During the current cessation of regular Sunday Morning Worship Our Minister, Rev Rae Clark will prepare on each Sunday an act of worship which can be followed on this web-page.
This will continue for the foreseeable future
Clackmannan Parish Church of Scotland
Sunday 25th October 2020
(Prepared by The Worship Team)
Law and Love
Welcome to you wherever you may be. Be here now!
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, says the Lord.
We come this day, setting aside this time, to worship God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.
Let us worship the maker of heaven and earth.
When we are exhausted, and what we have to carry is more than we can bear,
God says: Come to me and rest.
When a good day’s work is finished, and we are pleased with what we have accomplished, God says: Now it is time to rest.
When we’ve done all we can, and there’s still so much more to do,
God says: Leave the rest to me.
When our life’s work is nearly ended, and we wonder if it has been enough,
God says: Well done! Come and take your rest!
God, help us to feel your love and show it every day of our lives.
Let us pray …
God of love,
our foundation and source,
we stand in awe of your unending love for your beloved children,
we know that your great love is given freely and in abundance for all whatever or whoever we are.
God of love,
we give thanks this day for the message, for the commandment, to love and to be loved.
Guide us in our journey to truly live as you have commanded, teach us to love you, to love our neighbour, and to love ourselves.
God of love,
it is the greatest of your commands,
and though we strive to live each day attempting to fulfil it, we to often fail.
In a world of conflicting allegiances and distractions, where hate is easier than care, help us to know your love.
God of love,
teach us to know a love that is patient, kind, and giving that seeks justice and equality for all, that avoids the easiness of discrimination and prejudice for the brilliance of a world, a community, a life lived in the warmth of true love, given freely, for and to all.
God of love,
these things we ask in Jesus’ name who taught us when we pray to say:
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
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 glory,
From God’s word …
The Greatest Commandment
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
May the words written here and the thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable to you, our God and Saviour?
Questions? Questions? Questions?
It appears from Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus was continually hounded by questions from the Scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees ever since His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and after His actions in the Temple in overturning the tables of the money changers and those selling doves. It is not clear whether these questions were posed in a single day or spread over several days. Today it is the turn of the Pharisees who tried to trap Him by asking, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus, well versed in the Jewish belief that all laws and commandments were sacred and that His audience would know that, answered firstly, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This verse which Jesus quotes is taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 and was and is today an integral part of Jewish worship and according to some writers it is the first text that any Jewish child commits to memory. The word love referred to in this passage is not taken from the Greek verb phileo, which expresses friendly affection, but agapao which is the commitment of devotion that is directed by the will and can be commanded as duty. An interesting point is that in quoting from Deuteronomy Jesus has made a subtle change to what had been written. In the Old Testament text it finished with “all your might (strength)” but Matthew reported that Jesus changed it to “with all your mind”. However, the accounts of this encounter in Mark and Luke list all four, heart, soul, mind and strength. In not quoting strength is it just an oversight on the part of Matthew or does he do it deliberately? Does Matthew believe that Jesus is recognising that using might and strength may deter people from loving God? Elsewhere in many parts of the Bible reference is made to the acceptance of the weak and feeble and that they too have a place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Does He not make His mission plain in Matthew 9:13 when He says that He “has not come to call the righteous, but sinners” not just the feeble and frail but sinners also. This statement is borne out in the passage in Luke 19:1-10 when He decides to go and stay at the home of Zacchaeus a hated tax collector, a visit which transformed Zacchaeus’ life.
A few years ago, in Kirk Session, we broke into smaller discussion groups to discuss several questions. The only one I can remember was “Why should we love God?” I can’t remember all the discussion and suggestions made until someone said, “We should love God in response to the love He has for us.” This reminded me, strange as it may seem, of large sporting events, particularly in America where you would see someone, sporting highly coloured clothes and sometimes hair, holding up a placard with a bible verse on it John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love is infinite, eternal, permanent, unlimited and unconditional. Despite these grandiose words God’s love is also personal. In loving God we are entering into a relationship that can have such meaning and outcome. What part do we play in this relationship? Is it not in worship and prayer? The writer of Psalm 139 speaks so fluently about his relationship with God and as an exercise I sometimes read it from a personal standpoint which makes it all the more meaningful.
The second and perhaps the third commandment is “Love your neighbour as yourself. This text is a direct quotation taken from Leviticus 19:18 which is embedded in a whole string of commands given to the Israelites. It is abundantly clear that Jesus does not intend the use of neighbours to mean our immediate neighbours on either side of our own house. But on the other side of the coin He does not mean all the people in the world that we do not come into contact with. In Luke’s Gospel when Jesus was questioned about “Who is my neighbour” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Therefore, neighbours can be interpreted as those with whom you come into contact in all walks of your life. There will be a whole spectrum of the different types of relationships we have with these contacts, from caring and friendly to hurtful and spiteful and a whole gamut in between. No matter what the status of our relationship with another person God is instructing us to love that person. Perhaps a useful exercise is to try to look at all the people that we are in contact with through the eyes of Jesus and to accept them as they are. We cannot expect someone to change into what we want them to be. The only person that we can change is ourselves. Sound advice is given on this matter in Matthew 7:3-5 when you are urged to remove the plank from your own eye before removing the speck of dust from other eyes.
I am sure we have all come across people who just love themselves: self-centred, self-important, vain, looking to be the centre of attention and selfish. Perhaps you can think of more adjectives to describe such a person. When I was growing up my family’s comment about such a person was that if they were chocolate they would eat themselves. Self love as Jesus intends is none of these.
To love ourselves may well be the hardest of the three directives. World and peer pressure sometimes creates a dilemma in people who think they are not good enough due to problems of body image, what is worn, a feeling of being inadequate, unable to accept forgiveness. Mental health status, which has become a bigger issue than normal due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, can lead to difficulties in loving who we are. These can become barriers to us loving ourselves and hence being able to love God or our neighbour. God does not see these barriers and freely gives His Grace, Love and Mercy to all.
However, it is quite clear that the three loves for God, Neighbours and ourselves are interconnected and intertwined with each other. Sometimes in business you would find that there were many companies discreetly connected by invisible cords but if one cord was pulled by a downturn or financial crisis then it was noticeable that many companies suffered from a knock-on effect. So the cords of love for God, love for neighbour and love of ourselves are affected by each cord and this tripartite love needs each cord to be secure. If one cannot love oneself for whatever reason then it might be hard to love God or our neighbour. I am sure you can do a permutation on the other ways in which this love triangle can be affected by an inability to love one of the other two. None of these loves transcends the other two. All are equally important.
There is a song by Beth Nielsen Chapman entitled ‘How We Love’. One line in the song states that in the end all that matters is how we love. In the song she develops the theme that who we are as we go through life is defined by how we love and of course it’s all that matters. It is a beautiful song. In the end, how we love God, how we love our neighbour and how we love ourselves defines us. IT’S ALL THAT MATTERS!
Please pray with us.
Love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
How, O God, do we live this command?
How do we love our neighbour as ourselves, when loving ourselves can be so hard?
How do we love our neighbour as ourselves, when our neighbours may be the ones who cause us pain?
How do we love our neighbour as ourselves, in a world where love is so often given over to hate?
We live in a world where the difference of our politics, our wealth, our mental health, our race, our sexuality, our gender, is demonised.
We live in a world where what makes us, us, is so often condemned or discriminated against.
How can we show love, when we are so often denied it by those closest to us?
Help us to see love, to show love, to know love, and work always, for a more just and loving world.
We come before you in love, O God.
We come before you as hopeful children,
searching always for greater knowledge of you and the ways of your love.
We offer these tokens of money as a sign of our dedication to you and your community.
Through them, we pray, that the mission and ministry of this community will grow and continue to show your love to a world so in need of your care.
Prayers for Others and Ourselves
Ever loving God,
mother and father of all,
creator and guardian of everything that we perceive,
we come together today, in praise and joy to give thanks for your love and to rejoice in the gifts you have given.
We pray for our world, which has been terrorised by the implications of Covid-19.
We ask for your eternal protection on those who work to keep your beloved children safe.
In a time where the interdependence of all people has become ever more evident and yet the divisions that plague our societies have become ever more obvious, we ask for the boldness to acknowledge our prejudice and to work for justice for all peoples.
We pray for your church, for the individuals who make up this body of Christ, and for the institutions that organise and facilitate the gathering of your church in community.
In this time of change, and hardship for a people who have lost the privileged position once occupied by Christians in the western world, help us to see the gift that this can bring to guide us towards a simpler, faithful church, focused on love of you, love of our neighbour and ourselves.
We pray for each person here today, as we each chart our own path through life, seeking to do good, at times succeeding and at times failing, that we may each find strength in your love to live well and show the radical love offered in and commanded by your Son today and every day.
Lord, we pray especially for those struggling at this time and ask that you will surround them with your love, comfort and strength as we name them now before you ........
These things we ask in Jesus’ name.
As we close our time together and return to our daily rhythms may we find ways of loving God with our hearts, our minds and our souls.
And then to pay it forward to our friends, family and neighbours.
Go now with God’s love sustaining you today, tomorrow and every day.
And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit go with you and remain with you and all whom you love this day and forever more.
A note from the Minister:
Thank you to the Worship Team who are providing worship services while I am on holiday. I appreciate their hard work and their willingness to use their gifts in this way. I pray for them, and for all of you who engage with this service.
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