The Greatest Commandment Liturgy

Written by Highrocker, Sam Guthrie

Reflection

Welcome to the liturgy for our winter sermon series! In the church calendar, the stretch we are about to enter before the Lenten season is called “ordinary time.” Ordinary time is, well, ordinary. It’s mundane. It’s a time of waiting between events. The ordinary time is filled with 9-to-5s, dirty diapers, quick dinners, dog walks, and Zoom calls. If you’re anything like me, the ordinary time is often filled with questions as well: Am I in the right role at work? How will my children turn out? How do I manage social distancing? Will I get the vaccine soon? Sometimes, we ask questions like: What does it mean to be a Christian? How involved should I be at church? How can Jesus still love me if he knows about that thing in my life?

Jesus is not a stranger to these questions. Much of his ministry was spent answering questions like these from people like you and me. After a certain bombardment of inquiries from the temple leaders in Mark’s Gospel, one scribe asks Jesus which commandment is the most important. Jesus says:

“The most important one… 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 neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The scribe, pleased with Jesus’ answer, commends him and adds to Jesus’ response that love for God and others is even more important than burnt offerings. Jesus acknowledges the wisdom in the scribe’s response; indeed, loving God and others is the pinnacle of the law. And yet, Jesus' final word to the scribe doesn’t bring the expected resolution. After the scribe’s textbook answer, Jesus tells him “ not far from the kingdom of God.” What? You mean the scribe’s answer doesn’t place him in the kingdom of God? If we cannot be in the kingdom of God by following the law, how are we to enter? If the scribe isn’t in the kingdom of God, how could I be? I have a hard time just praying and reading my Bible let alone loving the Lord with everything I have all of the time. Why is it that the answers we seek in our “ordinary time” never yield the fulfillment we’re looking for?

Our good deeds and right answers may give the allusion of our proximity to the kingdom of God however close or far that may feel to you today, but rest assured, the good news of Jesus is that it is only through Him that we enter. Author and priest Robert Capon says that “Jesus didn’t come to reform the reformable. He came to raise the dead.” God’s gracious invitation into his kingdom is not earned by what we do or don’t do. It comes through raising us from the grave with Christ and giving us new life in Him. He promises to be with us and in us and for us. Therefore there is not one part of our lives he doesn’t care about in which he is also redeeming and using to bring forth his kingdom. May our questions in this ordinary time stem from the comfort found in the finished work of Jesus. May our whole lives be continually renewed and reformed by our Savior. May our love for others stem forth from His love for us. 

Winter Liturgy: Creating a Space This Week

Our hope is this will be a time set apart to meet with Jesus. One way we can lean deeply into these moments is by marking the beginning and the end of this time with a tangible act that sets it apart as sacred. We recommend striking a match and lighting a candle. Other options include: dimming the lights, closing a door, or going outside. At the end of the Liturgy, you’re invited to exit the space with another tangible act (i.e.: extinguishing the candle, turning on the lights, opening the door, or going back inside). You may not have time to do all of the liturgical practices listed below. That’s okay! Our hope is that you can use them in some capacity throughout the week.

Enter the Space
Strike a match and light the candle

Doxology
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow
Praise Him, all creatures here below
Praise Him, above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Amen

Reading and Responding to God’s Word
Mark 11:27 - Mark 12:34

(Prompt Below)

Remembering God’s Promise
The Heidelberg Catechism
(See Below)

-OR-

Saint Patrick’s Morning Prayer
(See Below)


Breath Prayer
Resurrected Lord,
I no longer live.
But Christ lives in me.

Exiting the Space
Extinguish the candle

Reading and Responding to God’s Word

Read Mark 11:27 - 12:37 and notice how many questions are asked of Jesus. What questions do you bring to Jesus? How do you hope he answers them?

Read Mark 12:28-34. When you read the phrase “the greatest commandment,” what emotions do you feel?

Being part of the kingdom of God is recognizing our inherent worth in Jesus and the ways we are called to serve him and others. What are some ways the Holy Spirit may be encouraging you to serve Him and others at our church and in your community?

Part of being in the kingdom of God is recognizing that we are always in need of being reminded of the good news of God’s promise. With that in mind, what are some ways you can remind others of this promise? What are some areas in your life that the Holy Spirit is encouraging you to ask for help to remember this promise?

Reciting and Remembering

For centuries, Christians have created and recited catechisms. Catechisms are a way for Christians to come together and recite communally key principles and promises of our Christian faith that is rooted in God’s story of redemption. Below is the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism. This call and response may be a helpful way to structure your quiet time or remind yourself of whose you are in Christ throughout the day. 

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and death?

A.That I am not my own, 
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, 
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood, 
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil. 
He also preserves me in such a way 
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head; 
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation. 
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit
he also assures me
of eternal life 
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for him. 

Morning Prayer - Saint Patrick

Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

Breath Prayer

Breath prayer is an ancient Christian prayer practice. It is a very short prayer of praise or petition, just four to eight syllables. The first phrase is generally an invocation of God’s name, spoken as you inhale. The second phrase, usually a need or request, is spoken as you exhale. The breath prayer below is taken from Galatians 2:19-21 and is a way to remind ourselves of God’s promise and our new life in Christ.

The breath prayer is usually said quietly and repeated several times. Some people sing it; others chant it. We’ve provided a prayer for you to use, if that’s helpful. Take your time with the breath prayer.

Breath Prayer
Resurrected Lord,
I no longer live.
But Christ lives in me.