On Sunday November 1st I led worship at Killinghall Chapel, which also included the congregation of Bilton Area Chapel, whilst their chapel is being upgraded to make the chapel more flexible for worship and community activities. Worship opened when we sang, ‘God has spoken – by his prophets’. I led the opening prayers before I gave the children’s address about how we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. I told them how much God loved them just as they are even when they make mistakes. As God sees they are lovable then they must love themselves and love others as they love themselves. We sang, ‘When I needed a neighbour, were you there?’ I blessed the children as they left for their groups. I then read Deuteronomy 6.1-9, before a member of the chapel read Hebrews 9.11-14. We sang, ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy’, before we heard the dramatised reading based on Mark 12.28-34.
In Deuteronomy Moses gave the law to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land. He told the people that keeping God’s law was the way they would be shaped into a community of love and become a mighty nation. The most important commandment to remember was that they were to hear that the Lord and the Lord alone, is their God. They had to love the Lord your God with all their heart, with all their soul, and all their strength. That commandment was so important they called ‘Shema’ which meant ‘Hear.’ It was the most important commandment, so people were encouraged to wear it on their foreheads, or have it on the doorposts. It was important to teach future generations to love God with all their heart, soul and mind, as God has loved them.
Jesus commended the scribe which showed that not all Pharisees were antagonistic to him. Jesus had not doubt about which the greatest commandments were. The Shema was repeated daily by the Jews and was the foundation of their monotheism. Jesus added the commandment from Leviticus 19.18; ‘Do not take revenge on anyone or continue to hate him, but love your neighbour as you love yourself. I am the Lord.’ Love of God had its fulfilment in love of one’s neighbour; and love of our neighbour needed to be rooted in love of God. Scribes and Pharisees had attempted to codify the law and summarise its more than 600 precepts under fundamental principles. When the scribe asked him Jesus began by quoting the Shema from Deuteronomy 6.5-6, which confirmed the absolute sovereignty of God in all areas of life. Jesus then quoted from Leviticus as the second commandment. One part of the greatest commandments we often miss when we read that we should love God with all our heart, soul and strength and our neighbour as ourselves, is that we are to love others as we love ourselves! Can we really love others if we don’t love ourselves? God loves us so we are lovable and need to learn to love ourselves. I keep repeating this as I find it difficult to love myself; Malcolm and my two daughters, Beth and Cathy are teaching me that I am lovable and that is helping me. The Scribe went even further than Jesus by quoting from Hosea 6.6 about God not wanting animal sacrifices, but rather wanting their constant love. Jesus commended the Scribe saying that he was not far from God’s Kingdom.
Hebrews saw Jesus as the great High Priest who could enter into the Holy of Holies through his suffering and death. Jesus showed us how much God loved us and wanted to help us. Jesus through his love for us voluntarily had chosen to serve others and God even though it led to his suffering and death. Jesus’ death and resurrection removed the need for animal sacrifice. How do we respond to the challenges Jesus brings us? Do we like Jesus see that loving God and our neighbours as we love ourselves as the vital foundation of our society’s laws? Thank you Father for loving us so much that you sent Jesus to share your love with us. Thank you Jesus for caring so much for us that you were prepared to offer yourself in love and service in obedience to God, even as far as death on the cross. Thank you, Father for raising Jesus from the dead. May we learn to love God, our neighbours as we love ourselves?
We sang, ‘For the healing of the nations, Lord, we pray with one accord;’ before I led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from day to day’ and I gave a blessing.