A friend of mine, Cyndi, is the associate pastor for a large church in metro Atlanta. Her church is currently using Scot McKnight’s 40 days Living the Jesus Creed to enhance their Lenten journey. She recently gave me a copy of the book, but – in the spirit of Lent – I confess that I did not pick it up to read it until today. Boy, am I glad I did.
The Jesus Creed is from the story in the book of Mark when a scribe asks Jesus to tell him which of the commandments is the most important. Jesus responds by reciting the Shema, the verse in Deuteronomy that God asks the Jews to recite daily: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” The scribe understood this much. But then Jesus kept going, adding a verse from Leviticus that reads, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So, according to Jesus, we are called – nay, commanded – to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.
In reading this, I understood immediately why the Jesus Creed presents a perfect foundation for our Lenten journey: it reorients us towards what is most important, and helps shape our journey toward the cross and Easter. Through the love of God and our neighbor we see Jesus and are better able to follow him.
So, with thanks to Cyndi, and to Scot McKnight, I’m going to use the book as the basis for our prayer bead devotions for the next four weeks, leading up to Holy Week. If you have this book and are following along, this will hopefully be an adequate companion piece and a way to incorporate your beads on the way to Golgotha.
Today’s devotion will focus on the first part of the commandment, using confession to consider the ways in which we can better love God.
Cross: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Invitatory Bead: “’Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 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.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29 – 31, NRSV)
1st Cruciform Bead: Lord, I confess that I have not loved you with my whole heart.
1st set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the ways in which you can love God with your whole heart. Think of the people and things that you love – the many blessings God has given to you – and express your love for them in praise of God.
2nd Cruciform Bead: Lord, I confess that I have not loved you with my whole soul.
2nd set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider the ways in which you can love God with your whole soul. Think of the things that nurture your relationship with God – prayer, worship, devotion, sacred spaces, etc. – and offer them as a sign of your love for God.
3rd Cruciform Bead: Lord, I confess that I have not loved you with my whole mind.
3rd set of Week Beads: use each bead to thank God for the mind He has blessed you with, and consider the ways in which you can use your whole mind – your thoughts, your decisions, your hopes and dreams – to glorify Him.
4th Cruciform Bead: Lord, I confess that I have not loved you with my whole strength.
4th set of Week Beads: use each bead to consider all that God has blessed you with – your abilities, your resources, your life – and the ways in which you can use those gifts to bring glory to God.
Invitatory Bead: recite The Lord’s Prayer
Cross: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen
Next week’s prayer bead devotion: The Journey Towards Love of Neighbor