Call to Worship
L: Come and worship the God of love!
C: Let us love the Lord, our God!
L: With heart and soul, with mind and strength.
C: Let us love our neighbors, too!
L: In equal measure as ourselves.
C: Come and worship the God of love!
Psalm 89: 1-8
1 I will sing of the Lord’s loyal love forever.
I will proclaim your faithfulness
with my own mouth
from one generation to the next.
2 That’s why I say,
“Your loyal love is rightly built—forever!
You establish your faithfulness in heaven.”
3 You said, “I made a covenant with my chosen one;
I promised my servant David:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever;
I will build up your throne from one generation to the
5 Heaven thanks you for your wondrous acts, Lord—
for your faithfulness too—
in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 Is there any in the sky who could compare to the Lord?
Who among the gods is equal to the Lord?
7 God is respected in the council of the holy ones;
God is awesome and revered more than all those around him.
8 Who is like you, Lord God of heavenly forces?
Mighty Lord, your faithfulness surrounds you!
Mark 12: 28-34
28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
32 The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Meditation Rev. Becky Downs
Greetings to all of you in this time that just seems to get stranger and stranger! I pray that all of you, and those who you love, are healthy and safe. Please let me know if you have special needs that one of us can help with, and know that my prayers continue for each one of you. You may remember that in our journey through the book of Mark, we have already passed the time that we normally recognize on Palm Sunday-- Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The authorities are actively trying to entrap Jesus through their questions and challenges. This is the context of the scripture that I shared with you. The scribes and elders had questioned Jesus on paying taxes, and one of the legal experts overheard their conversation. The legal expert would have been trained and practiced in the commandments, and definitely would have an opinion on the answer to the question he asked Jesus: “Which commandment is the greatest?”
The answer that Jesus gave is without doubt one of the most quoted things Jesus ever said, and it is echoed in almost all the world’s religions: Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. The legal expert concurred, and Jesus said to him, “You are not far from God’s kingdom.” To be close to God’s kingdom is the overarching focus of Mark’s gospel, from the beginning to the end, so when Jesus affirms the man in this way, it is the highest of praise.
In the midst of our current crisis, these are critical words for us to hear. Love the lord your God. Keep your faith in the one who created you and loves you beyond any love we can imagine. Hold close the scriptures that you know, the disciples who you’ve met, the lessons that you’ve learned, the hymns that move your heart. Know that we will be united again soon to worship our Holy One. Love the Lord your God.
The second is like it, Jesus says. “You will love your neighbor as yourself.” Love your neighbor as yourself. Maybe this is the part we’re working so hard on right now. We know how to “flatten the curve” We hear that we should #stayhome. We’re learning more and more about “social distancing,” and how very hard that can be when we just want to be with friends. It’s uncomfortable and inconvenient and disrupts our normal routines.
But we know, don’t we, that each step we take in this direction is an act of love for our neighbors? This is exactly what God would have us do. We protect ourselves and those closest to us, but we act out of care for people we don’t even know. First John 4: 19-21 says “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” And so we do. We stay home. We flatten the curve. We stand 6 feet away from each other. As weird as it is, this is loving God and loving our neighbor. May we continue to do God’s will.
Offering of Music Click this link to listen to music from Kaoma Chende: Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
During this time, you may make an offering to John Knox by going to our homepage and scrolling to the bottom where you will see a link to online giving. When you give this way, consider giving a little extra to defray the cost of this service. If you prefer, you may mail you offerings to the church directly. Even though we are far apart, the church's expenses remain the same.
Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer
This prayer was written and published by Julie Gvillo, Commissioned Pastor (PCUSA) and Founder and Creative Executive Director of A Place of Grace. Julie shares liturgy written on RCL passages each week on her blog, Point of Contact: Where Life and Worship Intersect.
O Great Shepherd,
because of you, we lack nothing.
Even in these challenging times,
you provide for us
in unexpected ways,
granting opportunities to rest
from the hustle and bustle
of our normal lives,
and satisfying our thirst for connection
through alternative means.
We give thanks for the reminder
to draw closer as a community
even as we practice social-distancing,
to support one another
and to lend a helping hand.
Thank you, Lord,
for leading us down new paths
toward relationship with you and
with one another,
for giving us tools for doing it
that protect our most vulnerable
while encouraging them
and lifting them up.
protect us all as we walk through
valleys of uncertainty,
and remove all sense of fear and panic.
Make your presence known to us
as you guide and direct us,
support and teach us,
so that we, in turn, might learn from you
how to do the same for others.
Particularly we pray for those
in the thick of this battle,
fighting for the lives of those
who struggle to breathe freely.
place your healing hand upon the tired,
the targets of judgment,
and even those who hoard out of fear and greed, we pray.
and give them strength and courage to carry on.
You prepare a feast of hope for us,
in the midst of the chaos.
You bless us with grace until our cups
For your steadfast love and faithfulness
we are grateful
every day of our lives,
and with loud praises
we lift our hearts to you.
And now with confidence as the children of God, let us pray as Jesus taught his disciples.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this daily our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Next week: Mark 13: 1-8, 24-37; the End of the Age
Rev. Becky Downs, Pastor