Worship on the Lord’s Day
Reformation Sunday 10:00 am 29 October 2023
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia Vocalist: Rom Ehoad
Elder: Jane de Caen
We gather to worship God
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.
Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Brad: I once heard a fictitious story about the Pope who was on a visit to the US for a period of time. On his last day of the visit, he was delayed due to meetings and was unable to break away to catch his flight.
Since he couldn’t depend on his bullet-proof Pope-Mobile to get so far, his handlers phoned for a limousine. When the limousine arrived, the limo driver was joyfully stupefied that it was the Pope who had called on him. Obviously, the limo driver became nervous and was beside himself. He proceeded to drive very slowly. The Pope became nervous and told the driver to hurry up. It did not make a bit of a difference. The driver went slower; he wanted to keep the Pope in his limousine as long as he could. It was like a dream combined with a blessing the driver thought. But the Pope could not be delayed any longer, so The Pope asked to drive the limo himself.
What could be done? The driver had no option. He wouldn’t say no to The Pope. And so, after a brief swap, the Pope sped off and quickly reached a speed of 175km/hr. The officer who stopped him was shocked when she discovered the famous personality behind the wheel of that limousine. She was so shocked that she frantically phoned her police chief and said, “Chief, I have stopped a very important figure for speeding. I don’t know what to do?”
“What do you mean? Give them a speeding ticket!”
“Ma’am, in all honesty, I can’t.”
“Why can’t you? The law is the law. Who is it anyway?”
“Well… Is it the mayor?” –“No, Ma’am.”
“Is it the Governor?” –“No, Ma’am.”
“A senator?” Nope.
“Is it the President?” –“No, Ma’am.”
“Well, then, who is it?!”
“That’s the thing Chief, I don’t know who it is! All I know is that the Pope is driving them to the airport.”
Now… just so you know. That has nothing to do with this servise. I just thought it was a funny joke.
Silent preparation for worship
Call to Worship
L: In the beginning, God called the world into being, saying,
P: “Let there be light!”
L: In the fullness of time, Jesus came from God to us, saying,
P: “I am the Light of the world.”
L: In our everyday life, we see the work of the saints,
P: The ones in whom God’s light shines.
L: So let us give thanks for the saints this day,
P: And let us worship God.
Opening praise: Love the Lord your God
Prayers of adoration and confession
God, our God, You are gracious and loving, holy and eternal.
Your love is steadfast.
Your presence ever near.
Your wisdom is older than time and as fresh as the morning dew.
Your name has come to us through the centuries, yet you can always do a new thing to draw us back to you.
God, Creator, Christ, and Spirit, we offer you our prayers and praise this day in humble expectation.
Surprise us in this time of worship and refresh our readiness to serve you.
God, our God, You know our hearts, the times we truly loved one another. and the times we merely tolerated each other.
You know our minds, the times we truly focused on you, and the times we pursued our own purposes.
Forgive us those times we went our own way, and renew our commitment to live lives marked by your grace.
Response: Glory, Glory, Hallelujah
Assurance of God’s grace
Our Lord became sin for us. Our sins have been suffered for and they are our no more. There could never be greater news than this. We are forgiven. We are free. We belong to God. Amen.
We listen for the voice of God
Response: Open our eyes, Lord.(445)
Brad: Who knows what this is?
Kids: A nail.
Brad: Yeah, what do you do with a nail?
Kids: You can hang something on the wall?
Brad: Like a picture? … OK. … What about this one? What’s this do? … It’s a clip and it’s for holding stuff together. Like paper. … What else can hold something together?
Kids: Tape? Paper?
Brad: Paper holds things? I don’t know if paper holds things together. … I know what might hold things together. How about these? You know what these are?
Brad: Right. Staples hold things together. … What else holds things together?
Kids: Paper clips? … What else?
Adult: A belt?
Brad: Yes, a belt holds things together. True. …What else? Maybe glue. … Glue holds things together really well, right? Well There’s a lot of stuff that holds things together.
Brad: What holds people together?
Brad: Yeah, that’s a good answer. I like the Sunday school answers where it’s either God or Jesus or Holy Spirit, right? But what else holds people together? What do you think? I love the Sunday school answer, But what do you think? … No guesses from the people? … What is it? Handcuffs? Well, those do hold people together.
Brad: However, I think the answer is love. Love is what binds human beings together. It’s the ultimate glue or staple or paper clip, or tape or anything else that you can think of when it comes to other people.
In the book of Proverbs in 1,717 it actually says: “A true friend loves you at all times.
You’re going to make lots of friends at school and you’re going to do your absolute best to be a true friend and to do that you have to do to stick together like glue.
Prayer: God, we thank you for our friends. We thank you for the people that come in and out of our lives. We thank you for our families. We want to hold together. So, God, send us the love that can embrace all of us and bring us together.
The Lord’s Prayer (535)
Song: The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, our Lord (479: vss1,2,4,5)
Scripture reading: Psalm 1; I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-
Response: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
Message: Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
The literal word meanings are roughly as follows and without much if any debate:
Shema (A three-part word) — listen/hear news and “act on this.“
Yisrael — Israel, (the descendants of Jacob/Called Israel) and/or a “gathering”, (in Greek translated as Church or more accurately “a crowd”) in the sense of a people or congregation of “the chosen”.
Adonai — often translated as “Lord”, this word is not usually in the written form of the prayer. The prayer originally used the Tetragrammaton. The people did not dare misuse the name YHWH and so did not ever say it. Instead, they used Adonai (and at other times, other words) in place of the Tetragrammaton so as not to accidentally offend God.
Eloheinu — our God, the word “El” or “Elohei” signifying God (a general term for Devine as typical in Hebrew scripture commonly as Elohim. It was originally used for all God(s)/god(s) in this area including by the Canaanites who like Israel had taken the land from more brutal nations before them. The plural possessive determiner suffix “nu” or “einu” signifying “our” and so this doesn’t mean a god (small g – a different god) and it doesn’t mean one among many. It suggests a High God of Gods (if any such other gods dare claim to exist).
Echad — Echad is the Hebrew word for “1” (the number)
As you can imagine it could be very hard to think of God as Triune the way that we do after meeting Jesus, for earlier Hebrews and even later Jewish people. The single most important verse then says that God is the number 1. And that One and Only God created, chose, punished, bought, and owns Israel forever.
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One!”
Listen up God’s People. Hear this! Act on these words!
The Shema prayer is named after the first word in this prayer and can be found in the Hebrew Bible in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It is a section of scriptures that is thought to comprise the whole of the Law (or Ten Commandments) and is the central teaching of the Jewish faith. When one asks a Rabbi even today “What is the most important verse in the whole of scriptures?” the response will almost inevitably come… (the Shema) “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One!”
This is common knowledge to all of Israel throughout most of its existence. Few if any statements hold as much meaning. These words have been and currently are memorized along with only a few lesser portions of scripture by the majority of Jewish children at the age of 13. As soon as one is said to be an adult this prayer is intended to become a part of their daily lives.
Over time the Shema has been added to with two other major sections of scripture and is repeated more often than any other prayer in the scriptures within even today’s synagogues. Sadly, for many of us Christians however, we know only a portion of the prayer. The first half of this verse is, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD is One… BUT the second half is… Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. It continues “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Remember when we talked about this in Revelation when the Beast wanted to put its number on the hands and heads of the people?
Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” The Shema is taken very seriously. As verse 7 indicates it is recited “when you lie down” and as it states, “when you get up”. The verse is prayed in the morning before you begin your day and then again at night just before you retire to bed. It is said at least these two times each day. For most a third prayer took place as one “walks along the road”. But this is only the minimum. In other words, it’s sort of ingrained in folks and likely also, for many, rote.
What’s more, these truths are intended to be written on your hearts (memorized) but also on your heads and your hands. This prayer is about hearing God’s call and knowing God listens. That God is One and also yours.
Orthodox and conservative Jews take these verses quite literally. Not only should they do these things symbolically but also literally. And so, they would attempt to remember God with their hearts and with their deeds but at the same time Physically and Literally wear the scriptures on their bodies during their prayers. As the verse says, “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates.”
Because of this, many Jewish men will often wear two small leather boxes on their bodies during the prayer: one strapped to their hand with a long leather band, and the other strapped to the head much like a tiny hat worn just off to one side. The boxes contain these scriptures written in almost minuscule letters on a small scroll rolled up and kept safely in the box. The mezuzah prayer scroll is also affixed to the doorposts of the home and symbolizes the immanent presence of God with his people.
It begins… Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One!”
Though the tradition of the Shema as a morning and evening prayer is sometimes said to have found its origins in the time of Moses himself, it has no doubt gone through numerous adjustments as each new generation came to identify its centrality and importance and then incorporate it once again into its customs. Even at the time of Jesus the Shema was in heavy circulation. The Shema was the primary prayer recited during worship in the Synagogues and is said to have been used at every gathering including being used as the opening prayer at all funeral services. The Shema is recited constantly and is generally the first prayer learned and it is generally the last one said and last one heard.
It is no wonder that when Jesus is confronted with the question “Which is the greatest commandment” Jesus promptly responds with the Shema. In Matthew (our reading), the gospel author cuts the first line out thinking it is inconsequential. The second part is the shock. But in Mark’s telling of this story Mark recounts the entire comment of Jesus. It reads, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One!”
The confrontation is unique. Today most of us tend to think of the Pharisees and Sadducees as being essentially the same. But this was not the case. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the two major sects of Judaism in Jesus’ day, and they were constantly at odds with each other; both of them were routinely attempting to see which group people belong too. And because Jesus had a crowd, they wanted to know if he belonged to them. Was this renegade rabbi a respected but strict Pharisee or an educated liberal Sadducee? Or maybe he wasn’t even one of the two larger groups. Maybe he was a Zealots (like Simon) who wanted a war? Or maybe he one of those separatist Essenes living out in the desert with their own temple system? They want to know.
In our reading of today, the two most prominent groups come to confront Christ at the same time. First, the Sadducees come to him with a question about the resurrection hoping that like them he will deny the existence of an afterlife and therefore align the crowd with the Sadducees and with the Romans they happily worked with. OR would he show his lack of knowledge of the scriptures to be dismissed along with his teachings and crowds?
Jesus is not lacking in knowledge, and he is not about to agree with the Sadducees. When confronted with the question he quickly shuts them down by quoting from Exodus 3:6 and what’s more he shows the people how foolish the Sadducees have been. In this, he proves both not to be a part of the Sadducees but also quotes the texts so that he will not be seen as a heretic that they can easily condemn. And after he has proven himself to them it seems that it has become the Pharisee’s turn to take a crack at him.
The Pharisees were happy with this Jesus fella for a short moment, because Jesus had just put their competition (the Sadducees) in their place. Perhaps at this time, the Pharisees hoped that Jesus was one of them or perhaps they merely had a tricker question to test him with.
In Matthew 22:34-40 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
But this is where the surprise comes in. It is after all an easy question. The question had been heavily discussed among learned Jews long before (and the answer was thought to be quite clear). But this was all a part of the Pharisee’s plan. It was a rather ingenious question. If Jesus answers with the Shema, then the Pharisees show the gathered crowds that Jesus is nothing special and that he merely teaches the exact same things the Pharisees do. If on the other hand, Jesus is teaching anything else other than the Shema then they can consider him either a heretic who wishes to contradict all Orthodox teaching or a buffoon who can’t answer even the simplest of questions. The Pharisees have him in a “Catch 22. “
At first, the Pharisees are no doubt exceedingly happy with the response that Jesus gives. He doesn’t say anything out of the ordinary. “Jesus replied: “Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad” Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” And he continues on with this same section of scriptures… As Matthew says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Duet 6:4 (The Shema Prayer). They had him.
For three years now he had been a thorn in their sides. Where he had repeatedly put them down for not caring enough about their fellow people; where he had insulted them for their extremism, and their love for the law more than the people it was written to help. Jesus had just said it all. He played right into their hands. For the crowd, it probably seemed for the moment that Jesus was no different; that he knew nothing extra, that he was nothing special, that everything he had ever said against the Pharisees was only a part of some insignificant variance; some negligible detail. Essentially, they thought the same thing!!!
But the joy of the Pharisees didn’t last for long. Jesus turns the question on its head and throws it right back at them. He gives them the Shema. It would be a standard answer that showed everyone that he is not a lunatic but a careful steward of scriptures. But Jesus wasn’t done.
He keeps going. But not with the same verse. Instead, he quotes a second section of the Torah. He plucks a verse out of Leviticus 19:18 a verse that was not that well known, a verse that was not highly discussed; a verse that nobody debated or recited in prayer, a verse that wasn’t used in weekly readings at the synagogue, a verse nowhere near as esteemed or valued as the Shema. And Jesus just quotes this second verse to them as if it is completely connected to the Shema; as if you cannot do the one without the other, as if the two commands are codependent and really just one command. He says, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment (singular) greater than these (plural).”
Instead of the standard answer (singular), ONE! Jesus gives them (plural) TWO answers and instantaneously assumes that they are co-equals. There is no way to describe the shock! Jesus takes the single most important verse in the entire Bible: a verse that all the people knew; a verse that the Pharisees talked about constantly, a verse with pages and pages of historical commentary written about it, a verse that the Pharisees held in the highest regard – and then this wandering Rabbi from who-knows-where with a country bumpkin accent and adds some random verse to it???
Yeah, it’s from Moses’ Torah but it was one that had gone relatively unnoticed. But it shouldn’t have. As many have noticed the ten commandments themselves are made up of two tablets. The first is all about God (don’t take the Lord’s name in vain or make idols). The second tablet is all about people (don’t steal from each other or kill each other). The two tablets are about loving god and loving neighbour.
For Jesus the two are seamlessly connected: to truly love your God, you must truly love God’s image – and God’s image is found in all humanity. Loving God and Neighbour are one and the same thing.
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
May you love the One. May you passionately call him your own. And may you love all His children as much as you love Him. The world will be a better place for it. Amen.
Song: I give you my heart
We respond to serve God: Our time of giving
Reflection on giving: Dayspring is empowered to carry out our mission of worship, service, and care by generously given volunteer time, talent, and treasure. Many thanks to all who give so generously!
Praise: Praise God from whom all blessings flow (830)
Offertory Prayer: Generous God, you are both faithful and fruitful as you embrace each new generation. Bless our gifts and make them fruitful beyond our imagining. Keep us faithful in this generation so that the inheritance we have received in Christ will continue in generations yet to come.
Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves
Faithful God and Holy Friend, we do not have enough words to thank you for all you have given us and the love you share with us in Christ Jesus.
In the silence of this time, help us review the week just past, remembering the ways we encountered you: in the beauty of creation, the support of friends, the wisdom of books, the joy of music, the energy of exercise, through study and prayer.
A time of silence is kept.
God of comfort and challenge, we are grateful for your presence in these uncertain times, at home, at work and at school.
We give you thanks for your attention to the small details and the large responsibilities we face.
Make us attentive to the needs of those around us.
In silence we name before you those finding these days especially difficult.
A time of silence is kept.
God of persistence and inspiration, we remember before you the many who struggle to recognize your presence or fail to hear your voice amid all the competing voices in our world.
We pray for those feeling depressed or anxious, those facing grief and loneliness, and those who are worried about their health or their future.
A time of silence is kept.
Do not forget these people even if they forget you.
Comfort them and fill them with peace.
God of justice and leadership, we pray for our country and nations of the world facing immense challenges.
Guide decision-makers in these complex times and keep the hearts of those with resources open to those who do not have enough.
We pray for places where justice is lacking, where violence threatens or where leaders are untrustworthy.
A time of silence is kept.
Strengthen voices of wisdom and acts of courageous compassion to tend to the needs of people most at risk.
God of grace and guidance, You call us to be your hands and feet, your voice and comfort in the world, following the example of Jesus.
Equip us to respond to the needs around us in his name and make us bold to get started right here and right now.
And in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray along with all mysteries and honours. Amen.
Song: Make me a channel of Your peace (740)
Sending out with God’s blessing
Go with love for God filling your hearts, to show love to each neighbour or stranger you meet in the week ahead.
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and communion of the Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.
Response: Amen, we praise your name, O God
Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).
The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.
 The Hebrew word for God, consists of the four letters yod, he, waw, and he, transliterated consonantally usually as YHWH, now pronounced as Yahweh.