Above: Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter (1789), by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun
The Sunday Closest to November 2
Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
NOVEMBER 1, 2015
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Ruth 1:1-22 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):
In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. They came to the country of Moab and remained there.
Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years. Then those two–Mahlon and Chilion–also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.
She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food. Accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living; and they set out on the road back to the land of Judah.
But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,
Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me! May the LORD grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!
And she kissed them farewell. They broke into weeping, and said to her,
No, we will return with you to your people.
But Naomi replied,
Turn back, my daughters! Why should you go with me? Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you? Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight, and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up? Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage? Oh no, my daughters! My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the LORD has struck out against me.
They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell. But Ruth clung to her. So she said,
See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods. Go follow your sister-in-law.
But Ruth replied,
Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.
When [Naomi] saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.
When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them. The women said,
Can this be Naomi?
Do not call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has brought me back empty. How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!
Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,
for there is not help in them.
3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.
4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
whose hope is in the LORD their God;
5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever.
6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.
7 The LORD sets the prisoner free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.
8 The LORD loves the righteous;
the LORD cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and the widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked!
9 The LORD shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):
And this is the commandment, the laws, and the judgments that YHWH, your God, commanded to teach you to do in the land to which you’re crossing to take possession of it, so that you’ll fear YHWH, your God, to observe all His laws and His commandments that I’m commanding you: you and your child and your child’s child, all the days of your life, and so that your days will be extended. And you will shall listen, Israel, and and be watchful to it, that it will be good for you and that you’ll multiply very much, as YHWH, your fathers’ God, spoke to you: a land flowing with milk and honey.
Listen, Israel: YHWH is our God. YHWH is one. And you shall love YHWH, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. And you shall impart them to your children, and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go in the road and when you lie down and when you get up. And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall become bands between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and in your gates.
Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 Happy are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts!
3 Who never do any wrong,
but always walk in his ways.
4 You laid down your commandments,
that we should fully keep them.
5 Oh, that my ways were made so direct
that I might keep your statutes!
6 Then I should not be put to shame,
when I regard all your commandments.
7 I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,
when I have learned your righteous judgments.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
Hebrews 9:11-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but not his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Mark 12:28-34 (Revised English Bible):
Then one of the scribes, who had been listening to these discussions and had observed how well Jesus answered, came forward and asked him,
Which is the first of all the commandments?
The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must 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: ”You must love your neighbour as yourself.” No other commandment is greater than these.
The scribe said to him,
Well said, Teacher. You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other. And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself–that means far more than any whole-offerings and sacrifices.
When Jesus saw how thoughtfully he answered, he said to him,
You are not far from the kingdom of God.
After that nobody dared put any more questions to him.
Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
Proper 26, Year A:
Proper 26, Year B:
Matthew 22 (Parallel to Mark 12):
Luke 10 (Parallel to Mark 12):
A Prayer for Compassion:
Prayers for Those Who Suffer:
The context for this Sunday’s reading from Mark is Holy Week; Jesus will die soon. This places the statement about the greatest commandments in a certain light and helps explain the lectionary committee’s decision to pair Hebrews 9:11-14 with Mark 12:28-34. And Jesus pulled the two greatest commandments from the Law of Moses–Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18, to be precise. Our Lord also agreed with his elder (and deceased) contemporary, Rabbi Hillel, on the question of the summary of the Law of Moses.
There are types of love in the Bible, and we see some of the best representatives of love in this Sunday’s readings. A daughter-in-law remains loyal to her mother-in-law. We read of the commandments to love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves, and of the depth of God’s love for us. I must add something else here to augment that thought. I write devotions in sequence, according to lectionaries (more or less). Very recently I wrote a devotion on Ephesians 5, which, while discussing marriage, commands the husband to love his wife. The text speaks of the two as one flesh:
He who loves his wife loves himself.–Ephesians 5:28b, New Revised Standard Version
We will love ourselves most or all of the time, unless we loathe ourselves, as some do. I suspect, though, that egotism is more rampant than self-loathing. So the main spiritual task for most of us is to place ourselves in proper context–not superior to others in the eyes of God–and to act compassionately toward others, as if toward ourselves. We are not isolated from others; what one does affects others. Yes, we are separate and unique in body and personality, but no, we are not isolated from others even in these matters. We have the power to build people up or to tear them down; may we, for the common good and the love of God, do the former, not the latter.
Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR