SUNDAY 31ST OCTOBER 2021
THE GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
God’s grace and peace are with us.
Let our hearts be filled with joy
Let us pray.
God of mercy,
your love for us is strong,
but our love for you is weak.
You call us to follow Jesus,
but we are slow to obey.
You care for all that you have made,
but we ignore the needs of others
and misuse your creation.
We are sorry for our sins.
and help us to please you
by the way we live;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God is love
and forgives our sins through Jesus. Amen
you gave you a Son for the life of the whole world.
Give us the joy of knowing the risen Christ,
and let your Holy Spirit guide us,
that we may love and serve you on earth
and live with you for ever in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
GLORIA, sung by Sue St Joseph
Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to God’s people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us.
You are seated at the right hand of the Father:
Receive our prayer
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen
THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD
COLLECT (relating to the readings)
watch over your household with constant love:
that with you as our shelter
your family may be free from all distress,
and devoted to good works for the glory of your name;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
FIRST READING RUTH 1: 1-18 read by Ann Toner
Elimelech’s Family Goes to Moab
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi and Her Moabite Daughters-in-Law
Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. So, she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud. They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”
When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
SECOND READING HEBREWS 9:11-14 read by Mark Toner
But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!
GOSPEL READING Mark 12: 28-34 read by Rev Janice Aiton
A reading from the Gospel according to Mark, Chapter 12, beginning at verse 28
Hear the Gospel of Christ
The First Commandment
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you 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.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbour as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When 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.
This is the Gospel of Christ
Praise to Christ our Lord
Before this section in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has been plagued with many trick questions by the Scribes and Pharisees You know the kind of trick question I mean- where you are trying deliberately to catch people out. Here are the sort of trick questions I mean….. What gets wetter the more it dries? A towel. What word is spelled incorrectly in every single dictionary? Incorrectly. What is it that lives if it is fed, and dies if you give it a drink? Fire. What goes up but never ever comes down? Your age. What can you catch that is not thrown? A cold. If you have one, you want to share it. But once you share it, you do not have it. What is it? A secret. Jesus’ trick questions were all about taxes, marriage, and authority, and each of them he answered wisely and graciously.
On account of his wise responses, we are told an expert in the law approached Jesus with a genuine question. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” If you think all the rules about Covid were numerous and confusing that is nothing compared to the commandments in the Law. By rabbinical count there are 613 commandments in the law – so not an easy question. The question posed to Jesus was one that was frequently discussed among rabbis. Jesus was asked to name one commandment but Jesus names two. He replies-Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. In a sense Jesus is saying there are five ways here to loving God-with all our heart/ with all our soul/ with all our mind/with all our strength/and love your neighbour as yourself
So, what does it mean to love God with all our heart? First of all, it is important to say that God with all his heart loves us. God loves each one of us completely and fully. There is no-one here who is not held in the palm of God’s loving hand and for whom God does not care deeply. God loves us freely and generously and there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love-his love is just there for us to receive. Maybe you wonder whether God really does love you with all your mess and inner ugliness? There is no doubt whatsoever- He does love you. Have you seen the film ‘Bridget Jones diary? In Bridget Jones diary her boyfriend loved her warts and all. He said. ‘I love you just the way you are.’ Bridget Jones had some disgusting habits and idiosyncrasies, and yet her boyfriend loved her for the person she was. God loves us with all our disgusting habits and idiosyncrasies-he loves us just the way we are. While he loves us the way we are – God’s desire is always to transform us into the person he has made us to be.
So, God’s heart is for us, what about our heart towards God? Heart here means the centre of a person’s inward life- the spiritual life. To love God with all our heart is about strengthening our intimacy with God. It is about our commitment to God. Some would say it is all about our surrender to God, where God has priority in our ambitions, priority in our family, priority in how we use our talents, priority in our money, priority in our energy and work. There is a hymn called ‘all to Jesus I surrender’- that sums up really what it is to love God with all your heart- it is to give God every part of you. To love God with all our heart does not come easily to anyone. Indeed, to love God with all our heart is something I suspect we desire and strive after but in this life, it is something we can never fully attain, albeit it is something we earnestly seek to do. So loving God with all our heart is surrendering our life to God’s.
Loving God with all our soul- is to love God with our emotions, our attitudes and our will. C. S. Lewis believed that love is not primarily a matter of feeling but a matter of the will. We are obliged to love whether we like it or not! Thus, Christian love says C. S. Lewis towards God and our neighbour is matter of the will. Sometimes even when we do not particularly like someone, acting lovingly towards them can change our feelings toward them. Christian activist Dorothy Day wrote something that’s a difficult truth: “Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love the least.” Oh, that’s hard!
A newspaper columnist and minister, George Crane, told of a wife who came to his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I want not only to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has hurt me.” Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him.” “After you’ve convinced him of your undying love, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt.” With a glint in her eye, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm: acting as if she loved him. For two months straight, she showed kindness by listening, giving, encouraging, and sharing. When Dr. Crane noticed that he hadn’t seen her in a long time, he called her. “Are you ready to go through with the divorce?” “Divorce?” she exclaimed. “No way! I really do love him, after all.” Her loving actions changed how she felt. So loving God and our neighbour will all our soul is to do with our will- it is to do about choosing to love God and neighbour in all situations whether we feel like it or not.
Loving God with all your mind- in other words with our intellect- is the place where we analyse, figure out and plan things. So, take care what we feed our minds on- too much junk TV viewing or computer gaming is not healthy and some things such as pornography are never healthy. So, everything we put in or allow in our minds is to be right, true and moral- so that we align our decisions with God’s. So, as it says in Romans- do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Loving God with all our mind is subjecting our intellect to God’s ways and purposes.
Loving with all your strength is seeing our heart, soul and mind working together in loving physical actions. Loving with all our strength is the visible deeds we do for God with the right motivations, attitudes and desires. I guess what we are being told here is that God does not want you to love him a little, or just with one part of you – God wants you to love him completely-God wants you to love him wholeheartedly.
There is a character in the Bible who loved God wholeheartedly and he is commended by God for it- his name is Caleb. God says of Caleb-My servant Caleb has a different spirit because he follows me wholeheartedly. What a compliment to get from God! How is our loving and following God- could say that our desire is to love God wholeheartedly?
And the fifth and final part about loving is to love our neighbour as ourself. Did you notice that we are to love our neighbour as ourself. Only when we accept ourselves, will we be able to start loving other people as God commanded. It is important to remember that you are made in God’s image and as God is love so you too are love. Unless we love ourselves, we cannot love others properly. So, to begin with we must love ourselves. There is an idea that love of self is wrong, even sinful. There is of course a form of self- love that is wrong- we call it selfishness or egoism, but there is a form of self- love that is healthy and good and without which we cannot love others well.
People who have self- loathing and hate themselves are not going to be able to love others well. They will project their feelings onto others. They will blame and castigate others for what they do not like in themselves. An old man was sitting on a bench at the edge of a town when the stranger asked: What are the people in this town like? The stranger asked. What were the people like in you last town- replied the old man? They were kind and generous and would do anything for you if you were in trouble. Well, I think you will find them much the same in this town. Sometime later a second stranger approached the old man asked the same question: What are the people in this town like? And the old man replied: and what were they like in the town you have come from? It was a terrible place, came the answer. To tell you the truth, I was glad to get out of it. The people there were mean, unkind and nobody lifted a finger to help you if you were in trouble. I’m afraid said the old man, you’ll find much the same in this town. The main point of this story is: we see other people not as they are but as we are. If we see people in a bad light most of the time, it can be a sign that we are ill at ease with ourselves. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we do love others precisely as we love ourselves.
Loving ourselves healthily frees us to love others. There is recently a lady who is 94 and she had one item on her bucket list- it was not a fancy holiday, or a daring adventure it was to appear on television for three minutes and say three words. Her wish was granted and she appeared on television and she said her three words. What were her three words? Her three words were- love one another. She had practised that in her life and it had faired her well.
So, in concluding we are to love our neighbour as ourselves and this love for others flows from our love of God whom we are invited to love with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. As the hymn says God’s love is so amazing so divine, it demands my soul my life my all! Amen
THE NICENE CREED
Let us profess the faith of the Church
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven
was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified and under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living
and the dead and his Kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
O Holy Spirit, Giver of love
fills us with life afresh
that as you love, so may we love
and do what you would do.
Help us Lord,
to love one another
God, love is your sign
Your love leaves no –one untouched, especially ourselves
strengthen all that restores us in your image
and make us worthy of our calling as your sons and daughters.
Fill us with a desire to serve your people
so that by our love we may be signs
of your love, grace and compassion.
Help us Lord,
to love one another
God, love is your name,
may the church clear way any barriers
which prevent your love flooding it.
Wash away all that is selfish and negative
and help us to build strong loving foundations.
As we love you with our whole hearts, so give us
grace to show that love towards our neighbours and ourselves.
Help us Lord,
to love one another
God love is your law for justice and protection.
We lift to you those, who are refugees
and are suffering from a lack of shelter and basic resources.
Open the hearts and minds of all nations
to welcome those
who have left family and everything behind
to have a new beginning and future.
Enable refugees to get homes, find work
and feel welcome in their new countries.
Help us Lord,
to love one another
God, love is your mark-your mark of healing and grace.
We pray for those who suffer today in body, mind or spirit
and we invite your spirit to touch them in power and in gentleness.
We lift to you those known to us who are sick at home or in hospital.
May you loving God be present in their darkness and pain,
and as deep calls to deep, may you bring inner quiet and hope,
and may your mark of healing and grace be evident to all in need.
Help us Lord,
to love one another
God, love is your word
we pray for those who doubt your promises
in difficult times of bereavement
and in the hard times of unemployment and unrest.
We ask that you will enfold them in your love,
fill them with your strength and peace,
and restore their trust in your living word
We lift to you our families
and those whom we hold dear
thanking you for all their love.
May we cherish that love
and may we never take your love O God, for granted.
accept these prayers for the sake of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord
who taught us to say together,
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
Let us pray.
God of glory,
Strengthen us in our life together
that we may grow in love
for you and for each other;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The blessing of God,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be upon you now and always. Amen
Go or stay in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen