Love of Christ is action

Homily for Parish of St. Timothy’s and St. Paul’s, Hatchet Lake and Terence Bay, Nova Scotia

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 4 November 2018

Book of Alternative Services, Proper 31

Dt 6:1–9; Ps 119:1–8; Heb 9:11–14; Mk 12:28–34

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/stsp-sermons/all-saints-sunday-november-4-2018-message-by-d-beck

Collect of the Day

Almighty God,
whose chosen servant Abraham obeyed your call,
rejoicing in your promise
that in him the family of the earth is blessed,
give us faith like his,
that in us your promises may be fulfilled;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

_____________________________

In the name of the undivided One, the Holy Trinity: + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, we find Moses and the Israelites gathered just beyond the Jordan River. The people are poised to enter the Promised Land. Moses addresses the people for the last time in a series of speeches, a farewell, just before he dies. The portion that we hear today, “Hear, O Israel” is what we sometimes proclaim as a community affirming our faith in our worship.

 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! (Deut 6:5, The Message) When we know and obey this. When we live these words of action in our lives, every moment of every day: “We are not far from the kingdom of God.”

And, it is what we hear Jesus refer to as the “greatest”commandment in today’s Gospel.

With this greatest of commandments, we affirm our shared faith under the commanding voice of the one God that creates all and is sovereign over all. I think that when we are obedient to this affirmation, it also affirms who we are.

What does it mean to affirm, but through experience? We experience oneness with God and one another when we love the Lord our God with heart, soul, mind; with everything that we have to give – with all our strength, even loving our neighbours as ourselves.In other words, “that which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow…” Because this is also a summary of the whole of Jewish teaching/Torah, “and the rest is commentary, go and learn it,”as one teacher said. [1]

…be careful to do these things, that it may go well with you…

Imagine a world, as Moses and Jesus suggest, where these words are kept, where they are done, where we recite them to children, where everyone says them at home and when away, when we lie down and when we rise still saying them, when we bind them to our hands and bind them to our foreheads as a sign, when we write them on the doorpost of our house and on the gates.

…Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbour as yourself…

 This is not just wishful thinking on the part of Moses or Jesus. Moses and Jesus believe this world is possible.

What we’re talking about here are actions borne out of love, not judgement. Here is what I mean by “actions borne out of love, not judgment.”

In the Gospel of Mark, we find the scribe and Jesus talking about their common tradition. It seems that they are also talking about common conditions experienced in society. God’s love versus human, conditional judgment.

Both the scribe and Jesus agree that God’s kingdom is not a legalistic, judgment alone. God’s kingdom is not like those kingdoms and empires of this world. Rather, God’s kingdom is one borne out of the love that God has for creation as God intended it. The great command, however, demands a response from us to God’s actions. This is not to say that God’s kingdom is not a moral one, but it is a morality where the love of God, self and neighbour is lived out loud in every moment of life. This is what the kingdom of God looks like.

Also, notice that Jesus and the scribe are not talking about mere feelings – fleeting emotions – but about actions that reflect God’s. So, these are not feeling words, but action words. “Go. Do love. Be love in the name of God.” It commands.

Earlier, I said that with this greatest of commandments we affirm our shared faith under the commanding voice of the one God. This is the One that creates all and is sovereign over all. I think that when we are obedient to this affirmation, it also affirms who we are. Now, I add that the greatest commandment affirms whose we are.

Notice in the exchange between the scribe and Jesus that the scribe affirms Jesus. “You are right, Teacher. The Lord is one. There is no other. This is the most important thing!

Still, I wonder. Do we see ourselves in the Oneness that God asks us to participate in by our actions? How can we follow the example of the scribe? The scribe gets that loving God, others and self is a matter of the heart and the soul. It is a matter of the whole person. It is a matter that requires all of who we are in all of life. The scribe gets that “perfect love casts out fear.”[2]And, that what remains without fear is reverence. Reverence is the perfection of love.

Love unites all in the same way that God is One. The Lord is one. In the Lord, we are made one. Affirm God. God affirms us when we put all else aside to act in love affirming God and one another.

My brothers and sisters, this is about a life of reverence in the presence of the Holy One, it is about our personal integrity, it is about our oneness with God and with one another as his people. It strikes me that this is what it means to be a saint. As someone once said, “To be a saint, all you have to do is want to be one.”

Today is All Saints Sunday. It’s the annual feast of the Church when we remember that “nothing [separates]from the love of God in Christ Jesus – neither death nor life, or angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[3]We remember those saints that have gone before us into the nearer presence of God’s love–God’s kingdom. It’s also a day when we remember that one day, we too, will join that great company around the throne of God that is too numerous that it cannot be counted in God’s eternal kingdom. We need to remember, also, that the kingdom is here with us. It is with us because the love of God in Christ Jesus is action.

Jesus never leaves us to act alone.This is true for all who have believed in his name that have gone before us. It is no less true for us.

The story goes of a traveller who came upon a precipice. There was no way around it, there was no way that he could cross it. It was then that he noticed a rope extending across to the other side. The other side was so far away that he could not see it. Emerging from the distance was a wheelbarrow. As it approached he noticed someone in it. As it came close, he was able to see someone pushing it. When they reached him, the person got out. The calm, skillful, loving man wearing a white robe with scars is in his hands and in his feet looked at the traveller and said, “Come with me.”

The only questions left are these. Are you as an individual willing to take that trip with Jesus? I think Jesus also asks this of the Church. And, so:

Hear, O Parish of St. Timothy’s and St. Paul’s: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind, and with all our strength…Love our neighbours as ourselves. There is nothing greater.

When we do this the kingdom of God is near.

In the name of the undivided One, the Holy Trinity: + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Amen.

 

 [1]Rabbi Hillel, Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a

[2]I John 4:18

[3]Romans 8:38-39