Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen.
[Moses said to the people,] 1Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
4Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
1Happy are they whose | way is blameless,
who follow the teaching | of the Lord!
2Happy are they who observe | your decrees
and seek you with | all their hearts,
3who never do | any wrong,
but always walk | in your ways.
4You laid down | your commandments,
that we should | fully keep them.
5Oh, that my ways were made | so direct
that I might | keep your statutes!
6Then I should not be | put to shame,
when I regard all | your commandments.
7I will thank you with | a true heart,
when I have learned your | righteous judgments.
8I will | keep your statutes;
do not utter- | ly forsake me.
28One of the scribes came near and heard [Jesus and the Sadducees] disputing with one another, and seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove
What a great gospel for a festival Sunday! This morning we will all participate as Diane affirms her baptism in the presence of this assembly. I will ask her if she intends to continue in the covenant God made with her in holy baptism, specifically to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
At the heart of these collective promises and at the heart of the Christian faith are the two great commandments that Jesus names in Mark chapter 12: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. These commands provide the framework for ethical thinking and actions, theological reflection, and biblical interpretation. They also guide much of our instruction and conversations in Confirmation classes. So, echoes of the two great commandments were heard in Diane’s responses just moments ago.
It should not surprise us that Jesus first quotes Deuteronomy 6, known as the Shema: Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This was central to the people’s identity and life. More surprising is Jesus quoting the verse from Leviticus.
It may help us to know that this verse is the culmination of a litany of commands prohibiting the oppression and exploitation of the weak and poor. The litany includes- leave your field for the sojourner to glean, do not steal, deal falsely, or profane God, do not oppress the neighbor, exploit the employees, or discriminate against the disabled; do not show partiality in judgment.
The two commands Jesus names make us ask if our words and actions reflect and embody love of God and love of neighbor. When we read Scripture, we might ask whether the text inspires us to love God and neighbor. The 16th century church reformers, who we also celebrate today, knew that love of God and love of neighbor needed some specificity, needed interpretation for each time and space.
Martin Luther’s explanations of the Ten Commandments adds a positive command, instructing us what to do after explaining what we shall not do. The explanations are surprisingly relevant today. Take for example his explanation to the 7th Commandment, you shall not steal: “We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.”
Or the explanation to the 8th commandment, you shall not bear false witness: “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead, we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”
Neighbor love has always been about both our daily interactions with individuals (co-workers, next door neighbors, strangers on the interstate) and changing the systems and networks we all live in. Yes, it absolutely matters how we treat the cashier and the relative with whom we disagree on everything. Neighbor love is also expressed in how we spend our money and time and how we vote.
Interconnected to our love for God and love of neighbor is self-love, which Jesus’ words absolutely imply. One of my teachers [RHW] writes powerfully about this: “My faith journey has led me to understand that loving yourself is necessary to loving others. The more that I have leaned into God’s love for me, the more that I understand how revolutionary and absolutely necessary it is to love myself, without apology. And when I love myself and my God, I can love others in ways that I didn’t even know were possible.”
I, Meggan, think it is no accident that Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. If there is not deep, authentic, self-love, it’s nearly impossible to truly love our neighbors.
We are called back, once again, to the heart of faith for the sake of the kingdom of God. Jesus’ words to the questioning scribe offer a sharp critique of the teachings of the scribes, who have been guardians of the religious establishment. At every turn the scribes have opposed Jesus with questions about his authority and the source of his power.
Jesus has demonstrated that the scribes are on the wrong side of the work of God. But in today’s story, a scribe stands in solidarity with Jesus. The scribe shares Jesus’ anguish over a temple cult that has lost its soul and purpose, its moral authority, its heart for renewal, and can no longer hear, discern ore respond to God’s voice.
Martin Luther and the other reformers were not Christ come again. They were flawed human beings. And yet their legacy of reforming the church is one worth celebrating. Maybe it is their very imperfections that give us hope today–hope that we who follow in their footsteps can reform the church once again, help bring the larger church back to these two crucial commands.
Instead of pointing fingers at who is getting it wrong, we can show love and acceptance to people who have been hurt by the church. Instead of fighting over all that might divide us we can come together over neighbor-love practices that most of us agree on, such as food access, affordable housing, child poverty, saving the planet, and sharing the good news about a God who first loves us with abundance.
Today we celebrate this good news. In the ministry of Jesus, the proclamation of the good news is accompanied by the casting out of demons and the healing of many who are sick. It is the good news of God that does not command, coerce, or mandate love, but rather evokes worship, love and obedience.
The story of love is not complete until we see the cross of Jesus and power of God wielded there. The Gospel presents us with love, worship, and discipleship. It invites us to anticipate that the scribe will experience the full life of love of God, neighbor, and self when love embraces him. In joyful response, we follow where only love can lead.
Prayers of Intercession (adapted from Sundays and Seasons by Mary Braudrick)
Made children and heirs of God’s promise, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need. (A brief silence)
God of true might and redemptive mercy, We pray for all who long for a word of truth and long for the radical grace that flows from the cross. Inspire congregations to freely and boldly proclaim your love for all people, with persistence and hope. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.God of new beginnings,
We pray for your creation, for mountains, rivers, streams, cities, homesteads and neighborhoods. Write on our hearts a new love and care for creation. Give us the will to curb wasteful habits. May we hold accountable those people who have not cared enough and have damaged the earth. May we do our part to restore it. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God, the giver of life, You intend for humans to live together in peace. In these days of grief over gun violence, we pray for your presence among us. We remember before you the victims in the recent shooting in our community: Jo Acker and Roberto Padilla Arguelles. Bring comfort to their families whose lives are forever changed. Grant healing and wholeness to the survivors who were wounded or traumatized. Each name you know. May your mercy be upon the one who fired the weapon and also died; whose name you also know. Console his family with your grace. We commend them ALL to your steadfast love. Lord in your mercy,Hear our prayer.
God of compassion,We give you thanks for the first responders, for police officers, firefighters, EMTs and all who offer compassionate aid in situations of tragedy. Give them courage, sound judgement, safety and support as they risk their lives for others. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
God of justice, We pray for all who aspire to public office and for all who will vote on Tuesday at local polling places. May we see clearly our civic duty to vote as appropriate. Pour wisdom and understanding upon all who govern so that communities of justice and peace may thrive. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
God of righteousness, We pray for all who, in these present days, seek to grow in faith and love of you. We give you thanks for all the saints and reformers who have gone before us who dwell in your holy habitation. Give us courage through their example to challenge unjust systems and work toward life-giving reformation. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
God of peace, By your mercy, make us instruments of your peace. Receive these earnest, spoken prayers, O God, and those in our hearts known only to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.