The art of asking a good question

31 Oct 2021 by Gail Hinton in: Sermons


The Lord be with you
And also with you.

Call to Worship:

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord, O my soul!

I will praise the Lord as long as I live:
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Hymn: 10 000 reasons (Bless the Lord )

Prayer of Adoration

God of Wisdom,
in you we place our trust.

When other people fail us, deceive us, and betray us,
you alone always stand firm and remain faithful.

God of Joy,
in you we find true happiness,
in you we place our hope,
It is you who made heaven and earth,
and oceans teeming with life.

God of Justice,
you always side with those who are oppressed,
you give food to the hungry,
you set people free from a meaningless existence,
you open the eyes of the blind,
you lift up the lowly,
you care for the stranger, the outcast, and the refugee,
you uphold the lonely and the destitute,
but all evil,
you destroy.

You Lord will reign forever in the kingdom to come.

We praise you and adore you.


Prayer of Confession

Contemplative instrumental hymn

Merciful God,
our maker and our judge,
we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed:
we have not loved you with our whole heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength,
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves;
we repent and are sorry for all our sins.

Father, forgive us.

Lord, help us to see your kingdom revealed on earth,
help us to see what you want us to do for you – so that others might know your great love for all creation through our witness, worship, and service.

Strengthen us to love and obey you in the newness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Readings: Psalm 146 and Mark 12:28-34

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

3 Do not put your trust in princes,
    in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
    on that very day their plans perish.

5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
7     who executes justice for the oppressed;
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8     the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers;
    he upholds the orphan and the widow,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!


Mark 12:28-34

The First Commandment

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 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.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbour as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.


The first thing I would like us to think about today is the art of asking a good question. In today’s reading from Mark the scribe, a man who had studied the laws of God, asks Jesus the best kind of question, a question that is open, honest, and authentic. The question is also direct and simple, “Which is most important of all the commandments?” Mark highlights the beauty of this question by preceding it far less honest ones from other religious leaders. Way back in chapter three Mark tells us that the religious leaders began to plot Jesus downfall and each time they confront him in Mark’s gospel they have only one thing in mind, how to get rid of him and put an end to his growing popularity. Their approach to asking questions is based in hatred, jealously, self-interest and blindness. Our approach to asking a good question as followers of Christ however must be based in non-judgemental love, compassion, and awareness.

Like the sincere scribe we too need to be ask questions that have no hidden agendas. If we are brutally honest with ourselves we often ask others ‘how are you’ simply as a courtesy or as a way of introducing our own story. Instead of listening carefully to the other person we are often thinking about what we want to say how to interrupt so we have our turn. If you want to try and ask open authentic questions it takes practice so have a go at asking someone ‘how they are’ and simply listening next time to are chatting to a neighbour, a friend, a family member or even a stranger in the supermarket queue. When we ask another person an open honest question and then listen carefully to the answer we are offering them one of the simplest, yet profoundly loving acts of service. The art of asking a good question and following it through by being a good listener is a skill that will service us well as a church that wants to serve and witness to the community.

Way back in June I asked all of you a question, which came out of the blue I think as a nudge from the Spirit. I asked, “what do you want to ask God for as the church in Carlingford?” I wonder if you have more clarity now about what it is you want God to do for you? Today’s reading offers us some guidance in how to approach to this prayerful question because if we ask it with our own agenda in mind, or our own self-serving wishes we may not be open to the answers. In our communal prayer as the church and in our private prayers we must first align ourselves to God’s will because many times the answer will not be the one we might have expected or anticipated. It is true that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or even imagine however at all times God must be true to Godself and the ways of the God’s kingdom.

Way back in June I also said something like this, “In the crisis we face, we… may long for a manual that explains step by step how to revive an aging and declining church, even one as difficult as an IKEA instructions manual would do!” I went on to say that we do not need this step by step manual because we are guided by the Spirit but that is not the whole story. In reality we do have a step by step manual, don’t we? (The Bible). In today’s reading we have the guiding principles of our step by step manual summed up in two simple statements that can be described as “the bedrock of Christian teaching”, love God, love people. Rather than preach about this teaching I am going to invite you to listen to a contemporary hymn at the end of the sermon that expresses the beauty and simplicity of today’s reading. Before we do that though there is one more feature of today’s reading that I want us to think about. It is something I don’t think I have ever noticed before, the importance of Jesus mission as the one who proclaims the coming of god’s kingdom.

When Jesus commends the scribes honest question and thoughtful comments he says “mate, you are not far from the kingdom of God.” This is quite the compliment particularly considering the fact that the scribe has just made a very bold statement. He realises that love of God and love of people is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” We no longer offer whole burnt offerings and sacrifices at an altar, instead we come before God for an hour on a Sunday morning and participate in a four hymn sandwich service. There is a sound theological reason for this; we know that Jesus entered once for all into the holy places, not by sacrificing and burning whole animals but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)

But I wonder have we put worship, like the many of the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus time above the love of God and love of people? Does an hour of worship satisfy the first commandment? The prophet Micah expresses true worship and love of God, as a way of being, to act justly, to love mercy
 and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). In light of these prophetic words it could be said that we can only express our love for God through our love for others in witness and in service.

Have we conveniently forgotten about witness and service? After all an hour of worship on a Sunday is much easier to handle than actually applying the first and most important commandment to every waking moment of our lives. Knowing that we are saved not through our actions but by the blood of Christ is a gracious wonder, but it should never become an excuse to rest on our laurels or avoid the simplest and most important commandment of all, love God and love people; nor should our salvation be regarded as a ticket to heaven in which we bide our time and just endure this life. At the beginning of Mark’s gospel Jesus proclaims the good news of God saying, the ‘time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news’ (Mark 1:14-15). The good news is far more fun and exciting than ticking a box that says, ‘heaven bound’. We like the scribe have the opportunity to become people of God’s kingdom, right here and right now, growing, learning, making mistakes, tripping up and then getting up again, so that we can begin transforming into the holy and Christlike beings God created us to be.

My friends, when we take the first and most important of all God’s commandments to heart we too are not far from God’s kingdom.

May our Lord through his Spirit draw us closer and closer towards being kingdom people, full of love for God and love for people.


Hymn: Love God Love People


May the Holy Spirit be upon us now
to cleanse our hearts,
to hallow our gifts,
and to perfect the offering of ourselves
for the love of God and the love of others,
in the name of Jesus Christ


Let us bring before you Our Prayers of Intercession 31st October 2021

Lord, we are your people.

 God In this time and place, you have called us to pray for those in need.

God of all people and nations, God who loves all without distinction of colour or feature, hear our prayers for the people and churches of the world, that stand firm in the face of injustice and, with imagination and determination, share a spirit of adventure which can lead to miracles.

Loving God, you challenge us to be a place of welcome, a Church without walls, offering your love, care and compassion to those who need it most.

We have had months of the Covid-19 pandemic. For months all we have heard on the news: Social distancing, washing hands, testing clinics, economic stimulus packages etc.. Allowances of crowd numbers up and down, we have uncovered more anxiety, more selfishness, and more people to blame. Spirit of Jesus, help us to sit with these fears, to learn again about love. Loving God, stir up your church, as we return to our Places of Worship.  Our places of worship are restricted in numbers.  But we will continue, to move forward as a family of faith.

Lord, help us to be people of courage that our Church may be a witness to your vision of how we should live together. Lord we pray for our Church Council , as we grapple with the future of our church here in Carlingford. Show us by you Holy Spirit our mission, our future. Give us trust in you.

God, we praise you for the beauty, the diversity on earth , and for all the ways this planet keeps us strong ,but when life itself is threatened as we recklessly consume, and the climate question haunts us day by day, How long will we allow it, God, how long? We ask that the Glasgow Climate change summit may awaken the world to make radical changes to your earth .

God, our hearts need a revival, our vision needs to change, and the Gospel needs to capture us again. We need you to renew in us the passion and the praise that make us live as Jesus – here, today.

We bring to mind our times of discouragement and disconnection…
those known to us in need of comfort, peace or healing…..
situations where we see injustice…..
those concerns and cares we hold in our hearts and minds…..

Please keep our prayers for those we know and love, those suffering from illnesses beyond their control. Give them strength and courage to keep their faith and trust in you, we pray for their families,  and those closest to them, for Drs as they minister to them. We pray for those uncertain about their future, having lost jobs and income. We pray for their families as they search for answers about their future.

God, God who is Love, God who is Christ, God who is Spirit,

Help us be your prayer of love in the world.

We pray in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray together:

 (Lord’s Prayer)

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours

now and for ever.


Hymn: The Kingdom of God. Taizé


May God give you hope, insight and strength.

and love you into action

May the Holy Spirit teach you and guide you

and stir you into prayer

and may the love of Christ enfold you

and be with you at all times.


​Next Week: 7 November, 2021
Lectionary Readings:
Ru 3:1-5, 4:13-17; Psalm 127; Heb 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44