OT 31 – 24th Sunday after Pentecost

November 3, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Ruth 1. 1-18 — The set-up for Ruth’s story. Ruth says to Naomi, “where you go I will go.”

Psalm 146 —trust in God, not in worldly power. God cares for the poor and powerless, and lifts up those who are bowed down. (See a paraphrase below.)

Hebrews 9. 11-14 — Jesus the high priest (and sacrifice) purifies us with his blood..

Mark 12.28-34 — The great commandment.

Preaching Thoughts

The story of Israel is peppered with the contributions of non-Israelites, including Ruth, the Moabite grandmother of king David. Here we see her Moabite roots. And we see the life of an immigrant, who leaves behind not only geography but also family and even religion, to emigrate to a new place. Even if they leave for a “better life,” immigrants and refugees have to leave behind a lot of life.
       Ruth’s pledge to Naomi is a model for faith: to say to Jesus “Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die.” (Or how you will suffer, I will suffer.) That’s what we mean by faith.

       Hebrews is rooted in the priestly cult of the temple, with high priests and animal sacrifices. We have to be careful translating it into our contemporary religious setting. At the beginning of this passage Jesus is the high priest, but then he becomes the sacrifice, and Hebrews goes on to focus on the cleansing power of his blood. This doesn’t mean Jesus “paid the price” for our sin. The sacrifice is not his physical blood but his willingness to love us at any cost. In Jesus’ self-giving, pouring himself out in love, even to the point of suffering and death, he conveyed God’s love to us. And that love purifies us. We stand before God justified, absolved of wrongdoing, and purified, not because we’re innocent, and not because though we’re guilty Jesus posted bail; we’re purified because God us loves us and forgives us and makes us clean. Jesus embodied that. He “offered himself to God,” that is, submitted to the demands of love, no mater the cost. In his willingness to be condemned even though innocent, “without blemish,” and by enduring the unjust judgment of humans, he destroyed that judgment: see this condemnation? It’s bogus! We’re not condemned, we’re beloved!

Of the hundreds of questions Jesus was asked, he answered all but three indirectly, with parables or with another question. But here he answers directly! What is the most important commandment? To love God. And it has a twin: to love your neighbor. Jesus makes it clear that they’re two sides of the same coin, to ways of looking at the same love. How we love our neighbor is how we love God. (Whatever you do to the least of these…) Some people say we ought to have the Ten Commandments posted in our courtrooms because we’re a Christian nation. Well, now, that would make us Jewish, wouldn’t it? Christians don’t have ten commandments. We have one: “Love one another as I have loved you.” God’s love for us is our love for others; and that is how we love God.
       This is what it means to be a Christian: to love like Jesus. We have a lot of garbage we carry around in our “Christian” bags that have little to do with love. We might sometimes sort of want to be loving, but not as desperately as we want to be happy, secure, accepted, or right. In our politics, our economics, and our relationships, love doesn’t always come out on top. Sometimes the issue is not that we fail be loving enough, but that we fail to renounce everything that gets in the way of our love, everything that dilutes our love, everything that comes first. We have a lot to let go of to really be faithful to the God of love.
       Notice that the shema in Dt. 6.4-5 says to love God with all your heart, soul and might. Jesus adds your mind. I think he means more than just your thoughts. He means your mindfulness, your awareness, your worldview, your consciousness. Maybe along the lines of what Paul means in Romans 12.2 about the “renewal of your mindfulness.”

Call to Worship

Leader: Creator God, you are the Love that gives us life.
      All: You shower us with love, and we worship you.
Loving Christ, you give us the love with which we love God.
      You fill us with love, and we thank you.
Holy Spirit, you are the Love with which we love others.
      You fill us with love, and we serve you with joy. Alleluia!

Leader: Creator God, how you love us!
      All: Alleluia! We praise you.
Loving Christ, how you forgive us and heal us!
      Alleluia! We thank you.

Holy Spirit, how you fill us with love for God and our neighbor!
      Alleluia! God of Love, we worship you.

Leader: Infinite Love, you create us.
       All: Mysterious Mercy, you claim us.
Unbounded Compassion, you adore us.
       Heaven’s Joy, you delight in us.
Loving God, you call us with your beauty.
       Holy One, we are in love.
Spirit of mercy, you fill us with your compassion.
       We breathe in your love; we inhale your Spirit,
       so we may be loving to you and to the world,
       in the name of Christ.

Leader: God of love, you give us life.
       All: Holy One, we love you!
Jesus, Christ of God, you embody God’s love for us.
       Loving One, we love you!
Holy Spirit, spirit of love, you fill our hearts.
       Radiant One, we love you!
       Fill our hearts; transform our minds;
       make us vessels of your love. Amen.


God of love, you who create us in love and call us to love: we earnestly desire to love you with our whole hearts, our whole souls, our whole minds, and all our strength. Help us to love you and to love our neighbor, not by our own will but by your grace, your infinite love in us. We pray in the name of our Teacher, our Beloved, Jesus. Amen.

Leader: God says, “Beloved, I give you my love!”
      All: How can we trust such good news?
Jesus says, “As God has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. “
      How can we receive such love?
We do not know how to pray, but the Spirit intercedes for us.
      Spirit of Love, enter our hearts, transform our lives,
      and fill us with you light,
      that we may truly love as we have been loved.,
      in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

God of love, your Jesus shows us how to be loving. As Jesus models you for us, help us to model Jesus for the world. Put our hands on his hands, our feet on his, our hearts in his, so we may become more perfectly loving, by the gift of your grace. Amen.

Gracious God, in this world we are taught to acquire possessions, to seek certain character traits, and to accomplish certain things. But they are not love. We turn to you, to forgive our failure to love perfectly, to purify us of all that is not love, and to fan the flames of your love in us for you and for the world, that we may be prefect vessels of your love, by the grace of Christ, in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Loving One,
you love us perfectly,
with all your heart and mind and soul and strength.
Help us receive your love,
and be filled to overflowing with your love
to bear your love into this world.

Gracious God, your Word is a word of love.
We seek not merely to understand your words,
but to receive your love.
Speak to us now, that your Word may take root in our hearts,
and fill us with love for you and for our neighbors,
by the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Heavenly Lover,
perfect love,
infinite Heart,
surround us, enfold us,
and fill us,
that we may become
the body of your love.

Prayer of Confession

Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
      All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us come honestly before God.
We recall those times when we have been most in harmony with God’s love,
and we give thanks. {Silent prayer]
We recall those times when we have been most out of harmony with God’s love,
and we open our hearts to God’s mercy. [Silent prayer….]
By the grace we know in Christ Jesus, God forgives us entirely,
redeems us and sets us free to live by the power of the Spirit of love,
in the name of Christ.
      Thanks be to God.

God of love,
we confess that though you ask us to be loving,
we seek to be successful, secure, and so many other things.
All that we have sought but love, we name before you.
All we have clung to, we release.
All that we have put before love, we renounce.
Cleanse us. Forgive us. Heal us of our selfishness.
Make us perfect vessels of your infinite love,
in the name ad the Spirit of Christ.


               Psalm 146 — A paraphrase

O Holy Presence, Power of Life,
       we praise you.
We praise you with our saying and doing;
        we praise you by being.

Our life doesn’t come from powerful people;
        it’s not soldiers who make us free.
What they control dies with them:
        that’s little stuff, not what’s deeply life-giving.

But unbounded life wells up in us
        when we open our hearts to your love for all,
when our hearts fall into the Heart
        who is at the heart of all things—

you— who create galaxies,
        who handmade the earth;
who filled the oceans drop by drop
        and gave them their tiny and huge creatures,

you who never give up on us,
        who liberate the oppressed,
who are food for the hungry
        and who lift those who are bowed down.

O Love, you set us free
        from whatever imprisons us;
you open our eyes when we are blind;
        and in you we discover deep love.

You are present in the stranger;
        you are the hope and dignity
of the homeless child, the single mother,
        the strength of the vulnerable ones.

Those who turn to you
        you feed with life,
but the spirit of selfishness
        you starve to death.

Holy One,
        you love the world into being.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

      We believe in God, who is Love, whose love is unconditional, perfect, absolute and eternal.
       We follow Jesus, the Beloved of God, who embodied God’s love. In love he taught the curious, fed the hungry and healed the broken. In love he suffered our evil, and was crucified. And in love God raised him from the dead. Christ lives among us still in the eternal power of love.
      We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of love, the love of God flowing through us for the world. In that love we seek a world of justice and mercy; and we live lives of forgiveness, gratitude and courage. The Spirit of Love gives us life that is eternal, which is our power, and our hope and our joy.

               A prayer for love

God. help me to love you today with all my heart.
Transform my will. May all my desires lead me toward you.
Overwhelm all my fears with love for you.

Help me to love you with all my soul.
Let the inner core of who I am be your glory,
shining toward you.

Help me to love you with all my mind.
Let my thoughts be of you, seeing you in all things,
awake and mindful.

Help me love you with all my strength,
giving deeply of myself, and of all I possess.
May every deed be an act of pure love.

And may all of my thoughts and desires,
my actions and my very being,
mirror my love for you in love for others.

I pray in the name of Christ, who has loved me
with all his heart, and all his soul,
and all his mind, and all his strength. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all things,
ruler of the world and all that is to come.
In the beginning was your Word; your Word was love,
and by your Word you created all things.

You have loved us into being,
and you surround us with your love in all Creation.
Though we wander from your love, your love for us remains steadfast.

You heal us, you restore us, you set us free.
You overthrow the powers of evil and oppression,
not with violence but with love.

In Christ you have loved us with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
Therefore with all Creation we praise you with one voice:

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who embodied your love.
He gave us love, so that we might love;
he loved even those who were least loved among us.
His love had the power to heal,
the power to overcome injustice and oppression.
In this meal, with grateful joy
we feast upon your love, given to us in Christ.

     (The Blessing and Covenant) *
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us,
that as we receive the Body of Christ
we may become the Body of Christ,
the body of your love.
Feed us with love that is bold and courageous,
confident with tender hope,
and the power that changes the world.
By the power of your Spirit and the love of Christ
make us the body of your love.

     [Spoken or sung]

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for
the mystery that you give yourself to us /
this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.
You have poured into us your love. We give you our lives, that you may use them as vessels of your love, that above all else we may love, for to love our neighbors is to love you. So bless us, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view songs on the Music page.)

At Your Feet [Original song]

Jesus, at your feet I bow.
I am yours completely now.
By your mercy show me how
to be loving.

Jesus, Master, you who save,
you have served me as a slave.
This, the perfect gift you gave:
to be loving.

In each hurting one I meet
it is you, O Christ, I greet.
Make my faithfulness complete,
to be loving.

Eternal Life [Original song]

This is how we will know eternal life:
we will love one another.
I lay down my life, all that is mine alone,
that we may be raised together.

We are not bound by any earthy thing
when our lives we surrender to God
whose love is eternal life,
and so we will love one another.

Fill Me, Love (Tune: Lead Me, Lord)

Fill me, Love, fill me with the oil of love,
may my lamp burn, burn long and bright.
For, Love, you fill me when my heart is empty,
so I may shine through the longest night.

Fulfill Your Love In Me (Original song)

Fulfill your love in me, O Loving Spirit,
fulfill your love in me, O Heart of Love.

Speak the name Beloved in my deepest soul.
Hold me in your heart, your gentle loving. (Refrain)

Heal me with your mercy and your tenderness.
Bring to life the grace in me to love you. (Refrain)

Give me grace to love my neighbor as myself,
freely, with the love with which you love me. (Refrain)

God of all Gentleness [Tune: Be Thou My Vision]

God of all gentleness, God of pure love,
you do not watch us from heights far above,
you are no tyrant, but patient and mild,
present with grace in the poor, in the child.

God of all mercy, may we be the ones
bearing your love to your daughters and sons,
not out of pity but humbly, with grace,
for in the poor we see your human face.

God of all justice, give us hearts to care,
hope to free prisoners of fear and despair,
courage to challenge the ways that oppress,
deep love to reach out to heal and to bless.

God of compassion, your Spirit now pour
into us all, for it’s we who are poor,
hungry for justice, for healing and grace,
and for full life for the whole human race.

Love Only      (Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

God, may your deep love shine bright in my heart,
may it be always your love I impart.
In ease or conflict, your love be my stay,
as your Beloved, your love to convey.

When people scare me so I feel alone,
help me see they, too, have wounds of their own.
Help me surrender my sword and my shield,
love and love only by your grace to yield.

God, by your Spirit, fill me with your grace, to
love and to heal in each moment and place.
Love and love only, through conflict or strife,
sets us all free and gives healing and life.

Love-sowing God [Tune: “Gift of Love” – The River Is Wide]

Love-sowing God, sow love in me.
Sow seeds of grace abundantly.
My soul be soil where love may root
and grow and bear your precious fruit.

Where habit’s feet and wheels have tracked,
my anxious work the soil has packed,
soften my soul with bliss or pain,
so love may enter in again.

My angry thorns, my selfish weeds,
God, clear away, and sow your seeds.
Despite the hungry, wanting bird,
Love, plant in me your living Word.

Love-sowing God, your labors done,
help me to trust the rain and sun,
receive your grace and faithfully
bear forth your love that grows in me.

Love Will Bear Us Over [ Tune: Holy Manna]

When our world is changing ‘round us and we long for good old days,
what that lasts will bear us over to new earth, new heaven, new ways?
Love will lead us when the path is unfamiliar, come what may:
set our heart to love our neighbors and our feet will find the way.

Christ gives us a new commandment: “Share the love that you’ve been given.”
When we do we’re resurrected, entering new earth and heaven.
When we love our neighbor more than caring for what used to be,
then our love will bear us over, then our love will set us free.

Make Us Merciful (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Merciful parent, God, prodigal with grace and love,
welcoming children through your pain,
gently receive us all, break down our shame’s dark wall,
that we may never leave again.

Gentle and gracious God, you who love your children,
you take us in though we turn away.
Fold us in your embrace; fill us with peace and grace,
that we may live your gentle way.

God, give us spacious hearts, generous and kind and wide,
no matter what hurtful things folks do.
Help us to love and bless, steadfast in gentleness.
Lord, make us merciful as you.

O Christ, My Way    (Tune: The River Is Wide)

O Christ, my truth, my life, my way,
I give my heart to you this day.
I give myself, yes all of me,
that where you are I too may be.

O Christ, my way, the path I take
is love alone, for your love’s sake.
O be my heart, my strength and nerve,
that I may love and bless and serve.

O Christ, my truth, in you I see
the God who dwells in you and me.
But God remains yet far above
until I live in humble love.

O Christ, my life, I give my heart,
for when in you I take my part
and share your love, your work and strife,
I share in full your risen life.

O Sovereign Love (Tune: Amazing Grace)

Beloved, you who guard and guide and give for every need,
reign in my heart, O Sovereign Christ; direct each thought and deed.

O Sovereign Love, my root, my sun, my purpose and my peace,
I spurn the world’s vain, anxious rule, and trust your Law of Grace.

The Empire of your justice, God, with mercy’s clear command
shall be my home; my loyalty is to no lesser land.

In humble and obedient thanks I pledge my life to you,
to join your work of justice, God, to make the world anew.

Reign in my heart, O Christ, my Rule. In faith I am compelled
to serve you, who by love alone have conquered all the world.

Open My Heart [ Tune: Open My Eyes]

Open my eyes that I may see everyone ‘round me lovingly,
shedding my labels, habits and fear, see with a heart that’s true and clear.
Patiently, God, may I behold each blessed life as it unfolds.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my ears and let me hear unspoken stories, unshed tears.
Help me to hear with love shining through stories that no one’s listened to.
Tenderly, God, help me to hold what is within each person’s soul.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine.

Open my heart and grant me love, mercy for those I’m heedless of.
Help me to know each person I face as one you bless with gentle grace
Lovingly, God, please make me more mindful of those whom we ignore.
Open my heart, illumine me, spirit divine.

Set Me Free (to Love) [Original song]

From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
From all that binds me, Love, set me free.
Set me free, Love, set me free.
Oh Love, set me free to love.

From what I fear, O Love set me free….
From what I cling to, Love, set me free…
To live in perfect love, set me free….

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