21th Sunday after Pentecost
The Great Commandments
Holy Eucharist, Rite II
The Celebrant and LEM stand, maintaining physical distance. There is no procession.
Celebrant: Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
LEM: And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever.
Celebrant: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: 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.
Celebrant: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One,
LEM: Have mercy upon us.
[acc_item title=”The Collect”]
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray.
The Celebrant says the Collect.
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
( Click on the “+” as you go to show each part of the service )
[acc_item title=” The Old Testament Lesson: Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18″]
1The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 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.
15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
[acc_item title=”The New Testament Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8″]
1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
Then, all standing, the Deacon or a Priest reads the Gospel, first saying
Celebrant: The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.
LEM: Glory to you, Lord Christ.
[acc_item title=”The Gospel Lesson: Matthew 22:34-46″]
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37 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.’
38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:
42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
45 If David thus calls him Lord, ho.w can he be his son?”
46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions
Deacon or Priest: The Gospel of the Lord.
LEM: Praise to you, Lord Christ.
[acc_item title=” Sermon: The Great Commandments“]
The Great Commandments
There are two – not one, not ten, not a hundred, and not zero. Two. Great ones, that is. Two great commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets – hang, that is, like a picture, a tire swing, or a side of beef, as you may prefer. The Pharisees know this, of course, or should – though there was some debate in their community over the point. Why should two commandments, two legal requirements, outweigh the others? There are, after all, some 613 provisions in Mosaic law, a few of which we heard read just a minute ago from Leviticus. Why should loving God and your neighbor take precedence over doing justice or being impartial, not slandering, exploiting, or taking vengeance, or not hating your own family? The ready answer, namely that “Well, loving your neighbor means not doing those things” is just that: ready-to-hand, but it somewhat begs the question. What, exactly, does it mean to love God and to love my neighbor, and what happens if these two come into conflict?
Also – how do we read the law? Whose law it is, anyway? This was but one of many questions that animated, or afflicted, the people of Jesus’s time, and with which living under Roman rule did not help.
See, the Pharisees were not the only group of people in Jesus’s time who were trying to figure out what God wanted, and how to read God’s laws and all correctly. Their chief opponents and dialogue partners were the Sadducees, of whose position this gospel says the Pharisees had just watched Jesus make minced meat. The Pharisees, despite what you may have always heard, rather liked him, and wanted to get him on their side, or at least a good few of them did. They didn’t know that their task was to figure out how to get on his side; it took a firebrand like Paul to work that out, and only after his shattering conversion experience on the Damascus road.
They also weren’t the prissy nitpickers they sometimes are portrayed as having been. That pejorative actually more applies to the Sadducees, their opponents. That’s because the Sadducees were what we would call extremely conservative in their judicial philosophy – originalist-textualists, as it were. They believed only in the written Torah, the five books of Moses that we know as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – period. No oral Torah, no histories of interpretations, no prophets, no histories, no writings, no living Word of God for these people. Nope: it’s what’s on the page just the way (we say) it’s written, full stop. Like all who think thus, they were an easy mark for money and power, who corrupted them often without their even realizing it. Their noses stuck to their scrolls and their hands to the horns of the altar, they saw it as their bounden duty to see that nothing, no matter how vicious, ever changed. Thus, these people tended to rise to the top of the cruelly unjust system that ran their world. If they thought about it at all, they figured, “What can you do? It is what it is.”
Those who ran that world made sure the Sadducees had a fully vested interest in maintaining it just as it was, no matter what. The Sadducees, see, were the ones in charge of the temple rituals and all the wealth and power that flowed to it and along with it. Their lack of popularity and legitimacy might be seen in the fact that their group, sect, team, whatever lasted about five minutes after that temple was destroyed. Rome found it could do without a Mosaic prop from central casting to cloak its rule in Palestine, and no-one else wanted anything to do with them.
If in their hearts the Sadducees might thrill over the philosophies of Greece and in secret read the literature of scandalous Rome, to all outward appearance they were the very models of Mosaic probity and priestly decorum. In their judicial philosophy, they tended to find the harshest, most repressive way of reading Mosaic law, insisted that their interpretation was the only valid one – indeed, God’s very own – and that none could with authority gainsay them.
The circular reasons by which these originalists gaslighted people was hard to stop rolling, however, then as now. The only way to do so was to argue that there must be more to it than that, that God’s laws were not meant to be nasty little turns of phrase to keep people’s lives miserable and their masters wealthy. Whole hosts of people have been saying so for a long time; maybe it’s time we listened to them.
Enter, with just that thought on their lips, the Pharisees. Sure, Torah was fine, and the law as Moses, or at least the sages in Babylon, had written it. But have you ever read the psalms? Seen how God is portrayed in there? Surely that’s part of our heritage and history as well, and with authority. Have you not heard the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, all those who spoke truth to power when power didn’t want to listen – and when does it, ever? – and who knew that truth as the very Word of the Lord? What about them? The Song of Songs, the wisdom of the teacher (what we know as Ecclesiastes), the magisterial tragedy of the book of Job – do you contend, O Sadducee, that the Lord speaks not through them? There may be nothing new under the sun, as the Teacher in Jerusalem once said – but the Lord made the sun as well as the moon and all the stars, and if the Lord wants to make a new thing, write a new law in the hearts of his people, in the hearts of all people, then who are we to say he can’t? All of that and more was the insight of the people we know as Pharisees, who become the only Jews left standing after the war, and create modern Judaism from the ashes of its ruin and the power of all they knew of the living God.
A living God, you see, had to have a living Word, meaning that the laws of God must be interpreted not as things, but living powers. Hearing them faithfully requires being able to hear them newly, as we learn new things, and each generation sees further, standing on the shoulders of its forebears.
So, when they ask Jesus what are the greatest commandments, I think they’re trying to do two things: one, see if he knows how to read scriptures faithfully, not literally; and two, to see what he, like them, sees at the foundation of faithful interpretation and application. He gets it right. He, like many a Pharisee before him and many a rabbi after him, explained that the entire law rests on, depends on getting the two great commandments right. It means reading every other law in light of whether, and how best, they fulfill those commandments. Why? Because they’re global in scope and universal in application. They’re not simply the law, but the clearest articulations of the principles of the law, the morals at the heart of the law – and which the law itself cannot justify. Only God can do that, which is what God did. Thus, the law must be read in the light of whatever loving one’s neighbor as oneself – really, one’s fellow human beings – means right now, in our time, under present conditions, the times being what they are.
When the temple fell, one Pharisee lamented that now there was no way for the people to atone before God for their sins. The place of atonement was gone, and even its ruins forbidden to them. Not to worry, said another. We have a new way to atone: through acts of righteousness, of loving-kindness. Let them be our temple.
This is all well and good, as far as it goes, except it leaves as a hostage to fortune one other thing: even a living word can create a conundrum. Jesus gives the Pharisees one – how can David call my Lord my Lord when he is his Lord? – and they go quiet as a graveyard after the wailing. So Jesus can bring it, they see – but he does go on and on about this Messiah thing, they also see. His intelligence intimidates them, but his messianic vision troubles them. They’ve seen messiahs come and go, usually to a bad end. But there’s something about this Jesus, they know – but most of them never quite got it, never could quite accept it. After Jesus dies, they figure, that’s it. Another one gone. Risen, he appeared only to his own, let us not forget, meaning that the chance for all the Pharisees to ‘get’ him while he walked among us had passed. But there was a moment, there must’ve been a moment, much like this one, when it all could’ve gone differently. They tested him – to make sure. They listened – and could not but have been assured by most of what he said. He shut the Sadducees up, too, which could not have but pleased the Pharisees. Yet – Messiah? Hmm. “Not sure where to go with that,” they figured. “I like what he says until the exact moment I don’t.” If that’s where they were, and I think it was, I can see why they wouldn’t dare ask him any more questions.
That’s a shame, in a way. Why end a conversation when it’s just starting to get interesting? A world in which more Pharisees had understood Jesus to be the Messiah, if of a very different kind than they were expecting, would’ve been a far different place than the world that was, and the world that is. It feels and right to lament what might have been, even if one can rejoice in the good of what has been – and one can do nothing but weep for the trials, tribulations, misunderstandings, and persecutions that come between the people we now know as Christians, and the people we now know as Jews. The mistreatments of which Paul writes happened to him at Philippi were but one early example. Yet, no matter what has been or what might have been, there is something that is, and was, and will be: to both religions, the two great commandments are foundational: Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no daylight between these religions in terms of how their adherents are to act in the world. There should be no daylight between how they do act. But oh, how much daylight there has been.
As Rabbi Hillel, one of the most famous rabbis from near Jesus’s time, put the point, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it.” Jesus – coming, as he claims, not to abolish but to fulfill the law – would’ve heartily, and wholeheartedly, agreed.
 © 2020 Christopher Wilkins. All Rights Reserved.
 Talmud, Tractate Shabbos 31a, qtd. In https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2312343/jewish/Chapter-7-Hillel-and-Rabbi-Akiva.htm.
The Deacon or Priest prepares the altar and sanctuary for the Eucharist.
There is no passing of plates and no reception the collection or other gifts.
After the offering, the Celebrant continues, saying
A Statement of Faith
The Celebrant says
[acc_item title=”A Statement of Faith, A Song of God’s Love – 1 John 4:7-11″]
Beloved, let us love one another, *
for love is of God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, *
for God is Love.
In this the love of God was revealed among us, *
that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us *
and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, *
we ought also to love one another.
For if we love one another, God abides in us, *
and God’s love will be perfected in us.[/acc_item]
The Prayers of the People
The LEM prays. In the silence after each bidding, the People offer their prayers without speaking.
[acc_item title=”Prayers of the People“]
I ask your prayers for all God’s people; for our bishops, our clergy, and this gathering, and for all ministers and people. Pray for the Church.
I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations; and for the well-being of all. Pray for justice and peace.
I ask your prayers for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the oppressed, and those in prison.
Pray for those in any need or trouble.
I ask your prayers for all who seek God, or a deeper knowledge of God.
Pray that they may seek, and pray that they might find.
I ask your prayers for the departed [especially N.N.]. Pray for those who have died.
I ask your prayers for those on the prayer list of this parish.
We give thanks today for [the LEM or Celebrant add names, etc., as appropriate].
Praise God for those in every generation in whom Christ has been honored.
Pray that we may have grace to glorify Christ in our own day.
The People stand.
Celebrant: The peace of the Lord be always with you,
LEM: And also with you
The Ministers and People greet one another in silence while keeping physical distance
The Holy Eucharist: The Great Thanksgiving
Celebrant: The Lord be with you,
LEM: And also with you.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
LEM: We lift them to the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
LEM: It is right to give God thanks and praise.
Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds
[acc_item title=”The Holy Eucharist: The Great Thanksgiving”]
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, for you are the source of light and life, you made us in your image, and you call us to new life in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the host of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to the glory of your Name:
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.
The people stand or kneel. The Celebrant continues
[acc_item title=”The Celebrant continues…”]
Holy and gracious Father: In love you made us for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin, evil, and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you. He offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.
On the night he was handed over, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.”
Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith: [/acc_item]
LEM: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
The Celebrant continues.
[acc_item title=”The Celebrant continues…”]
We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O God, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.
Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new and unending life in him. Sanctify us that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.
All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ by whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen.
Now, as Christ taught us, we are bold to say,
The LEM prays
[acc_item title=”The LEM Prays”]
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, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The Breaking of the Bread
The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread, and then keeps a period of silence.
The Celebrant continues
[acc_item title=”The Celebrant continues…”]
Celebrant: [Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
LEM: Therefore, let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]
Celebrant: The Gifts of God for the People of God.
The people come forward to retrieve the hosts, maintaining physical distance. They consume the hosts upon returning to their seats. After Communion, the Celebrant says
Let us pray.
The Celebrant prays
Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart, through Christ our Lord. Amen.[/acc_item]
Blessing and Dismissal
The Celebrant says
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
The LEM says
Let us go forth, in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
The Celebrant, the LEM, and the People depart, maintaining physical distance.
We hope that today’s service has been a blessing to you.
We are here to serve you, and hope to see you again.
Please feel free to call us, email us, or visit us online.
About Episcopal Worship and this Service
St Mark’s returns to in-person worship at 10:30 am on October 25, 2020. The bulletin and video of that service will be posted to the church website after the service. Please join us, either in person or online, as you are able. Commitment Sunday, when we celebrate our pledge givers for 2021, is November 8, 2020. We are grateful for your pledge support, and hope that you will continue it.
Resources (available for free online)
These resources contain the prayers and worship services used in The Episcopal Church and by Episcopalians in their daily devotions.
Book of Common Prayer, www.bcponline.org
Enriching Our Worship 1, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-1/enrichingourworship1.pdf
Enriching Our Worship 2, https://www.churchpublishing.org/siteassets/pdf/enriching-our-worship-2/enrichingourworship2.pdf
Hymnal 1982: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/EH1982
Hymnal 1940: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/HPEC1940
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/LEVS1993
Wonder, Love, and Praise: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/WLP1997
This source shows the readings assigned for use in Sunday worship and for daily office use for each day of the year, with links to online biblical texts.
Links to church websites – National, Diocesan and our church’s website.
The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org
Episcopal News Service: www.episcopalnewsservice.org
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington: www.edow.org
St. Mark’s, Fairland: www.stmarks-silverspring.org
A Prayer in Times of Sickness and Contagion
Heavenly Father, giver of life and health, source of all wisdom and peace: Comfort and relieve your servants who suffer from sickness or fear, give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, and let your grace be with all those who work to protect us from contagion and disease. May we be strengthened against any weakness, sickness, fear, and doubt, and place our confidence in your loving care through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 Or Venite, Psalm 95