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Weekly Bible Notes

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Red or White


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 neighbour as yourself.'

In the reading from Mark today a teacher came to Jesus and asked him which of the commandments was most important. Jesus responded by reciting the words of the Shema  As a Jew, Jesus recited this twice a day, during his morning and evening prayers. The word "Shema" means 'Hear' and that is the first word of the prayer. The prayer was developed as a summary of the whole of the Jewish law, but Jesus goes on further with the commandment 'love your neighbour as yourself.' This is a quote from Leviticus 19:18 and historically, the 'neighbour' meant "the sons of your own people," but Jesus had expanded the definition of a 'neighbour' far beyond this narrow interpretation.

Jesus wants his followers to extend to everybody the same self-centered love and concern which we all harbour for ourselves. Jesus said that love was to be shown not just to family members, members of the same religion, same nationality, it was even to be shown to enemies. (Matthew 7:12)

Christianity is not just a quick fix on a Sunday for an hour, it is a way of life which demands commitment and dedication to our faith, in every area of our lives. Our motivation for this costly way of doing things should come from a recognition that this is how God is towards to us. We might not deserve God’s love, but nevertheless God gives it. In the words of 1 John 4:19: "We love, because he first loved us." Amen.

Opening Sentence 1 John Chapter 4:19

'We love, because he first loved us.'  

Collect Prayer for the Day  Before we read we pray

Almighty and eternal God, you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of the saints: grant to us the same faith and power of love, that, as we rejoice in their triumphs, we may be sustained by their example and fellowship; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. CW

God of glory, touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit, that we with all creation may rejoice to sing your praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. CW

First Bible Reading Deuteronomy Chapter 6:1-9

This is the commandment – the statutes and the ordinances –  that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. NRSV

Second Reading Hebrews Chapter 9:11-15

Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! NRSV

Gospel Reading Mark 12: 28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard the religious authorities disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 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.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,” and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself” – this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question. NRSV

Post Communion Sentence

O Lord of heaven, who in this sacrament hast brought us near to an innumerable company of angels and to the spirits of the saints made perfect: grant that, as in this food of our earthly pilgrimage we have shared their fellowship, so we may come to share their heavenly joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.



The Ten Commandments given by God to Moses in the Book of the Exodus Chapter 20 starts off by establishing the relationship which must exist between the faithful and God. The Commandments go on to stress the need for filial respect (“honour your father and mother”) and only towards the end do the commandments mention relationships with non family members. Even then the Commandments are about not coveting, not stealing from other people.
The special message from Jesus in the passage today is that he brings together love for God and love for our neighbour in a single command. Jesus simplifies the commandments to loving God and loving others as much as oneself. What then did people feel? Confusion? Amusement?

Of course what appears to be quite a simplification of the rules of co-existence with other people, is actually the most challenging and demanding statement about the way humans must live. It is hard enough to love people we know well but infinitely harder to care passionately about men and women whom we have never met and never will. What is needed is emotional imagination – to be able to imagine the inner life and needs of people who are different from ourselves, people who look, speak, worship, love or behave in different ways from us. Jesus, in this apparently simple commandment, is asking us to do the hardest thing of all, to love without reservation and without barriers. Joan Crossley



One way of reading the Bible is to take a short passage, read it, pray about it, imagine you were seeing the event happen, try and identify with the feelings of the people mentioned, read it again and then pray about it again. This way of reading the Scriptures (“Lectio Divina”) was used by the monks of old to bring the Bible alive for them. It is a technique that we can use ourselves. Perhaps this week, we might also try and read a foreign news story with some of the same attention, to try bring the lives of people in remote situations into sharp focus ?

Hymns and Psalms

  1.  Lo he comes with clouds descending
  2. The trumpets sound
  3. Lord the light of your love
  4. For all the saints
  5. Now thank we all our God


Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Thank you Lord for the gift of the Scriptures. As I reflect on the Bible, make me open to your wisdom, receptive to your will and courageous in my response, in the love of Jesus, Rabbi, Teacher, Friend. Amen

Eternal God, grant to us this day and every day such readiness and delight in following Christ that whether our lives are short or long, we shall have lived abundantly. Amen

O Lord, save us from self-centredness in our prayers, and help us to remember to pray for others. May we be so lovingly absorbed with those for whom we pray that we may feel their needs as keenly as our own, and intercede for them sensitively with understanding and imagination. We ask this in Christ’s name, Amen. (after John Calvin)


Additional Material

Verse of scripture

'We love, because he first loved us.' 1 John Chapter 4:19

Post Communion Prayer

God, the source of all holiness and giver of all good things: may we who have shared at this table as strangers and pilgrims here on earth be welcomed with all your saints to the heavenly feast on the day of your kingdom. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Psalm 119:1-8 1

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. 2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. 3 They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. 4 You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. 5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! 6 Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.


A Scribe came to Jesus and asked him which of the commandments was most important. Jesus responded by reciting the words of the Shema

'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.'

As an observant Jew, Jesus recited this combination of confession and prayer to God twice a day, during his morning and evening prayers. Still today the Shema is the first prayer a Jewish child learns and a pious Jew would want it to be found on their lips at death. The word "Shema" means 'Hear' and that is the first word of the prayer. The prayer was developed as a summary of the whole of the Jewish law. The prayer is taught to all Jewish children by the parents and thus emphasises the responsibility of parents in passing on the faith to their children. The Shema is the central focus of Jewish worship. (See further, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, Numbers 15:37-41)

Jesus then goes on further with the commandment 'love your neighbor as yourself.' This means that we should extend to our neighbours the same self-centered love and concern which we all harbour for ourselves. Historically, the 'neighbour' referred to in Leviticus 19:18 specifically meant "the sons of your own people." But Jesus had expanded the definition of 'neighbour' far beyond those borders (see Luke 10:25-37), erasing national and ethnic self-centeredness as well as excuses for limits on loving one's 'neighbour.' When we love God with all our soul, we will succeed in integrating our faith into all of our being. We cannot compartmentalise our "religious life" from the rest of our life if the love of God has entered into our soul.

As Christians, this passage is a call to more commitment and dedication to our faith, in every area of our lives. This turning to God must embrace our Heart Soul Mind Strength. We could not be certain exactly what is meant by these different words but surely the real meaning is that every part of our being must seek to turn attention to God. Real faith lays hold of all these things, our emotions our wills, our minds and our bodily strength. This means that we observe the truth, allow the truth to touch the emotions, then to challenge and move the will, and to engage the body in action. What is our motivation for doing God's will, obeying God's commands? Is it fear of authority? A desire for God's approval or the approval of others? Or love? Surely the reason why we seek to be obedient in our faith is because we have known the love of God, which melts our hard and self-centered hearts. As we know God’s love and seek to return that love, so we strive to follow his commandments and love our neighbour also. In the words of 1 John 4:19: "We love, because he first loved us."

Prayers for Sunday

God, our Shepherd, give to the Church a new vision and a new charity, new wisdom and fresh understanding, the revival of her brightness and the renewal of her unity; that the eternal message of your Son, undefiled by human tradition, may be hailed as the good news of the new age; through him who makes all things new, Jesus Christ our Lord. Percy Dearmer (1867-1936)

Gracious and all merciful God - we give thanks to you today for your compassion and your love. We proclaim your goodness and your strength and we call upon you in praise and thanksgiving. Bless us and bless your people everywhere this day with your holy presence. Help us to worship you in a manner worthy of our calling and to render to you the tribute due to your name. We ask it through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In the silence of the stars, in the quiet of the hills and in the heaving of the sea, you speak O Lord. In the words of the prophets and the message of the apostles, you speak O Lord. Now we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen.

Eternal God, You have been our resting-place through the ages. Generations come and pass away, but You abide forever. We praise you for Your presence among us. You bring us comfort amid our trials - clarity where confusion persists - peace in the midst of conflict - and hope of eternal life. Hear us now as we pray for Your Church and the needs of the world, for You are the God of our lives. We pray for the Church of Jesus Christ; that, begun, maintained and promoted by the Holy Spirit, it may be true, engaging, glad, and active, doing your will. Let Your church be always faithful, O God, and ready to promote the cause of compassionate love and peace

We pray that as Christian disciples we may be a faithful witness in word and deed to the Good News of Christ's Love. We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the word. We pray that everywhere upon this earth there may be justice and peace. We pray especially today for the well being of people in parts of the world affected by drought and famine. We continue to pray for peace in the Middle East. Lord, we pray for all people in their daily life and work - for our families, friends, and neighbours, and for those who are alone. We name before you individuals and families experiencing personal hardship or facing and uncertain future, those who are separated from loved ones, those who grieve this today, and those who are sick in hospital or ill at home. Hear us Lord as we now lift up those people and those situations you have placed upon our hearts.

Hymns for this Sunday

  • Ye servants of God
  • Come sing the praise of Jesus
  • As the deer
  • Tell out my soul
  • Great is thy faithfulness


Sermon: Shema