Ordinary Time (Proper 25)
Matthew 22:34–46/22:33–44 IV
Love God and Neighbor
Leviticus 19:1–2, 15–18; Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2:1–8; Doctrine and Covenants 162:7
Find different symbolic language for the Trinity in the Bible (for example, God as Creator; Jesus as shepherd; Holy Spirit as dove). See additional suggestions at www.CofChrist.org/spiritual-practice-meditating-on-gods-name. Display representations of these images at the front of the sanctuary. Also display a large map or globe of the world in the worship center.
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
“You Are Loved” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6Om86II3C0)
“God, We Gather as Your People” CCS 274
OR “Summoned by the God Who Made Us” CCS 330
Focus Moment: Names for God
God is mystery. We see glimpses of God through our scriptures, our worship, and our testimonies. In each moment a new aspect of God is revealed yet we will never be able to fully comprehend who God is. In the Bible we find many different names to help us understand and know God.
Gather into groups of three to four. Using Community of Christ Sings, survey the topical section on God (CCS 1–21) listing all the different names for God found in these hymns. Pay particular attention to CCS 4, 5, and 21. After a list is compiled, have the people share which name they use most often for God and if any of the listed names resonate with them.
Celebrate our common and differing ways of connecting with God, for each person’s view reveals something new about God. We come as individuals, yet are one with God at our center.
Prayer for Peace
Invite several people to come forward to pray for a different country around the world. Be mindful of the different nationalities and groups represented in your congregation and local community. Individuals are invited to choose a country for which they are concerned or to find a country when they come before the map or globe at the front of the sanctuary. Have each person participating help light the peace candle.
Prayer for World Peace Hymn
“Let Us Sing a Worldwide Anthem” CCS 323
OR “Peace Among Earth’s Peoples” (stanzas 1–4) CCS 448
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Dwelling in the Word: Matthew 22:34–40/22:33–39 IV
Use three versions of the Bible to share a portion of today’s scripture. Consider versions that reach out to the varying cultures,
generations, and languages represented in your congregation (for example, NRSV, The Message, a Spanish version, Inspired Version, or a
children’s or youth Bible). Print or project the question(s) following each reading.
First Reading—version 1 of your choice
Can you visualize the Pharisees and Jesus having this interaction?
Pause for silent reflection.
Second Reading—version 2 of your choice
What differences do you hear in this version? Do you find this version more or less meaningful to you?
Pause for silent reflection.
Third Reading—version 3 of your choice
What differences do you hear in this version? How does this scripture challenge you?
Pause for silent reflection.
Hymn of Reflection
“Beloved Community of God” CCS 588
OR “O for a World” CCS 379
Based on Matthew 22:34–46/22:33–44 IV
Disciples’ Generous Response
In Community of Christ, when we become disciples of Jesus, we do not just become members of a local congregation. We become members of a worldwide faith community. The church is an international body that God has called into being to fulfill divine purposes related to the coming reign of God on Earth.
Life as a disciple includes responding to God’s gift in Christ by giving consistently and generously, according to our full and—we hope—growing capacity to support local and worldwide ministries. Such support is one of the most obvious ways we express our spiritual commitment to the vision of Christ. Local and Worldwide Ministries giving are equally important for the church to fulfill its divinely mandated mission.
—Stephen M. Veazey, Of Water and Spirit (Herald Publishing House, 2016, 9780830915712), 87.
Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Sending Forth Statement
Doctrine and Covenants 162:7
Sending Forth Hymn
“Now Go in Joy” CCS 659
OR “Bring Forth the Kingdom” CCS 387
Ordinary Time (Proper 25)
Exploring the Scripture
Christians today are constantly hearing competing messages about what it means to be Christian. Thoughtful Christians ask: Where can I go or what must I do to live a life consistent with the gospel of Jesus? Today’s text from Matthew addresses this timeless question.
The Pharisee in this story more than likely witnessed Jesus’ put-down of the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23–33) and asks a follow-up question. It is unclear why he asks. He may have wanted to trap Jesus or even go deeper in his own relationship with God. Whatever the reason behind his question, Jesus responded with an answer that went deeper than the Pharisee wanted to go.
Jesus’ response is straightforward, honest, and theologically sound. It is interesting that with this response he silences the Pharisees (v. 46) just as he had silenced the Herodians and the Sadducees (v. 34). But there is more to this text than putting the Pharisees in their proper place. Jesus’ answer is drawn from the oldest of Jewish tradition; he cites one of the foundational texts from Hebrew Scripture—the shema. (Deuteronomy 6:4–5). Second, he references an obscure addendum about interpersonal relationships from Leviticus 19:18. These two texts frame the entire law, and for Jesus to cite them not only displays his superior knowledge of the law, but also his depth of understanding.
Jesus’ quote of the shema sets the groundwork for the second law; if we love God we will of course love our neighbor. Jesus understands the only way we can show our love of God to God is through loving our neighbor, and the only way we can bear witness to others that we love God is to love them. The Pharisees understand this and they are given something to think about by Jesus’ answer.
Jesus asks the next questions, “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” (v. 42). The Pharisees don’t have answers for Jesus, but Christians will understand from Jesus’ explanation that the Messiah transcends the predicament the Jews were experiencing. The Messiah is both the son of David and Lord of David; he is great and he is servant. In this explanation—just as Jesus framed the law with two verses, the shema and the most obscure—Jesus frames all of creation in himself. Jesus shows his interrogators the law is no savior; it is no Messiah. The true Messiah transcends religious and ethnic boundaries and is not contained in a book of rules. Therefore, those who follow Jesus must also cross the boundaries Jesus crosses toward justice for all of creation, and they must love their neighbor, which is loving God.
Jesus’ judgment of the Pharisees is the same judgment of the church today. To love our neighbor as we love ourselves the church must be willing to engage with other faith communities, even other religions and secular groups, to discern God’s will for their community and those with whom they live. By engaging with one another and God, the witness of God’s love will be lived out in the actions of the faithful community that loves the neighbor and serves. As Jesus continues his journey to the cross, we come to understand that in loving one another and surrendering our agenda for Christ’s agenda of self-sacrificing love we discover who we truly are.
- Love is the central principle of Christian discipleship: love God, love your neighbor. Love knows no boundaries.
- To love God, disciples must be willing to subordinate self-interest and self-service to serve others. It is important to remember we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
- Mission is a response to God’s love for us and is the evidence and method by which we show our love of God. Mission is how we love our neighbor.
Questions to Consider
- How do you love your neighbor?
- How does your congregation love the neighborhood?
- When has your congregation stood for justice against powers of oppression?
- What are the barriers to loving your neighbor?