Sunday Sermon: Matthew 22:34-40
Love. Such a short word. And yet, how very loaded a word. And so broad for using.
O Baby, I love you.
Oh, man, I love Tuna Salad!
I love the Raiders! (Panthers, Jaguars, Dawgs, Tar Heels, Blue Devils, Packers, Colts, Rangers, Cardinals, Yankees, Braves, Wolfpack, Insert your team name here.)
I love the Beach!
I love the colors of the changing leaves during Fall!
With all this love going on, how in the world are we supposed to know what kind of love Jesus means? Teacher, what is the Greatest Commandment? Out of all the Commandments, Teacher, in the entire book of the law, which one is the best, of all of them?
Come on Jesus, you can’t evade all the questions, the cops ain’t here, you can tell us, can’t you?
What’s the best commandment? What is the best law in the book of the law, out of all the laws we have, Jesus, out of all over Six Hundred of the laws that we have, which is the greatest?
Y’all remember, this is still in the string of “Catch Jesus Off His Guard” questions. Surely, Jesus is not gonna be able to give the perfect answer here. How’s he gonna pick one commandment, out of all the book of the law, that is the greatest. We love the book of the law, and we Know that the whole book of the Law is holy. Jesus can’t just pick one.
So, Jesus. Show us what you got.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. Love God with all your passion, prayer, and intelligence.
Stunned Silence. Jesus Goes on.
And a second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. OR Love others as much as you love yourself.
Wait, Jesus, we asked for one. The Greatest. There can be only one.
Yes, but the two coincide. You are to Love God. AND you are to Love People.
And not just the people who are like you, but the ones that got invited to that wedding banquet I told you about where the upper class refused to come and the folks who lived on the street came in. Or the unworthy vineyard keepers who were thrown away by the land owner.
This Commandment, The Shema, literally, “Hear” or “Listen,” calls the people of Israel to listen and hear the word of the Lord. This is the law that the Hebrew people were commanded to bring so deeply into their lives that it was written on the palms of their hands, across their foreheads and on their hearts.
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.
But as you love God, you also love your neighbor.
Later, in another Gospel, where this story is told, one asks: but who is my neighbor. Can anyone tell me which story or parable Jesus responds with when he answers?
…I’ll give you a hint. It is in Luke. Chapter ten.
Yes, the Good Samaritan.
And Mark 12 is the direct translation where the song we sang earlier came from.
So. Love God. Love People.
And… ok. How do we do that?
We come to church. We attend Sunday school. We give money to the church. We cook for the potluck when we have one. We read our bibles… once in a while. We pray. Maybe even some of us pray more than at meals and bedtime.
But how do you love God. We can’t see God. We can’t go hug God, can we?
And as for the following what God said, isn’t that the law and commandments that we were just talking about, how could the greatest commandment not give us any direction about how to actually follow it?
Ok. Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength. Intelligence, Passion, Prayer. With all you’ve got. With your entire being.
But where does that leave us? How do we get there? What is the jump from knowing God exists to Loving God?
Seems like an awfully vague idea.
Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging. We are not left, lost and hazy in the midst of this confusing idea.
Jesus gives us some help. And it is with the second commandment. Jesus ties the two together. And with Jesus, we know that if he ties them together, it usually is gonna be something that helps us understand one with the other.
So after Jesus says that the best, the greatest, the ultimate commandment is to Love God with your whole being, with your heart and soul and mind and strength and passion and intelligence and prayer; Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself.
I want you to look at the person sitting next to you and say: I Love you, Neighbor.
Okay, Now say it to someone else.
How does that feel?
What does it do? Saying the words feels good, right? Kinda might be rusty a little, but feels good.
But they are just words. And these are just the people that you know, these are the people that you have been going to church with for a while now. I’ve learned your names and eaten with some of you and we’re doing pretty ok.
We’re doing pretty ok with these people sitting here with us.
What about our neighbors? When was the last time you talked to your neighbor? I’m not even saying invited them to church. No. When was the last time you talked to them?
I’m guilty of this as much as anyone. It took John three months before he realized that one of our neighbors only lived in the house some of the months of the year. He hadn’t realized it was empty.
But these are not the only neighbors that Jesus is telling us to love.
Jesus tells us to love all those we meet on an everyday basis. And if we don’t happen to meet so many people, then we should go out and be with them, so that we can love them. Not just to say: come to church. Though if the Spirit is leading you to do so, I won’t say that’s wrong. But there is so much more to loving others, especially the poor and the forgotten, than just saying we love them.
I asked one of my teachers from school about this verse, and she said that this love your neighbor part points to the way that we love other people, and it says a lot more about our relationship with God than having our theories and theologies just right.
Later, the question is what have you done to the least of these? How are we being the hands and feet of Jesus? How are we serving the people that have become Christ in our midst?
And. Still. What is Love? What does it mean to love my neighbor as myself?
What if Love is:
Being able to look at someone who was at the intersection with a handwritten sign asking for help, and instead of looking away, you looked at them. And maybe, just maybe, gave them something. And I’m not talking a tract.
What if Love is:
Like this movie where a young man has isolated himself from his family and anyone who has tried to befriend him. He goes to work, and he goes to church, but he doesn’t sit with anyone, and surely doesn’t touch them.
One day, he creates an imaginary Girlfriend. And he treats her so much like a real person that first his family is worried about him, but later his entire town treats his imaginary girlfriend like a real person, because they love Lars.
They love Lars so much that they do some silly things… but it is all because they love him, and they don’t care what others might think as long as they love him.
What if Love is:
Someone standing and holding you while you cry for twenty minutes without expecting anything in return.
What if Love is:
Standing in silence with strangers whose loved one has just died… and what brought you together was the death.
What if Love is the way that God loves us. God loves us so much that our only true response can be love in return.
If God is Love, And God IS Love, then the love in action that we show each other is God working through us. God shining through us and our response and allowal of God to work through us to show that love.
Love is sacrificing an afternoon to go share a walk with a co-worker.
Love is sharing a table with someone you might not know.
Love is giving when it hurts.
We are not alone.
It is not only the job of the preacher to love the people outside these doors. If that was the case, then there would not be nearly enough love to go around.
And it is not only your job to create the love that is needed for all of the neighbors around us.
But as we respond to the Love that is in God, and the Love that God shines and shows and shares through us that we can love others.
We do not love on our own or have to create this love thing.
We don’t have to create this Love out of our brokenness.
God provides his love to shine through us.
God is Love.
We are called to love, and to be love to others. With all our heart and soul and mind.
Be the love you see in God. Be the love you see in the Spirit. Be the love that you see in Jesus our Christ.
Love IS. Be LOVE.