Not Far From the Kingdom

Not Far From the Kingdom

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

All Saints Day is one of those moments where we celebrate and remember those who have made the journey or who have taken the next step. We remember them because they are still a part of us, shaping us, mentoring us – maybe not in a direct way, but in a real way.

Note to the Teacher

The Scripture we read on this All Saints Sunday is from the Gospel of Mark and talks about Jesus’ Greatest Commandments. The opening activity is a classic youth ministry game called “Do You Love Your Neighbor?” The discussion encourages students to think about what it means to share the love of Christ with others. The activity has students writing a letter to someone special telling them just how much they mean to them. Times are based on a 50-minute lesson period but can be adjusted.

1. Ice Breaker: ‘Do You Love Your Neighbor?’ (10 minutes)

If you’re playing in-person, start the game by asking everyone to get into a circle except for one person who must stand in the middle of the circle. Make sure there are no empty or open seats. The object of the game is for the person in the middle of the circle to try and grab a seat before anyone in the group grabs the open seat.

The person in the middle of the circle starts by asking someone sitting down the question, “Do you love your neighbor?”

The player who is asked the question may answer in two ways:

  1. “Yes” – meaning that the players sitting to the left and right of them must get up and switch seats.
  2. “No, I love neighbors who ______.” – This means that all players who fit into the description (i.e., people currently wearing jeans, or wearing white shoes, or those who like chocolate ice cream, etc.) must get up from their seats and move into another seat.

In both scenarios, the player in the middle will try to sit in an empty seat before the other players can. The player in the middle simply needs to try and get into an empty seat while the other players are switching their seats. Of course, someone will more than likely be left without a seat and will now become the new person in the middle. The new person in the middle will then ask the next person the same question, and the game continues. Enjoy, and remember that this game is supposed to be a fun ice breaker to get the group moving around.

Digital Alternative: If your group is completely digital or the above-mentioned game just won’t work, try this alternative: Ask for one person to start by saying one nice thing about someone else in the group. The kicker is, that person must say something nice by describing the person using the first initial from the person’s first name. For example, my name is David, so the person saying something nice about me could say something like, “David is delightful to be around.” If my name were Caroline, the person would need to say something like, “Caroline is so creative.

2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)

The scripture reading today talks about a time when a scribe asks Jesus which is the first commandment. While the scripture is being read, invite students to listen for how Jesus answers the scribe’s question and think about the tone in which the scribe was asking.

Read Mark 12:28-34.

3. Discussion (15 minutes)

  • As we grow up, we often hear advice or words of wisdom from those who care for us. What are some of the memorable words of wisdom you have heard? What are some of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever heard? (Take a few minutes to write these down on a piece of paper or whiteboard.) *Bonus question: Did you actually follow those words of wisdom or advice when you heard them? Why or why not?
  • What verbs (action words) stood out to you from the scriptures we read today? (Re-read the scripture if needed.)
  • Who was debating about what at the beginning of today’s passage? (You can look before our reading began to see if that helps at all.) If there is no clear answer, what do you think the rabbis and teachers of the law were debating?
  • Why do you think the scribe (or teacher of the law, depending on your translation) asked that specific question about which commandment is the greatest?
  • How does Jesus answer the scribe? (Verse 29)
  • Why do you think Jesus uses these four words (heart, soul, mind, strength) in verse 30? How would loving God with each of these features look?
  • Which of the four do you think you do the best job (or perhaps, have the easiest time with) of showing your love for God?
  • How might it change you to love God with all four of the features equally?
  • What do you think it means to love your neighbor? Whom do you consider your personal neighbors? How about neighbors of our church? Of our larger community?
  • Can you name anyone in your life who truly exemplifies how to “love God and love your neighbor?” Have you ever told them how you see them?
  • What things make it difficult to love God and your neighbor?
  • Verse 31 often gets abbreviated; we are supposed to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. What do you think it means to show love for ourselves? Are there things that make loving ourselves difficult? And if so, if we don’t love ourselves, is it even possible to show love for neighbors?

4. Activity and Discussion: ‘Love Letter’ (20 minutes)

Explain to your students that today is All Saints Day. It is a time to celebrate those who have passed on before us. We celebrate the role they played in our lives, and we remember the times we had with them. It is important to remember that we are who we are, in part, because of who they were.

All Saints Day can also be a perfect opportunity to say “thank you” to those who are still with us, who still light our way, and direct our paths. Today, we’re going to take some time to write letters to those people in our lives who mean a lot to us. These could be parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, friends, and others. Hand each student a pen and a piece of paper or note cards and ask them to find a quiet place to spend about ten minutes writing letters to people they love. To clearly link this activity with the previous discussion, offer youth this prompt to start writing “How would you say thank you, to a person in your life, who you have seen show their love for God and neighbor? What have they taught you, and how did you notice them as a living example of the Christian life?”

After students have had the opportunity to write these letters, encourage them to give their letters to people. Invite students to answer the following questions as a wrap-up to this exercise:

  1. Was it easy or hard to write these letters? Why?
  2. How do you feel now that you’ve written these letters?
  3. How would it feel to receive one of these letters?
  4. How can we continue to love God and love our neighbors throughout the rest of the week?

Thank your students again for taking this exercise seriously. If time allows, play another round or two of “Do You Love Your Neighbor.”

Close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.

Total time: 50 minutes


  • Pens or Pencils
  • Markers
  • Whiteboard or Paper

In This Series...

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes


  • White

In This Series...

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes