Psalm 148, 149, 150 (Morning)
Psalm 114, 115 (Evening)
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 NRSV Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
One of the first things I learned when I started accompanying my Jewish friend and pathology mentor Mitch to temple for things like the High Holidays, was the the opening two lines of the Shema:
Shema Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. Barukh shem ka’vod malkhuto le’olam va’ed. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One. Blessed be the name of God’s glorious kingdom forever and ever.”
To this day, when I hear the Great Commandment recited in our liturgy, my brain hears the first two lines in Hebrew. It stuck with me that much.
If that’s how deeply the Shema can touch a 5th generation native northeast Missourian who really never heard a live person speak in Hebrew until well into adulthood, imagine how the Great Commandment was heard by both the contemporaries of Jesus and the people of the early Christian church. The Shema would have been as familiar to them as their own mother. It only stands to reason that because of this, people heard what Jesus tacked onto it with just as much depth.
That, to me, is an important aspect of how Jesus speaks to us. Jesus will always choose a way to speak to us that we will understand…and not just in that passing “uh huh” sort of way. Whatever it is that you hear most strongly, there Jesus’ voice will be–whether it is church, faces, places, or nature. Jesus can get the point across in a Robert Frost poem just as easily as through the words of the liturgy.
The converse, of course, is when we hear the phrases in our liturgy that speak most deeply to us, and respond, we are conversing with Jesus–not simply hearing–and some of those words are literally “our Shema.”
“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid…”
“Deliver us from the presumption of coming to your table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal…”
“In the fullness of all time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country…”
“Almighty God, to whom our needs are known before we ask…”
The words of our rich liturgy hang in bits and pieces on the coat hooks of our brain, and over time, we come to hear them in the same way we hear the other deep, yet short catchphrases in our lives–with a special kind of vigilant hope.
What are the words that make up your Shema?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid