Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper26

Track 1: Your God Shall Be My God

Ruth 1:1-18
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

Elimelech, his wife Naomi, an Israelite family from Bethlehem – and their sons Mahlon and Chilion – emigrated to the nearby country of Moab to escape a famine in Judah.  Elimelech died, and the sons married two Moabite women: Mahlon married Ruth and Chilion married Orpah.

After about ten years, the two sons of Naomi also died in Moab. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. She told her daughters-in-law to return to their own mothers and remarry/ Reading from Ruth:

“See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”   (Ruth 1:15)

Orpah reluctantly left. However, Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!

Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;

your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.

Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.

May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,

if even death parts me from you!”   (Ruth 1:16-17)

Clearly, Ruth loved Naomi. She saw something in Naomi that she did not have. The Moabites had a culture of sacrificing their children to false gods. They  practiced incantations and curses. Ruth did not know the God of Naomi, but she was willing to seek him.

In today’s Gospel, a scribe saw something in Jesus that attracted him. He had seen the way Jesus had handled the questions of the Saducees. Most of the scribes dismissed Jesus altogether. But this scribe called Jesus “teacher.” He asked Jesus: “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, reading from Mark’s Gospel:

“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 neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”   (Mark 12:28-34)

The scribe was excited about the answer that Jesus gave:

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 neighbor 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.”   (Mark 12:32-34)

This scribe was seeking the kingdom of God. He had the Word made flesh to inspire him. God has promised us:

“When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,”   (Jeremiah 29:13)

Seekers, however, need evidence that there is something more than this current world has to offer. Some of us may think that we do not do evangelism, but we do it every day with our lives. Do people see something in us that they want? Are we the Naomi’s of our day? The Holy Spirit will do his job. But has our Christian witness drawn people near to the kingdom of God?

If so, they will say:

Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;

your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.

 

Track 2: Suggestion

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Psalm 119:1-8
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

In the wilderness.Moses commanded the children of Israel, before they entered the promised land, to obey the commandments of God. He summarized the Law in this way:

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.   (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

The key was keeping the Law in one’s heart.

When the scribe asked Jesus what is the first commandment 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 neighbor 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 neighbor 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.”   (Mark 12:29-34)

The scribes and Pharisees had added many legalistic requirements to the law of Moses, things they failed to keep themselves, making it burdensome for the Israelites. Do we need a clarification of the Law today? How many of us judge others based on our interpretation of the Law?

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Filed under Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year B

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