My children’s sermon on Mark 12:28-34 brings us into some strange lectionary territory.
“Mark 12?” you ask. “Last week we were on Mark 10! What happened to Mark 11?”
That, gentle reader, is exactly my point. We spent four weeks cruising happily through Mark 10, skipping only four verses along the way. Now we’ve jumped straight over a whole chapter.
Actually we’ve already had the only piece of Mark 11 that the lectionary will ever give us. Mark 11:1-11 is the story of Palm Sunday, and we had it back at the end of Lent.
Now we’re cruising toward the end of Year B, with its focus on Mark. Two weeks from now we’ll be as far as Mark 13: 1-8, then we’re on to Year C and Luke.
“Ah” you say, “but what about the rest of Mark 13—and 14, 15 and 16?”
Well, we already had that too. A bit was a year ago in Advent, and the rest was during Holy Week.
Why do I go on about this so? Because it makes it hard for the congregation to see Mark as a coherent story.
It also matters for the preaching of these next three weeks: We encounter them almost randomly, at the end of Ordinary Time. In fact these three texts take place during Holy Week, those intense days between the “Triumphal Entry” on Palm Sunday and the Cross on Good Friday. Their meaning is shaped by that context.
Actually, we’ll have to see whether or not that Holy Week context affects my children’s sermon on Mark 12:28-34, or the ones to come.
A Children’s Sermon on Mark 12:28-34
Good morning kids! I’m so glad you are here. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
You may remember that, in several of our stories recently, Jesus told his friends that hard things were going to happen. He kept saying that when he went to Jerusalem he would be arrested, and accused of bad things. He said people were going to hurt him and even kill him in Jerusalem.
Well, this story tells about one of the things that happened after he got to Jerusalem, but before the bad things started to happen.
A Good Question
After Jesus got to Jerusalem, he spent several days hanging out around the temple. People came up and asked Jesus a lot of questions.
Some of the people asking the questions were not very nice. They asked tricky questions, trying to get Jesus to say something that would get him in trouble.
But one man was just watching. He listened to how Jesus answered all those tricky questions. He was impressed.
This man was a scribe. The scribes were total experts about the Bible and God’s laws. When people wondered how to live by God’s laws, they would ask a scribe. A scribe would know.
When this scribe heard how well Jesus answered everybody’s tricky questions, he came and asked Jesus a question of his own.
“Jesus,” he said, “can I ask you a question too?”
“That depends,” said Jesus. “Is it another one of those tricky questions?”
“No,” said the scribe, “I heard how you answered all of those. I just want to know your opinion on something.”
“Okay,” Jesus said, “what’s your question?”
The scribe paused for just a second, looking at Jesus. Then he asked, “Which of God’s commandments do you think is the most important of all?”
Now, the disciples were right there, listening to Jesus and the scribe talking. And, of course, they had their own opinions about the scribe’s question. And of course they all wanted to look like they were really smart by getting the right answer first.
Peter raised his hand up high. He was sort of bouncing from foot to foot. “Jesus! I know! I know!”
“What do you know, Pete?” Jesus asked.
“The answer!” Peter said.
“I do too!” said John.
“Me too!” said James, “Call on me!”
“Okay, okay, okay,” laughed Jesus. “What do you think is the most important commandment, Peter?”
“‘Do not steal’” said Peter.
“No,” said James, “’Do not murder’ is way more important.
“Um, you guys?” said John, “Don’t you think Moses maybe put the most important one first on the list? How about ‘Do not have any other gods’?”
How God Wants Us to Live
Jesus smiled and said, “Okay, those are all good guesses. And they really are important commandments. But did you notice they all have one thing in common?”
The disciples thought for a minute. Then John spoke up. “They all start with ‘do not’?”
“Right,” said Jesus. “What’s missing?”
They thought again. And again John spoke up. “What are we supposed to be doing while we’re not killing, and not stealing, and all the other stuff?”
“Exactly,” said Jesus. “The most important commandment tells you what to actually do. It shows you the life God wants you to live.”
“What is it?” asked Peter.
“It’s in the book of Deuteronomy,” said Jesus. “It goes like this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One—’”
“Hey!” said Peter, “I know that verse. But that’s not even a commandment! That just tells you who God is.”
“You’re interrupting, Peter,” said Jesus. “You know that verse because we all say it every day on our prayers. But it goes on, right? The verse says ‘the Lord your God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul , and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ That’s how God wants us all to live.”
How God ALSO Wants Us to Live
“Doesn’t seem like that leaves me much time to do stuff for myself,” grumbled Peter. “All my mind? You mean I can’t even think of anything but God? What about caring for people?”
“No, Peter,” said Jesus. “It’s about using your whole life to please God. And God gives you your own life to take good care of. God wants you to look at the whole world the way he does—with love. That’s why the second greatest commandment is ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ That’s how God wants all our lives to work.”
“Oh,” said Peter. “Okay then.”
A New Friend
Then the Scribe spoke up. “That was a great answer, Jesus. Loving God with everything, and loving other people as yourself really is what the whole Bible is about.”
“Thanks,” said Jesus, “You know, you are really pretty close to the Kingdom of God.”
“Thanks,” said the scribe.
And from that moment they became friends.
- I wonder how life might be different if we always start by loving God?
- I wonder what makes it hard to love God with everything?
- I wonder if you’ve ever felt really and truly loved?
- I wonder if there are people that you love as yourself?
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