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Weekly Bible Study and Worship Resources

Ordinary 26 Year A


The passage from Matthew's Gospel today has so many important messages. One son promises to do something and doesn't one says no but then reflects and turns up trumps. Immediately we recogonise that this reinforces what we know 'Actions speak louder than words'. The Son who has previously been so unwilling comes good in the end and we all share that great longing that it is never too late to turn and do the right thing. The grace of God is without physical limit, even though our theologies often place limits of our own. The posssibility that God's love transcends the limits of time enables us to pray that past words and actions do not preclude the opportunity to respond to the grace of the Gospel. So much of what we know about God from the life and teachings of Jesus show us that God does not dwell on past failures but future promise. It is never too late to turn and God 's kingdom is marked by acceptance love and forgiveness.

Opening Verses of Scripture     Philippians 2

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers of your people who call upon you; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them; 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. CW

Lord of creation, whose glory is around and within us: open our eyes to your wonders, that we may serve you with reverence and know your peace at our lives’ end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading  Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’  But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’  So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’  The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.  He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ NRSV

Ezekiel 18: 1-4, 25-32

The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is unfair.’ O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live. NRSV

Second Reading  Philippians 2: 1-13

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. NRSV

Gospel Reading  Matthew 21:23-32

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

Almighty God, you have taught us through your Son that love is the fulfilling of the law: grant that we may love you with our whole heart and our neighbours as ourselves; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

one body in christCommentary

The reading from Matthew today describes the discussion between the Jewish leaders and Jesus following the incident which we often call the "Cleansing of the Temple." This is the only violent act which is attributed to Jesus in the whole of his ministry and it occurs in all four gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke place the story at the end of Jesus's ministry, after his triumphal entry and before the parable of the tenants. John places the story at the very beginning of his gospel. Clearly, chronology is not as important to the Gospel writers as the fact that Jesus actually did this disturbing thing.

Jesus makes this violent and extreme response towards the scene of seeing people selling cattle, sheep and doves to the pilgrims who needed them to make their obligatory sacrifices. You will remember that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple and made a sacrifice following his birth (Luke 2:22). I would like to think that Jesus was affronted by the very concept of killing animals in order to assuage human guilt. Indeed Jesus does speak of the destruction of the temple and it being rebuilt in three days, an allusion perhaps to the end of temple worship and his death and resurrection. However there is clearly more going on here as Jesus has described the temple as a ‘den of robbers’.

We need to appreciate the temple economy, pilgrims visiting the temple from far and wide were obliged to exchange their Roman currency into Jewish money in order to pay the temple tax in the proper coinage. The money-changers changed Roman money into Temple money since Roman coins, with their idolatrous images of the Emperor, could not be carried into the Temple. The money-changers charged an exchange fee of roughly 50%, two Roman coins earned one of Temple money in return. Surely this was an abuse of power an exploitation which would have upset Jesus. The sacrifices themselves were also a way of abstracting more money from the poor worshipper. Doves were a suitable sacrifice for those who could not afford to offer sheep, however even these low-cost options carried a significant mark-up in price. Later in the first century, the son of Rabbi Gamaliel would lead a successful protest against the exhorbitant mark-up on sacrificial doves.

We should expect Jesus to react with anger on behalf of the poor who were being ripped off by the Temple which had a complete monopoly on God’s forgiveness. We should not be surprised that he would have to do something dramatic to gain attention in the midst of the Temple, full of noises, human crowds and animals. To make an impression Jesus uses a whip, he chases the animals from the temple, scattered the coffers of the money changers, and overturned their tables: "How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

Jesus rejects the fraud, exploitation and avarice of the religious authorities who control the means of ritual purity. However the passage today does give us an insight into some more of Jesus thoughts.

Jesus is asked by the Jewish authorities to justify his actions and explain what authority he had to show such an extreme reaction against the temple trade. In good rabbinical style Jesus answers a question with another question ’Was John's baptism divine or merely human? This trapped the temple teachers. If they said it was merely human, they feared reprisals from the crowds. And if they admitted that John's baptism was from God, then they had no excuse for not accepting it and repenting. They were caught between fear and disobedience. Jesus is excused answering their question as they refuse to answer his. Then Jesus tells a story. A lazy son refused to work but then changed his mind and obeyed his father's request. His brother did the opposite: he promised to work but then didn't. Jesus asks, ‘which is worse?’. The answer is simple, since breach of a promise was worse than never having promised in the first place. The son had violated his word.

In this illustration Jesus is comparing the temple authorities to the latter son, for they had made bold claims but showed no obedience. Tax collectors and prostitutes on the other hand had never made bold religious promises, yet they nevertheless believed John's message of invitation and indictment and they would therefore enter the kingdom of God. Jesus is really very abusive towards the chief priests and elders who have come to talk to him. He choses to make them subordinate even to prostitutes and tax collectors, the people that the religious leaders looked down on, people they hated and persecuted. Jesus chooses these groups to make the strongest point.

There is a message for us, Jesus wants us to live out our faith in words and deed, saying the right words matters for nothing. We need to stop judging others and instead make it our goal to do God's will here and now, to live out lives of peace and justice. We have only to look to Jesus to find out how we should behave. His was a life of forgiving people who hurt him, caring for others in need - like the hungry and homeless. As St Paul says in the letter to the Philippians, we have to put on the mind of Christ and have the attitude of Christ, and love humanity as much as Christ does. We are to be a people who love our enemies, because that is what Jesus did and that is the will of God for us.

Jesus was constantly confronted by the pious who were demonstrative in claiming to serve God by their strict observance of religious rules. Yet, Jesus criticized them for their lack of compassion for those they oppressed by their strict interpretation of their religion. He accused them of putting burdens on the shoulders of others while being unwilling to lift a finger to help them. So Jesus reserved the strongest criticism of all for the religious leaders and called them hypocrites. These were people who has lost touch with what religion was really all about. Jesus has launched an attack on the Temple's financial base and the ruling families who ran it. Jesus has again aligned himself in the popular mind with John the Baptist. He reminds the crowd that he and the Baptist had much in common. Jesus presents himself on the side of the popular martyred hero, and in opposition to the ruling circles which killed him, inevitably Jesus was now set to meet the same fate. Charles Royden



We all know that actions speak louder than words. The gospel passage today warns us not to tamper with religion unless we are prepared to try and honestly live the things we speak and pray about. If we claim to be followers of Jesus then we are expected to prove it with actions, not pious words. Just because we say we are Christians does not entitle us to appreciation by God. Those who have no religious motivation are often more compassionate, forgiving and less judgemental. In his beautiful letter today, Paul prays that the Christian community will be loving and filled with compassionate people determined to serve one another’s needs. We are all called to make that prayer a reality in the loving ways we care for others. Actions speak louder than words, because words do not cost anything. Actions demand that we give a part of ourselves, our time, energy, resources. Charles Royden

The reading from Philippians this week reminds us of the nature of who Jesus was. He was not motivated by power or prestige. Indeed Jesus willingly gave up his own authority and became in human form. Once clearly identified as a man, he was not even eager to have human prestige, Jesus takes humble birth and in his ministry is openly seen to associate with the lowly and those identified as being weak, poor or sinful. These are the actions of somebody eager to encourage others to be considerate of others and inclined towards serving rather than being served. The lesson of humilty demonstrated by Jesus is as fresh and important today as it was then. We should all be guided by the principle of consideration and compassion towards others.



  1. When morning gilds the skies

  2. Jubilate everybody

  3. All Hail the power of Jesus' name!

  4. Glorious things of thee are spoken 

  5. Rejoice the Lord is King 


Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian, if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.


As we enter another period of armed conflict our prayers focus on our armed forces

Holy God, the protector of all who trust in you: Grant to the Armed Forces of the Crown, and all who seek you, the assurance of your presence, the knowledge of your love, and the guidance of your spirit

Bring healing and wholeness to people and nations: let your mercy rule all that we do.
Be with all who defend your truth and your peace, that they may vanquish injustice and wrong.
Give wisdom to leaders and commanders, that they may be a force for good on the earth.
In your wisdom embrace our enemies, and those who wish us harm: turn, the hearts of all to kindness and friendship.
Be with all medics and chaplains, and all who support the suffering: give then wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience.
Sustain the anxious and fearful, and renew then with courage from on high.
Comfort all worried families, whose loved ones are in danger: surround them with your love, protect them from all harm.
Be with the sick and wounded, stand by all prisoners and captives: let your mercy be shown to all, and your power to heal and save.
Receive those fallen in battle, and all innocents who have died: surround their loves ones with compassion, and give them a patient faith.
Confirm what is founded on truth, and establish your love in our hearts: that justice may abound on the Earth, and all peoples rejoice in your peace.
Lord our God, our sure stronghold, hear the voice of our pleading and deliver us from evil. Strengthen us as we strive for the poor and oppressed, and establish your justice in all the earth. Amen

Almighty God, stretch forth your mighty arm to strengthen and protect the armed forces:
grant that meeting danger with courage and all occasions with discipline and loyalty, they may truly serve the cause of justice and peace; to the honour of your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the Field Service Book of the British Army

Almighty God, in you alone we find safety and peace. We commend to your gracious keeping all the men and women who serve in the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force, who face danger and put their lives at risk so that others might live in safety. Defend them day by day by your heavenly power; and help them to know that they can never pass beyond the reach of your care. Keep alive in them and in us your vision of that peace which alone we must seek and serve; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland

Praise to you, God, for all your work among us. Yours is the vigour in creation, yours is the impulse in our new discoveries. Make us adventurous, yet reverent and hopeful in all we do. Amen.

Lord, help us to empty ourselves that we may serve you. Help us to serve you that we may do your will. Speak to us, that we might listen, speak through us so that others may hear. Amen

Lord God, we thank you for calling us into the company of those who trust in Christ and seek to obey His will. May your Spirit guide and strengthen us in mission and service to your world; for we are strangers no longer but pilgrims together on the way to your Kingdom. Amen Prayer of the Inter Church Process (The Swanwick Declaration)

God the Sender, send you; God the Sent, go with us; God the Strengthener of those who go, empower you, that you may go to do His will; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Gracious God, you give the water of eternal life through Jesus Christ your Son. May we always turn to you, the spring of life and source of goodness: through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen "My God, do not abandon me.

I have done nothing good
before Thee, but grant me,
in Thy compassion,
the power to make a start.

A favourite patristic prayer from Arsenios (5th century):

Additional Material

Material for St Michael and All Angels Opening Verse of Scripture - Psalm 103:19
The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
Collect Prayer for the Day - before we read, we pray
Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and mortals in a wonderful order: grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven, so, at your command, they may help and defend us on earth; 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. Amen
First Bible Reading Daniel 12:1-4 (The End times)
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.

Second Bible Reading Revelation 12:7-12
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.

Gospel Reading Matthew 21:23-32
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?" 
Jesus replied, "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John's baptism-where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?" 
They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven', he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men'-we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We don't know." Then he said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 
"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'" 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. "Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. 
"Which of the two did what his father wanted?" 
"The first," they answered. 
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Post Communion Prayer
Lord of heaven, in this Eucharist you have brought us near to an innumerable company of angels and to the spirits of the saints made perfect: as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage we have shared their fellowship, so may we come to share their joy in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


In the Gospel reading the tax collectors and the prostitutes are like the first son. Initially they said no to God, but on hearing John the Baptist's preaching they accepted the word of God and started doing that which pleases God. The chief priests and elders, on the other hand, are like the second son. They too heard John's preaching, and even witnessed the responses of the tax collectors and the prostitutes. But they only feigned acceptance, and refused to accept John as a true messenger from God because he seemed such an unlikely character. Are there people in our lives who perhaps sometimes speak the word of God who we ignore, or only pay lip service to, because they too are unlikely characters? Sam Cappleman


Philippians 2 v 5 – 11 is probably a quotation from an early hymn of praise to Christ. It is sometimes called the Kenotic Prayer, from the Greek kenosis meaning ‘to make empty’. There are clearly divisions and factions in the church at Philippi and Paul urges all parties to forget their pride and to live and work and think as one. We are urged to do the same. Anything less than this is unworthy of the Christ who came as the supreme example of humanity. It was because Jesus gave up all He had, including his life, and emptied Himself, made Himself nothing, that God exalted Him to the highest place of all. In making himself nothing and becoming human Jesus still retained the form of God, His essential nature and attributes, but effectively waived His status and accepted human limitations. He lived a life of humble obedience, limited to the resources God gives to all humans; the power of His Spirit, His Holy Word, and prayer, a constant dialogue and communication with the Father.

How strange then that this Jesus, who had emptied Himself of everything, posed such a threat to the Jewish authorities. But in maintaining the theme of this gospel, and our readings over the last few weeks, Jesus continues to redirect the tradition of Israel away from ritual legalism and a dominant priesthood towards a more personal commitment to, and relationship with, a loving and forgiving God. This approach threatened the religious authorities of the time, and anyone challenging this social and moral rigidity was automatically suspect by both Pharisees and Sadducees alike. And it’s not surprising that Jesus confronts them with the question of John's authority. John had been baptising people for the forgiveness of sins. Rituals for the forgiveness of sins were largely in the hands of the priests and the temple. That was one of its main functions. While there was technically nothing wrong with John's rather novel rite, in the eyes of those properly ordained to priestly tasks, it amounted to something of a maverick enterprise. Interestingly the issue for the Jewish leaders seems to be about authority not blasphemy. Were they perhaps more interested in maintaining the status quo rather than in trying to understand the word and nature of their God? Could someone like Jesus declare God's forgiveness, pronounce absolution?

Jesus’ final thrust that the tax collectors and prostitutes may have an advantage over these religious authorities must have been especially difficult to accept! It underlines the fact that the irreligious can sometimes respond to the words and prompting of God, and His forgiveness, more readily than those whose self-deceiving moral superiority makes them impervious to its appeal. How strange to us too sometimes that God does speak to people who are very different to ourselves. Stranger still, He sometimes chooses to speak to us through them. Ultimately, however, the principle involved in all of today’s readings is not words but actions. Just like ‘the chief priests and the elders of the people’, we will be judged, not by what we say, but by what we do. Sam Cappleman.

Commentary: Dragon-Slayer
Elements of the bible seem to be written in code, but the words and images are a kind of shorthand that would have been easily understood by the people they were written for at that time. How do we communicate the good news of Christ in words and images that are relevant and comprehensible today?
St Michael
Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the three named biblical angels, depicted as the messengers of God. Michael, which means 'who is like God?', is described as protector of Israel and leader of the armies of God and is perhaps best known as the slayer of the dragon in today's reading from Revelation. Because of this he has come to be regarded as the protector of Christians from the devil, particularly those at the hour of death. A basilica near Rome was dedicated in the fifth century in honour of Michael on 30 September, beginning with celebrations the evening before, and 29 September is now kept in honour of Michael and All Angels throughout the western Church.
Angels appear in the Bible from the days of Creation, but they do not have individual names until the Jews return from the captivity in Babylon. The archangel Michael is called by name for the first time in the book of Daniel and appears in both Daniel and Revelation, both called apocalyptic books because they are concerned with revelations. These revelations are often associated with a future divine intervention and universal judgement of the nations, a time when a new age of salvation will be realised. Revelations, as some would see it, of God's plan for history. 
Apocalyptic writings were a natural progression from prophetic writings and are often centred around dreams and visions of a new heaven and a new earth. Such writings were often circulated secretly hand-to-hand as a comfort to the believers during times of great persecution or national crisis. Michael is always pictured as a fierce warrior, and both the Jews of Daniel's time and the early Christian's of John's day saw him as their protector.
Because of the way in which books like Revelation and Daniel are written, precise interpretation is often difficult. However, the central message reveals that God's people will survive and that their persecutors will ultimately be punished. 
Today many Jews and Christians still go through enormous trials and significant persecution. History bears testimony to the fact that Judaism and Christianity still run as a golden thread through time, surviving and growing through times of both persecution and support, graphically demonstrating the hope and healing we have in Christ until He comes again to wrap up time once and for all, and establish not just a new heaven and a new earth but a new Jerusalem. Sam Cappleman

All my hope
Victory is on our lips
O love that wilt not let me go
Ye servants of God

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead
Give your angels charge over us, O God, to keep us in all our ways 
The Lord has set His throne in heaven, and His kingship has dominion over all.
Bless the Lord, you angels of His, hearken to the voice of His word. 
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you ministers who do His will. 
Bless the Lord, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion.
Amen from Ps 103
We come to you Lord, for you alone can heal and restore us. We are not able to heal ourselves, for you alone can forgive, restore, sanctify and satisfy. We come to you Lord for you alone can heal and restore us. Amen
May Christ, who through apparent defeat, yet ultimate victory, brings a new hope and a new future, fill you with new life, and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen