Chosen of God.) Zechariah went home, and his wife conceived. About six months later, Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, a kinswoman of Elizabeth, and told her that she was about to bear a son who would be called Son of the Most High, a king whose kingdom would never end. Thus Elizabeth gave birth to John, and Mary gave birth six months later to Jesus.

After describing the birth of John, Luke says that he grew, and "was in the wilderness until the day of his showing to Israel." The people of the Qumran settlement, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, sometime use the term "living in the wilderness" to refer to residing in their community at Qumran near the Dead Sea. Accordingly, it has been suggested that John spent some of his early years being educated at Qumran.

All of the gospels tell us that John preached and baptized beside the Jordan river, in the wilderness of Judea. He called on his hearers to repent of their sins, be baptized, amend their lives, and prepare for the coming of the Kingship of God. He spoke of one greater than himself who was to come after. Jesus came to be baptized, and John told some of his disciples, "This is the man I spoke of." After His baptism by John, Jesus began to preach, and attracted many followers. In fact, many who had been followers of John left him to follow Jesus. Some of John's followers resented this, but he told them: "This is as it should be. My mission is to proclaim the Christ. The groomsman, the bridegroom's friend, who makes the wedding arrangements for the bridegroom, is not jealous of the bridegroom. No more am I of Jesus. He must increase, and I must decrease." (John 3:22-30)

John continued to preach, reproving sin and calling on everyone to repent. King Herod Antipas had divorced his wife and taken Herodias, the wife of his (still living) brother Philip. John rebuked him for this, and Herod, under pressure from Herodias, had John arrested, and eventually beheaded. He is remembered on some calendars on the supposed anniversary of his beheading, 29 August.

When John had been in prison for a while, he sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask, "Are you he that is to come, or is there another?" (Matthew 11:2-14) One way of understanding the question is as follows: "It was revealed to me that you are Israel's promised deliverer, and when I heard this, I rejoiced. I expected you to drive out Herod and the Romans, and rebuild the kingdom of David. But here I sit in prison, and there is no deliverance in sight? Perhaps I am ahead of schedule, and you are going to throw out the Romans next year. Perhaps I have misunderstood, and you have a different mission, and the Romans bit will be done by someone else. Please let me know what is happening."
Jesus replied by telling the messengers, "Go back to John, and tell him what you have seen, the miracles of healing and other miracles, and say, 'Blessed is he who does not lose faith in me.'" He then told the crowds: "John is a prophet and more than a prophet. He is the one spoken of in Malachi 3:1, the messenger who comes to prepare the way of the LORD. No man born of woman is greater than John, but the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John."

This has commonly been understood to mean that John represents the climax of the long tradition of Jewish prophets looking forward to the promised deliverance, but that the deliverance itself is a greater thing. John is the climax of the Law. He lives in the wilderness, a life with no frills where food and clothing are concerned. He has renounced the joys of family life, and dedicated himself completely to his mission of preaching, of calling people to an observance of the law, to ordinary standards of virtue. In terms of natural goodness, no one is better than John. But he represents Law, not Grace. Among men born of woman, among the once-born, he has no superior. But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes. (Note that to say that John symbolizes something short of the Kingdom is not to say that John is himself excluded from the Kingdom.)

Traditionally, the Birth of Jesus is celebrated on 25 December. That means that the Birth of John is celebrated six months earlier on 24 June. The appearance of Gabriel to Mary, being assumed to be nine months before the birth of Jesus, is celebrated on 25 March and called the Annunciation, and the appearance of Gabriel to Zechariah in the Temple is celebrated by the East Orthodox on 23 September. At least for Christians in the Northern Hemisphere, these dates embody a rich symbolism. John is the last voice of the Old Covenant, the close of the Age of Law. Jesus is the first voice of the New Covenant, the beginning of the Age of Grace. Accordingly, John is born to an elderly, barren woman, born when it is really too late for her to be having a child, while Jesus is born to a young virgin, born when it is really too early for her to be having a child. John is announced (and conceived) at the autumnal equinox, when the leaves are dying and falling from the trees. Jesus is announced (and conceived) at the vernal equinox, when the green buds are bursting forth on the trees and there are signs of new life everywhere. John is born when the days are longest, and from his birth on they grow steadily shorter. Jesus is born when the days are shortest, and from his birth on they grow steadily longer. John speaks truly when he says of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

(Of course, it is to be noted that none of this symbolism proves anything, since the Scriptures do not tell us that Jesus was born on 25 December. The symbolism of the dates is used by Christians, not as evidence, but as material for the devout imagination.)

For a Eucharist celebrated today the psalm and readings are:

FIRST LESSON: Isaiah 40:1-11
(Isaiah speaks of someone who will cry out, "Prepare the way of the LORD.")

Psalm 85
(The long exile is over, God has restored his people, mercy and truth are reconciled.)

SECOND LESSON: Acts 13:14b-26
(Paul preaches about Christ, and how the prophets, including John the Baptist, all pointed forward to him.)

THE HOLY GOSPEL: Luke 1:57-80
(The birth of John the Baptist; his father Zechariah's song of praise.)

— written by James Kiefer

The Creed

The Apostle's Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Prayers

The Lord's Prayer

or traditional

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.

Suffrages

Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance;

Govern and uphold them, now and always.

Day by day we bless you;

We praise your Name for ever.

Lord, keep us from all sin today;

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.

Lord, show us your love and mercy;

For we put our trust in you.

In you, Lord, is our hope;

And we shall never hope in vain.

Collect of the Day: The Birth of John the Baptist

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

For Mission

O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men and women everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

World Cycle of Prayer

We pray for the people of Seychelles

Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer

We pray for our sisters and brothers members of the Chortitzer Mennonite Conference.

A Collect for Peace

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn: To my humble supplication

To my humble supplication
Lord, give ear and acceptation
Save thy servant, that hath none
Help nor hope but Thee alone. Amen.

Prayers and Intercessions

Let us pray now for our own needs and those of others.

Birthdays
Anniversaries
For Recovery from Sickness
For Travelers
For a Person in Trouble or Bereavement
For Those to be Baptized
For the Departed
Full list of prayers

For our Country

Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech you that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion us into one united people. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in you to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the President of the
United States
and all in Civil Authority

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State (or, Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Hymn: There is a hope

There is a hope that burns within my heart,
That gives me strength for every passing day;
A glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre part,
Yet drives all doubt away:
I stand in Christ, with sins forgiven;
And Christ in me, the hope of heaven!
My highest calling and my deepest joy,
To make His will my home.

There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Saviour there!
Through present sufferings, future's fear,
He whispers 'courage' in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.

There is a hope that stands the test of time,
That lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave,
To see the matchless beauty of a day divine
When I behold His face!
When sufferings cease and sorrows die,
And every longing satisfied.
Then joy unspeakable will flood my soul,
For I am truly home

Singers: Choirs and congregation, St Thomas', Belfast, Ireland Composer: Stuart Townsend

A Prayer of Self-Dedication

Almighty and eternal God,
so draw our hearts to you,
so guide our minds,
so fill our imaginations,
so control our wills,
that we may be wholly yours,
utterly dedicated unto you;
and then use us, we pray you, as you will,
and always to your glory and the welfare of your people;
through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

The Ending

Benediction

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14

Hymn: God Be With You

God be with you till we meet again;
By his counsels guide, uphold you;
With his sheep securely fold you.
God be with you till we meet again.
Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus' feet,
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.


Noonday Prayer

The Opening

O God, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. Alleluia.

The Psalm

Psalm 119 Lucerna pedibus meis

105Your word is a lantern to my feet *
and a light upon my path.
106I have sworn and am determined *
to keep your righteous judgments.
107I am deeply troubled; *
preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.
108Accept, O Lord, the willing tribute of my lips, *
and teach me your judgments.
109My life is always in my hand, *
yet I do not forget your law.
110The wicked have set a trap for me, *
but I have not strayed from your commandments.
111Your decrees are my inheritance for ever; *
truly, they are the joy of my heart.
112I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes *
for ever and to the end.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Reading

The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:5

Thanks be to God.

The Prayers

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

The Lord's Prayer

or traditional

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.

Lord, hear our prayer;

And let our cry come to you.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you: Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.

Let us pray now for our own needs and those of others.

Birthdays
Anniversaries
For Recovery from Sickness
For Travelers
For a Person in Trouble or Bereavement
For Those to be Baptized
For the Departed
Full list of prayers

The Ending

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.