Enjoy this opening music, “Oh Happy Day”, performed by the Combined Choir of First Baptist Church of Glenarden.
Call to Worship
Hear, O people:
The Lord our God is one!
Hear, O people:
The Lord our God is love!
Come, you people,
And praise the God of love!
You have shown that all we truly need is to love. Expand our hearts to embrace your world and show ourselves as children of a compassionate God, for the sake of your Son Jesus, amen.
First Reading Mark 12: 28-31
28 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?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 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.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
I follow a website called “Humans of New York,” in which Brandon Stanton photographs people and they tell him about their lives. In this week’s stories there was one about a girl named Chloe and her assistance dog Ted— this is what she says:
“…There are two options when you get an assistance dog. You can get a dog that’s already been trained. Or you can train the dog yourself—and that’s what I wanted to do. Because I needed something. I have this genetic disease. It weakens every part of my body, but it didn’t get bad until my teenage years. …It reached a point where I couldn’t see a reason to live anymore. I needed something to focus on besides my health. And Ted gave me that. I watched all the training videos I could find. I read all the books. I reached out to people and asked for help. It gave me a reason to talk to people again. I hadn’t done that in so long.
… From day one—we’ve been so in sync. He can fetch me anything. He helps me get undressed. He even watches me when I sleep, and wakes me up if I’m having night terrors. My mom was having to help me with everything before I got Ted. And she loves me so much. But she has two other children, and I know she was getting so tired. But Ted doesn’t get tired. He loves to help. He’s so excited to help. He’ll pick up the same thing seventeen times. It makes him so happy. He’s my world—really. He saved my life. He made me happy again. And he takes so much pressure off my family. He gives me a break from being the disabled child. From being the focus of everyone’s attention. He lets me be a daughter. And a big sister. He lets me be Chloe again.”
Paul is writing to the Corinthians in this reading and he’s not happy with them. They’re quarreling with each other, they’re behaving in immoral and unethical ways, and they’re not being good witnesses to the gospel.
We’ve all been there, and maybe you feel it now in this time of elevated anxiety. Maybe you see that we’re not being very good witnesses to the God we know.
So here’s what he tells them: Be more like Chloe’s dog. Be like Ted. Be patient. Be kind. Be gentle. Be faithful. Quit complaining and be the responsible, helpful adults that God knows you can be— that God already knows you ARE, in your very essence as the ones God created.
Paul says it can be hard because you can’t see how everything is gonna turn out, but love never ends. And if you live out of your faith, and if you can be hopeful for the future, and most of all if you show love for God and for your neighbor, you’re gonna start to see glimpses of God’s reign, right here and now. Faith is abiding here; hope is living with you; love is in your house. And the greatest of these is love. Amen.
Music and Offering
During this time, or after our prayers, 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. We give out of pure gratitude for what God has done.
Listen with joy to “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” sung by the choir and congregation at the National Episcopal Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
Prayers of the People
We pray for the church, the world, and all those in need.
(A brief silence.)
When our words and deeds are impressive but our hearts are empty, we are useless to others, O Lord. May we learn to begin all things in love, and allow our actions to follow. Loving God, hear our prayer.
Everything that we know, own, accomplish and treasure will all come to an end one day. Teach us again and again that the only thing which truly endures across years, miles, and other barriers is love. May we live as though it is so. Loving God, hear our prayer.
Love bears and endures all things, even those times when we doubt our ability to withstand adversity. Grant us your Spirit’s strength, and give your healing breath to all who need it, especially to all those who are sick, out of work, or struggling with isolation. Loving God, hear our prayer.
Your holy saints devoted their lives to loving as Jesus showed love, and we long to reflect this in our lives as well. Join us forever in unbreakable bonds held together by you, dear Creator. Loving God, hear our prayer.
In you we live and have our being, O God. Accept and grant these prayers which we bring before you, by the grace of Jesus Christ our savior, Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
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 day 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, now and forever. Amen.
Benediction: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, and bring you peace. Amen.
A bonus piece of music:
All You Need is Love, by the Beatles.
And one more bonus song: God and doG, by Wendy J. Francisco
Next week: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-26, Death is destroyed.
Today’s prayers are from Clergy Stuff Worship Resources, Bloomington, Minnesota, 2016-2019.
The story about Chloe and Ted is from Brandon Stanton at humansofnewyork.com, May, 2020.