The Rev. Randy Knutson
The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 25
October 26, 2014
Listen to this…Sermon 2014.10.26 RK
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it.’ And
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
What could be truer? What could be simpler?
These are embedded in our worship together, in more ways that we might suspect. Listen to this Collect that began our Diocesan worship in Friday night:
“O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Or what our Confession will contain later in this Eucharist:
“We have not loved you with our whole heart;
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”
Yes, these two commandments have shaped our faith and if we follow these, as our life compass, as our Christian guide through life, then we have all we need. Yet there is more here, much more.
This Gospel passage recorded from Matthew is one in string of confrontations Jesus had with the religious authorities of his day. You might remember last week, about it being correct to pay taxes to Caesar or another about marriage and resurrection. The Pharisee’s earlier already had their time challenging Jesus, but now, to challenge him on the Law of Moses, they send, you guessed it, a lawyer. Is there anyone who, when faced with a legal challenge, would try to answer it on their own, and with a lawyer on the other side? But Jesus is up to the challenge and we are the beneficiaries of his wonderful answer. This answer is not only great, but is plucked from scripture the Pharisee, the lawyer, would be an expert in. The first section, is from the Shema in Deuteronomy, a prayer or phrase devout Jews would say daily and know well: “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.” (Deut 6: (4) 5) It would have also been common knowledge to those devout at that time, like asking an Episcopalian to recite the Lord’s Prayer or the first part of one of the Creeds. The second part of Jesus response is from Leviticus 19.18, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. It would have also been familiar to everyone Jesus was talking too, even outside of the Pharisees.
Our problem comes in hearing these words and our very broad definition of the word “love.” We associate it, even in our casual use, with emotion. Many times we mean an affection for something or enjoying something a great deal, when we say ‘love’. If the word, affection could be used instead, you are probably on the wrong track with Jesus’ meaning of the word, ‘love’. i.e. “You shall have affection for the Lord your God” or “you shall have affection for your neighbor as yourself.” No, this is a love that runs deep, that speaks more to action and commitment and not only emotion. It is the sort of love, of commitment we see between spouses or good friends, when one is very ill, dealing with cancer or worse. It is the kind of love we might label with the old fashioned word, steadfast. That is the kind of love Jesus is drawing us to; and to have be a force in our lives and our world.
Where might we see this kind of devotion, to others, to something greater to apply in the days and weeks ahead?
I can see it applying to Election Day. Yes that’s right, to voting. For you see, we live in an age when pundits and handlers try to predict what we will do and think and how we will vote. They project for us the way they want candidates and issues to strike us. But we who vote, we still make the decisions; make up our own minds. As much as they might want to ‘push us’ with ads and press releases, there is still that small space, what has called the space between stimulus and response, that we still are master of. We can yet spend time thinking, really wondering and pondering this: what decisions are best for my community, for the future of where I live. Who can I entrust for the next two or four years to weigh options and make decisions that would agree with not only my values, but the long term goals I have for this world.
Next week, we will confirm a number of young people and as we have lead this class and prepared them for this event: of having our bishop, David Rice, lay hands on them, bless them and confirm their baptism. I know we hope that this preparation and this time might plant the seed of allowing these young people to gain some insight into how they can mould their future lives to follow in the path, to be disciples of, Jesus; to be open now and into the future to live the Christian life. One comment from some older than them is they are too young to be making this kind of commitment, but I don’t think so. This is their moment to nod assent to the path their parents and families set them on when they were baptized. The road itself, the trip will have many twists and turns; this is in no way their final time to get it right. In fact, it is a time to learn how to trust that God will be with them to learn from and forgive when their path on the road is rocky, is challenging.
Another item is our giving to mission of the church, our stewardship drive, which will be begin in a few weeks. This will be another opportunity to be open to God’s call to show our devotion, our loyalty and love for His church and all that happens in this place and beyond.
Finally, as we enter the months of November and December; enter the time of Holidays: Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and the New Year. In addition to it being a time of great and festive celebration, it has also turned into a time to assess the year as it ends, to share from our bounty and to give to others, when we might feel we have been touched by all that has happened to us in this past year. So, when the appeals come to give to others outside this place, to sponsor a family or meet an sudden unexpected need for food, for clothing or gifts for those in our community who might not have any of these things without our generosity, this too is a time to respond to this two-fold call to love to God and to love others.
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
The first is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it.