Scripture Reading Matthew 22:34-46
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’
45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Prayer for Understanding
Gracious God, through the written word, and the spoken word, may we learn about your Living Word: Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Message The Compassionate Life -- Learning from Barbie
When we travelled to St. Louis this summer, we took early birthday presents for my triplet nieces. The girls turned 5 in August and are seriously into Barbie dolls. Their Aunt Amelie is also pretty into Barbie dolls, as is Lucia, so Lucia and I were very particular about picking out dolls for the girls. We wanted them to be obviously different from each other and also reflect the diversity of Twenty-first century America – so one doll had Caucasian skin and long pink hair, one doll had African American skin and long black hair, and one looked kind of stereotypically Latino and had long blondish braids. Right away, the triplets were concerned – the dolls all had long hair and therefore in their eyes looked alike – how could they tell them apart? The girls were still going through the phase where they categorized people by hair length, not skin color – I was a tad baffled, and then said they could tell the dolls apart because one had pink hair, one had black hair, and one had blond hair. The girls accepted this identification strategy and played away.
In our reading this morning, we return to the lengthy conversation Jesus had with Pharisees and Temple leaders who came to question him during the first Holy Week. We have been focusing on snippets from this conversation during our worship services over the past few weeks. This conversation probably happened on Tuesday of Holy Week --- Jesus would have drawn a lot of attention to himself by clearing the Temple of money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals on Sunday or Monday. So a crowded gathered around Jesus and peppered him with questions.
Throughout the long conversation on that fateful Tuesday, the Pharisees and Temple authorities tried to trick Jesus into incriminating himself—they were looking for excuses to have him arrested and put into prison or put to death by the Roman officials. The Pharisees were very legalistic in their interpretation of Jewish law. In the questions we focus on today, they tried to entrap Jesus by asking him a question regarding the law: “What commandment is the most important commandment to follow in all the Hebrew scripture?” I am not sure what they expected Jesus to say….but whatever it was, Jesus did not fall into their trap.
Jesus answered by quoting two scriptures. Jesus believed the two most important scriptures in Hebrew law are:
1) the call to prayer, or Shema, of Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
2) and the command from the 10 Commandments recorded in Leviticus 19:18 “… love your neighbor as yourself.”
So, the entire Bible and all of the commandments contained within it can be boiled down to Love God and Love Our Neighbors.
And, who is our neighbor? In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan to answer this question. A pious Jewish man was beaten and left for dead on the side of a road. Many people walked by him and did not help him. The passersby included a Jewish priest and a Levite, who was a holy man. Neither stopped and helped the wounded man. Finally, a Samaritan man stopped and helped him. What was shocking about help coming from the Samaritan man was that Samaritans were the long-time enemies of the Jewish people. This is like an Eagles fan stopping to help a Cowboys fan, or an Iranian man stopping to help an American man, or a Hatfield stopping to help a McCoy. The person who proved to be a “neighbor” to the wounded man was not a member of his own religious group, was not someone who was appointed to be a spiritual leader in his community, and was not a Jewish holy man. Instead, the true neighbor who treated him with love, who treated him in the way we want to be treated, was the Samaritan, his perceived enemy.
Friends, we are in the midst of a very difficult time. We are getting attacked on all sides – Covid-19, tensions around our polarizing election, protests about racism in our country, forest fires, hurricanes, even a tsunami, virtual learning, working from home. We all feel very stressed out.
In the midst of our stress and anxiety, many of us want to retreat into ourselves. We think – I don’t want to watch the news, I don’t want to talk to anybody, I just want to hide away in my house and forget it all.
But, as Christians, Jesus taught us to engage our enemies….Jesus taught us to love each other. Sometimes, the people we are invited to love support different politicians than we do. Sometimes, the people we are invited to love vote for different political parties than we do. Sometimes, the people we are invited to love are different ethnicities than we are. Sometimes, the people we are invited to love come from different countries than we come from. Sometimes, the people we are invite to love even have different hair color than we have.
God made the people of the world to be diverse. WE speak different languages. We have different skin colors. We worship different ways. We have different hobbies and talents. We understand politics differently.
But, we grow as people when we engage others who are different than we are. And, as much as we are tempted to hide in our beds with the covers over our heads, God wants us to grow and learn from each other. God wants us to love other people and accept them as they are, not as we want them to be.
God loves the people of the world. God showers our lives with the good things we have….health, family, church community, friends, interests. God asks us to love God in return for the love God showers upon us. And, God also asks us to love each other.
I pray as we live out these next few weeks, and the political statements and mudslinging gets ugly, we will remember our job as Christians is to love each other.
May we do so. Amen.