Proper 26

Some congregations may observe the Festival of All Saints on the Sunday following November 1. A text study for All Saints Day is provided as a separate commentary.

November 2, 2000

Prayer of the Day
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people to seek more eagerly the help you offer, that, at the last, they may enjoy the fruit of salvation; through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
{1] Now 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, {2} 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. {3} 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. {4} Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. {5} You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. {6} Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. {7} 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. {8} Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, {9} and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

1-3: A continuation of the exhortations to keep the statutes and ordinances, including the Decalogue, which Moses delivered to the people in chapters 4 and 5.
4. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone: The translation seeks to make sense of a Hebrew noun sentence by introducing the verbal form "is." The sentence is not supposed to make sense, but to convey the singularity of Yahweh, beyond the power of mere words to express. This is the Shema, the fundamental creed of Israel, the declaration of the awesome solitariness of Yahweh, who by his own creative act brings Israel into his presence, and allows her to speak the words "our God" without censure.
5-9: "Verses 4-9 are not themselves a sermon but one single appeal, although expressed in a great variety of ways, a chain of very forceful imperatives, prefacing the subsequent sermons in order to draw attention to their unique importance." [1]
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might: Heart, the center of thought, soul, the spiritual center of humans, and might, the physical component are all to be focused on "love" toward Yahweh. Love here is something beyond those feelings of affection or attachment we may feel for spouse, children, family or friends. It is submission to and loyalty toward one with whom you are linked in covenant. A covenant person is related to God who made covenant with him/her, and also with all others who are related to him/her in covenant by love.
Bind them…fix them…write them: "Probably we still have to do here with a figurative mode of expression, which was then later understood literally and led to the use of the so-called phylacteries." [2]

Psalm 119:1-8
{1} Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD. {2} Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, {3} who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways. {4} You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. {5} O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! {6} Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. {7} I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances. {8} I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

     Psalm 119, the longest of all the Psalms, is an alphabetic Psalm with 8 verses beginning with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is not liturgical poetry, but an artificial composition which develops a distinctive "Torah piety." Motifs and literary structures from many kinds of Psalms can be identified. The felicitation "happy," is a wisdom motif, verses 5-6 contain a petition characteristic of an individual lament. In verse 7 there is the beginning of a song of thanksgiving. [3]
1. Happy: A wisdom term, "happy," "blessed."
2. with their whole heart: The Deuteronomic exhortation to love Yahweh with all your heart… brings blessing.
8. do not utterly forsake me: The poet prays that God will be among those who are described as "happy" because Yahweh will not forsake him/her.
     As a celebration of obedience Yahweh’s Torah these verses are a fitting response to the first lesson.

Hebrews 9:11-14
{11} But when 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), {12} 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. {13} 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, {14} 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!

11-12: The figure of Christ as high priest is accompanied by places and things having to do with the priesthood, metaphors of the tent, the Holy Place, the blood of sacrifices, the ashes of a heifer.
13-14. if the blood of goats and bulls…how much more will the blood of Christ: This is reasoning "from lesser to greater." If it is assumed that Christ is greater than a goat or a bull, whose blood makes one holy, then his blood is that much more effective in purifying our consciences.
13. the ashes of a heifer: This was an ancient recipe for the preparation of "the water for cleansing," by which impurity caused by contact with a dead body could be purified (Numbers 19:1-22). That impurity was contracted through dealing with a dead body, even when all was done according to the appropriate rituals.
dead works: Dead works are not just works that are without value because they are ineffectual. As a dead body imparts an impurity that separates one from God and from the community, so "dead works" make a person impure. Christ does not replace ineffectual dead works with worship of the living God, he cleanses the impurity such dead works, even those done in accordance with God’s will and intention, communicate.

Mark 12:28-34
{28} One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" {29} Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; {30} 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.' {31} The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." {32} 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'; {33} 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." {34} 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.

28 One of the scribes: This person is not a hostile questioner, like the chief Priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees in the narratives immediately preceding (11:27-12:27). He acknowledges the correctness of Jesus’ answer, expands on it, and is, in turn, commended by Jesus for his wisdom (verses 32-34).
30-31. you shall love the Lord your God…you shall love your neighbor: Given the strong "group orientation" of the people of the New Testament, the word "love," which indicates the affection one may feel for another person, or God, instead indicates the attachment one has to other persons and to God. "Thus ‘to love God with all one’s heart…’ means total attachment to the exclusion of other deities; ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself’ is attachment to the people in one’s neighborhood as to one’s own family…." [4]
32. You are right, Teacher, you have truly said…: By acknowledging that Jesus was correct the scribe recognizes Jesus’ honor as an interpreter of the law.
32a-34: Further, by expanding the Jesus’ response the scribe asserts his own authority as an interpreter of the law, which Jesus, in turn, accepts.
34. no one dared to ask him any question: "The outcome of this series of challenges put to Jesus in the Temple (11:27-12:34…) is such a substantial grant of honor that his elite opponents no longer dare to ask him any questions." [5]

     The law was given to Israel by Yahweh so that by keeping them the people would prosper and multiply. Those who love the Yahweh with all their physical, mental and spiritual being will blessed and Yahweh will be with them. Jesus said that the law was first love to God and then love the one’s neighbor, and he agreed with the scribe that this was more important than all offerings and sacrifices. It is not that sacrifices and offering or works of generosity and kindness are ineffectual and therefore vain. Such good works are good, and they even make purification within the earthly sphere. But Christ makes purification on a different level by offering himself for our eternal redemption. Loving God and loving the neighbor as yourself is now possible on a level not envisioned before.

Hymns [6]
With One Voice (e.g. 762v), Hymnal Supplement 1991 (e.g. 725s) and LBW (e.g. 32).
E=Entrance; D=Hymn of the Day; I=First Lesson, P=Psalm; II=Second Lesson; G=Gospel

155 --E--Praise the Savior,
486 --D--Spirit of God,
692v --I--For All the Faithful
539 --P--Praise the Almighty

202 --II--Victim Divine, Your
325 --G--Lord, Thee I
491 --G--O God, I Love
411, 424, 744s, 502

Prayers of the People [7]
     We praise you O God for your marvellous provision in Christ Jesus, our high priest for all time to come. Jesus calls upon the scribe and us to love you with all heart, soul, mind and strength. He puts the flesh of our neighbour and the flesh of our own being on the command to love. In our weakness we do not know how to love as we ought. Teach us, God of love hear our prayer.
     We praise and thank you for those who strive for peace in our world. Bless their endeavours that the senseless killing might cease, that the earth may be cleared of landmines and that we may concentrate our thinking, our planning and our energy on caring for one another. Bless those who have served us in war in the struggle to stop oppression. God of love hear our prayer.

Or [8]

Presider or deacon
Let us call upon God through Jesus Christ our high priest, who offered his blood for the sins of all.
Deacon or other leader
For this holy gathering, and for the people of God in every place.
For all peoples and their leaders, and for justice and equity in the world.
For good weather, abundant fruits of the earth, and peaceful times.
For the sick and the suffering, travelers and prisoners, and the dying and dead.
For our families and neighbors and for all the people of our city.
Lifting our voices with all creation, let us offer ourselves and one another to the living God through Christ.
To you, O Lord.
God of Israel, who set forth your commandments for all your children, hear the prayers we offer this day and purify our consciences to worship the living God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[1] Gerhard von Rad, Deuteronomy: A Commentary. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966, p. 63.
[2] Ibid., p. 64.
[3] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989, p. 414.
Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 259.
[5] Ibid., pp. 258f.