Sunday service for 25th October 2020

For those who cannot come to St Mary’s for Richard Grosse’s Final service this Sunday

This service is very kindly provided by Revd Canon Alison Peden, our Interim Pastor

Pentecost 21  October 25th   2020

Commanded to love?

Preparation:  Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: the first commandment is this:
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this:  “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.       Amen.  Lord, have mercy.

Gloria:   Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away
the sin of the world; have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.  Amen

Collect:   O Lord, in your mercy: grant to your faithful people pardon and peace; that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen

Reading:  Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.  You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.  You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.

Gospel:    Matthew 22:34-46
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand,    until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

We are getting used to trying to summarise what is most important in a raft of commands:  ‘Hands, face, space’  or ‘Test and protect’.  The Jewish law was wide and complex, touching many areas of daily life. The summary Jesus gave was Biblical and well-known, and is now prayed at every Eucharist.

The summary of the Law is still a commandment.  But can you command someone to love?  That seems to go against our common understanding of love as an emotion, a feeling in our hearts.  It can be a bit daunting to say ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Do you(really) love God?’  or ‘Do you (truly) love your neighbour?’  We may quite like them, or even love them sometimes, but is that the same as real love?

We may be able to say ‘actions speak louder than words’.  This is what the wife, Golde, says to her husband, Tevye, in the musical Fiddler on the Roof  ( ) when he asks ‘Do you love me?’:
          For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your
          meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. 
          … if that’s not love, what is?’

Yet it’s not just that loving deeds prove our love; it’s also the case that if you commit to loving actions, your love will grow.  The commandments draw us into a pattern of living that increases our love:  if we honour our family, we find we care more and more for them;  if we respect our neighbours – as our first reading prescribes, by not slandering them or bearing grudges – we find that we actually do care about their welfare and maybe even love them.

And if we commit to prayer, worship, communing with God in Christ, our love of God will grow through the power of the Spirit, so that we can love our neighbour even more, because we love those whom God loves, cherished children as we are of one Father.

You might like to pause with this chant from Taizé, which is sung at

                      Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.
                      (Where charity and love are …  there is God)

Prayers:   From the Church of Scotland
Holy God, who gave your Law to Moses, and who personified your Law of love in Jesus your Son, as Jesus reached out to those on the margins, so now in our prayers we do likewise:

We pray for all who have little love in their lives – those who are lonely and afraid, those who are addicted and trapped, those who grieve and mourn, those whose relationships have shattered into a thousand shards.   God of love, help us to hold them close.

We pray for those who love the wrong things – those for whom money or possessions are “god” and where greed has taken over, those who love only for gaining the approval of others, flattery, or power, those who can only love self and where bitterness or hurt has made them inward-looking. God of love, help us to unlock their hearts.

We pray for those who love so much that they give themselves totally – those who are persecuted for truth or oppressed because they take a stand for justice; those who face discrimination because of skin colour, gender, sexuality or class; those who strive tirelessly for the Good News of Jesus, often facing hostility or apathy from others.
God of love, help us to work in solidarity with them.

And now we pray for those most in our hearts, for whom we know special love and concern …  
God of love, help us to trust your compassionate and infinite love for them.

God of Love, hear our prayers spoken and unspoken, and receive them in Your grace and mercy, through Jesus, our loving Saviour.  Amen

The Great Thanksgiving
Let us lift up our hearts and give thanks to the Lord our God,
for it is right to give our thanks and praise.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest!

Worship and praise belong to you, Father, in every place and at all times.  All power is yours. You created the heavens and established
the earth; you sustain in being all that is.
In Christ your Son our life and yours are brought together in a wonderful exchange. He made his home among us that we might
for ever dwell in you. Through your Holy Spirit you call us to new birth
in a creation restored by love.

As children of your redeeming purpose we offer you our praise,
with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven,
singing the hymn of your unending glory:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.      
Hosanna in the highest.

Glory and thanksgiving be to you, most loving Father, for the gift of your Son born in human flesh. He is the Word existing beyond time, both source and final purpose, bringing to wholeness all that is made.
Obedient to your will he died upon the Cross. By your power
you raised him from the dead. He broke the bonds of evil and
set your people free to be his Body in the world.
On the night when he was given up to death, knowing that his hour had come, having loved his own, he loved them to the end. At supper with his disciples he took bread and offered you thanks. He broke the bread, and gave it to them, saying: “Take, eat. This is my Body: it is broken for you.” After supper, he took the cup, he offered you thanks, and gave it to them saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my Blood of the new covenant; it is poured out for you, and for all, that sins may be forgiven. Do this in remembrance of me.”

We now obey your Son’s command. We recall his blessed Passion and death, his glorious resurrection and ascension; and we look for the coming of his Kingdom. Made one with him, we offer you ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice. Hear us, most merciful Father, and send your Holy Spirit upon us that, overshadowed by his life-giving power, we may be kindled with the fire of your love and renewed for the service of your Kingdom.
Help us, who are baptised into the fellowship of Christ’s Body to live and work to your praise and glory; may we grow together in unity and love until at last, in your new creation, we enter into our heritage in the company of the Virgin Mary, the apostles and prophets, and of all our brothers and sisters living and departed.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be to you, Lord of all ages,
world without end. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer:   Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.   Amen.

The Communion:   draw close to Christ in spirit and thanksgiving,
and be nourished by his presence with you and within you. 

Closing prayer:    Almighty God, who gave the Law through Moses, and grace and mercy in Jesus Christ:   grant, we pray, that this law of love may be so written upon our hearts, that whatever we do in your name, we do humbly; whatever we seek in your Kingdom, we seek faithfully; and whatever we give of ourselves, we give lovingly; through the servant King, Jesus, our Saviour.  Amen

Love is the gift of the Holy Spirit, prayed forin our first prayer, and          in this hymn which was sung at Dunblane Cathedral as part of Songs
of Praise  – see

Come down, O love divine, seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near, within my heart appear,
and kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn, ‘til earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace, till they become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit finds a dwelling.