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Weekly Bible Notes

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Red or White


Introduction

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'

In the reading from Mark today a teacher came to Jesus and asked him which of the commandments was most important. Jesus responded by reciting the words of the Shema  As a Jew, Jesus recited this twice a day, during his morning and evening prayers. The word "Shema" means 'Hear' and that is the first word of the prayer. The prayer was developed as a summary of the whole of the Jewish law.But Jesus goes on further with the commandment 'love your neighbour as yourself.' This is a quote from Leviticus 19:18 and historically, the 'neighbour' meant "the sons of your own people." But Jesus had expanded the definition of a 'neighbour' far beyond this narrow interpretation.

Jesus wants his followers to extend to everybody the same self-centered love and concern which we all harbour for ourselves. Jesus said that love was to be shown not just to family members, members of the same religion, same nationality, it was even to be shown to enemies. (Matthew 7:12)

Christianity is not just a quick fix on a Sunday for an hour, it is a way of life which demands commitment and dedication to our faith, in every area of our lives. Our motivation for this costly way of doing things should come from a recognition that this is how God is towards to us. We might not deserve God’s love, but nevertheless God gives it. In the words of 1 John 4:19: "We love, because he first loved us." Amen.


Opening Sentence 1 John Chapter 4:19

'We love, because he first loved us.'
 

Collect Prayer for the Day  Before we read we pray

Merciful Lord, 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. Amen.

All-embracing God, your care for us surpasses even a mother's tender love. Through your word and sacrament renew our trust in your providence, that we may abandon all anxiety and seek first your kingdom. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

God the giver of life, whose Holy Spirit wells up within your church: by the Spirit’s gifts equip us to live the gospel of Christ and make us eager to do your will, that we may share with the whole creation the joys of eternal life; 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 Deuteronomy Chapter 6:1-9

These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Second Reading Hebrews Chapter 9:11-15

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Gospel Reading Mark 12: 28-34

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.


Post Communion Sentence

God, the source of all holiness and giver of all good things: may we who have shared at this table as strangers and pilgrims here on earth be welcomed with all your saints to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Commentary

The Ten Commandments given by God to Moses in the Book of the Exodus Chapter 20 starts off by establishing the relationship which must exist between the faithful and God. The Commandments go on to stress the need for filial respect (“honour your father and mother”) and only towards the end do the commandments mention relationships with non family members. Even then the Commandments are about not coveting, not stealing from other people.
The special message from Jesus in the passage today is that he brings together love for God and love for our neighbour in a single command. Jesus simplifies the commandments to loving God and loving others as much as oneself. What then did people feel? Confusion? Amusement?


Of course what appears to be quite a simplification of the rules of co-existence with other people, is actually the most challenging and demanding statement about the way humans must live. It is hard enough to love people we know well but infinitely harder to care passionately about men and women whom we have never met and never will. What is needed is emotional imagination – to be able to imagine the inner life and needs of people who are different from ourselves, people who look, speak, worship, love or behave in different ways from us. Jesus, in this apparently simple commandment, is asking us to do the hardest thing of all, to love without reservation and without barriers. Joan Crossley

 

Meditation

One way of reading the Bible is to take a short passage, read it, pray about it, imagine you were seeing the event happen, try and identify with the feelings of the people mentioned, read it again and then pray about it again. This way of reading the Scriptures (“Lectio Divina”) was used by the monks of old to bring the Bible alive for them. It is a technique that we can use ourselves. Perhaps this week, we might also try and read a foreign news story with some of the same attention, to try bring the lives of people in remote situations into sharp focus ?
 

Hymns and Psalms

  1.  Lo he comes with clouds descending
  2. The trumpets sound
  3. Lord the light of your love
  4. For all the saints
  5. Now thank we all our God

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Thank you Lord for the gift of the Scriptures. As I reflect on the Bible, make me open to your wisdom, receptive to your will and courageous in my response, in the love of Jesus, Rabbi, Teacher, Friend. Amen

Eternal God, grant to us this day and every day such readiness and delight in following Christ that whether our lives are short or long, we shall have lived abundantly. Amen

O Lord, save us from self-centredness in our prayers, and help us to remember to pray for others. May we be so lovingly absorbed with those for whom we pray that we may feel their needs as keenly as our own, and intercede for them sensitively with understanding and imagination. We ask this in Christ’s name, Amen. (after John Calvin)
 

 

Additional Material

Verse of scripture

'We love, because he first loved us.' 1 John Chapter 4:19

Post Communion Prayer

God, the source of all holiness and giver of all good things: may we who have shared at this table as strangers and pilgrims here on earth be welcomed with all your saints to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Meditation

Psalm 119:1-8 1

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. 3 They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. 4 You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. 5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! 6 Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.

Commentary

A Scribe came to Jesus and asked him which of the commandments was most important. Jesus responded by reciting the words of the Shema

'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'

As an observant Jew, Jesus recited this combination of confession and prayer to God twice a day, during his morning and evening prayers. Still today the Shema is the first prayer a Jewish child learns and a pious Jew would want it to be found on their lips at death. The word "Shema" means 'Hear' and that is the first word of the prayer. The prayer was developed as a summary of the whole of the Jewish law. The prayer is taught to all Jewish children by the parents and thus emphasises the responsibility of parents in passing on the faith to their children. The Shema is the central focus of Jewish worship. (See further, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, Numbers 15:37-41)

Jesus then goes on further with the commandment 'love your neighbor as yourself.' This means that we should extend to our neighbours the same self-centered love and concern which we all harbour for ourselves. Historically, the 'neighbour' referred to in Leviticus 19:18 specifically meant "the sons of your own people." But Jesus had expanded the definition of 'neighbour' far beyond those borders (see Luke 10:25-37), erasing national and ethnic self-centeredness as well as excuses for limits on loving one's 'neighbour.' When we love God with all our soul, we will succeed in integrating our faith into all of our being. We cannot compartmentalise our "religious life" from the rest of our life if the love of God has entered into our soul.

As Christians, this passage is a call to more commitment and dedication to our faith, in every area of our lives. This turning to God must embrace our Heart Soul Mind Strength. We could not be certain exactly what is meant by these different words but surely the real meaning is that every part of our being must seek to turn attention to God. Real faith lays hold of all these things, our emotions our wills, our minds and our bodily strength. This means that we observe the truth, allow the truth to touch the emotions, then to challenge and move the will, and to engage the body in action. What is our motivation for doing God's will, obeying God's commands? Is it fear of authority? A desire for God's approval or the approval of others? Or love? Surely the reason why we seek to be obedient in our faith is because we have known the love of God, which melts our hard and self-centered hearts. As we know God’s love and seek to return that love, so we strive to follow his commandments and love our neighbour also. In the words of 1 John 4:19: "We love, because he first loved us."

Prayers for Sunday

God, our Shepherd, give to the Church a new vision and a new charity, new wisdom and fresh understanding, the revival of her brightness and the renewal of her unity; that the eternal message of your Son, undefiled by human tradition, may be hailed as the good news of the new age; through him who makes all things new, Jesus Christ our Lord. Percy Dearmer (1867-1936)

Gracious and all merciful God - we give thanks to you today for your compassion and your love. We proclaim your goodness and your strength and we call upon you in praise and thanksgiving. Bless us and bless your people everywhere this day with your holy presence. Help us to worship you in a manner worthy of our calling and to render to you the tribute due to your name. We ask it through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In the silence of the stars, in the quiet of the hills and in the heaving of the sea, you speak O Lord. In the words of the prophets and the message of the apostles, you speak O Lord. Now we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen.

Eternal God, You have been our resting-place through the ages. Generations come and pass away, but You abide forever. We praise you for Your presence among us. You bring us comfort amid our trials - clarity where confusion persists - peace in the midst of conflict - and hope of eternal life. Hear us now as we pray for Your Church and the needs of the world, for You are the God of our lives. We pray for the Church of Jesus Christ; that, begun, maintained and promoted by the Holy Spirit, it may be true, engaging, glad, and active, doing your will. Let Your church be always faithful, O God, and ready to promote the cause of compassionate love and peace

We pray that as Christian disciples we may be a faithful witness in word and deed to the Good News of Christ's Love. We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the word. We pray that everywhere upon this earth there may be justice and peace. We pray especially today for the well being of people in parts of the world affected by drought and famine. We continue to pray for peace in the Middle East. Lord, we pray for all people in their daily life and work - for our families, friends, and neighbours, and for those who are alone. We name before you individuals and families experiencing personal hardship or facing and uncertain future, those who are separated from loved ones, those who grieve this today, and those who are sick in hospital or ill at home. Hear us Lord as we now lift up those people and those situations you have placed upon our hearts.

Hymns for this Sunday

  • Ye servants of God
  • Come sing the praise of Jesus
  • As the deer
  • Tell out my soul
  • Great is thy faithfulness

 

Sermon: Shema