Pentecost 21 Proper 25 October 29, 2017
Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
Joining in the deeper conversation
If we were to try to summarize what it will be like in the Kingdom of Heaven how would you answer?
“’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: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
What does it mean to love God? How does one love God? Why do we love God?
We love God because God first loved us. God is our creator, our king, our heavenly Father.
We love God with our whole being, with our whole lives, in our prayers, in our family life, in our work and school life, in our personal, private lives. We worship God; we give God our praise and thanksgiving. We talk to God and we listen to God.
How do we love God when we cannot see him or feel him or hear him? We need to be careful not to love God as someone who is undemanding, as someone who is just waiting for our attention. We turn to God in times of crisis, stress and distress, but we need to remember to turn to God in our times of great joy and celebration and also in the ordinary times when life is, well, just normal.
What does it mean to love our neighbor as our self?
If we do not want to be bullied, or lied to or ignored or lied about then we need to remember to do the same for our neighbor. When we love someone we care about what is going on in their lives; we care how their day is going; we care about their greatest fears and their greatest joys; we talk to them, we talk with them; we listen to them; we show interest in their lives; we ask questions; we give them our full attention, not thinking about something else, not fidgeting, but being truly present to our neighbor.
Do you love Renee? What does it mean to love Renee?
Do you love Melaina? How do you love Melaina Magnusson? Why do you love Melaina?
As we learn to love our neighbors, we grow in our ability to love; we grow in our ability to love the unseen, to love our neighbor across the country or across the ocean, to love our neighbors in Africa or South America or Russia or Iraq; we learn what it means to love God.
Do you love Malith Kur? What does it mean to love a stranger? How do we love a stranger?
We care about their lives, their wellbeing. We care about their physical safety, whether they have food, clean water and shelter. We show interest in them, we ask questions, we listen to their story.
Over the past few weeks the gospel has people coming to Jesus and asking him questions, tough questions. In return Jesus asks them tough questions. Today’s gospel is no different. The lawyer asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is and then Jesus asks the Pharisees who the Messiah is. Through these questions we learn that the Messiah is the Son of David and the Son of God. We learn that Jesus is the Messiah and that he receives his authority from God.
The questioners were not sincere in trying to learn about Jesus. Matthew tells us that they were trying to trick Jesus, to trip Jesus up so they could use it against him. Image what they could have learned if they had really wanted to learn from Jesus, if they were genuinely interested in who Jesus was and where he came from, if they truly wanted to know what Jesus cared about, if they were interested in what made Jesus tick.
One thing we can learn from these readings is the importance of dialog, of asking questions and listening for the answers non-judgmentally; of asking questions to clarify what we are hearing and for deeper understanding; of being willing for others to ask us questions and for us to give sincere, heart felt answers; of going beyond the casual good morning, how is your family, and comments on the weather. It is in the deeper conversation that we come to know someone, to really know them and they come to know us. We may fear people getting to know us. What if they find us wanting? What if they don’t like the real me? I tell you the real you is beautiful. You are worth getting to know. I am worth getting to know. The stranger is worth getting to know. We are beloved children of God. God created each of as a unique, intriguing individual. In getting to know our neighbor and the world around us we come to know our creator God, the God who creates the beautiful monarch butterfly and a new born baby. God sees his creation and calls it good, very good in fact. God loves his creation; God loves you and me and wants to have an intimate relationship with us. God wants us to love God, to love our neighbor and to love our self. We can spend a lifetime getting to know God, our neighbor and our self and coming to love them deeply. Know that God knows you inside and out, the good and the bad, and God loves you! Amen.