Greeting Matthew 22:37b-38 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “‘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.’”
Moment of Silence welcoming Christ into our midst
Call to Worship (inspired by Gen. 22: 1-14; Micah 6:8; Deut. 6:5)
What does the Lord require of you?
To do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with our God.
What does God command of us?
To love God with all our heart,
and all our soul,
and all our mind,
and all our strength,
and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
God does not call us to ease or to comfort.
But to presence, and abundance,
and grace in our struggle.
Let us worship the God who believes in us,
and trusts in us, and abides with us.
Let us worship the God who will ask much of us,
but will be beside us every step of the way.
~ written by Eliza Buchakjian-Tweedy, Pastor at First Church Congregational, Rochester, NH. She blogs at http://sermonizing.wordpress.com/
Scripture Matthew 22:34-46 Galatians 5:13-26
This is the Word of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Morning Message Simple Truths
Swiss-born Karl Barth, who died at the age of 86 in 1968, is considered by many to be one of the most important theologians of the twentieth century.
He is one of the greatest thinkers in the history of Christianity.
He breathed new life into Protestant theology during the grim realities of the 20th century.
And he was considered the intellectual leader of the German Confessing Church, which was the Protestant group that resisted Hitler’s Third Reich.
Barth’s writings are extensive and have been translated into practically every language imaginable.
Point being, Barth was not only a Christian, he was a respected, intellectual giant.
He knew all the big words, the words that young men in seminaries love to challenge each other with on a regular basis.
But here’s the thing, Barth was smart enough to know that some truths are very simple.
Simple enough that even a child can understand.
One day Karl Barth was challenged by someone who asked him what he thought was the most profound of all theological truths.
Instead of giving some wordy, academic answer using ten-dollar words, Barth simply said, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
The person asking the question found Barth’s answer rather charming, but he was also taken back by it.
I mean, what do you say to that? As a Christian, there’s no debating it.
Barth went on to say, “The greatest truth is the one you already know, the one all Christians know, the one a three-year old can sing about.”
“Jesus loves me. This I know.”
In Matthew 22:34-46, Jesus was being challenged by the Pharisees.
The Pharisees approached him with this question, “Which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Keep in mind that Jewish Law had more than 600 commandments.
And they wanted Jesus to narrow it down to one.
Verse 35 tells us the Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus.
And maybe their question concerning the greatest commandment seems pretty simple, to us anyway.
First, we tend to think of “the Law” not as 600+, but as the Ten Commandments; how hard can this be? You got a one in ten chance here.
Second, we are Christians, we are Methodists, we are Wesleyans, and we have heard the greatest commandment hundreds and hundreds of times in our life: “You must love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
We’ve heard it, and said it, so much that sadly, it’s become a bit cliché.
So cliché that we neglect to see how profound, and yet simple, Jesus’ answer really is.
And we certainly miss how clever his reply was.
Because in this case, Jesus was cleverly insulting the Pharisees by quoting what is known to all Jews as the Shema.
In Jewish circles the single most famous verse is the so-called Shema from Deuteronomy 6.
“Shema” is the Hebrew word for “hear” or “listen” and it comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
The Shema was traditionally recited by every Jewish child and adult at the start of each day and at the conclusion of each day.
In other words, there was no single verse that the average Jew knew better than this one.
So, when Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ trick question by quoting a portion of the Shema, he was throwing back in their faces something they themselves took to be exceedingly basic, something that was second-nature to even the youngest Jewish child.
By quoting the Jewish Shema, Jesus was demonstrating to everyone there that the Pharisees were not really interested in seeing if he could answer their question since even the youngest person there already knew the answer.
Like the question posed to Karl Barth, this was not a difficult question.
Like Barth, Jesus took it back to basics. He kept it simple.
It was like asking Albert Einstein, “Do you know what 2+2 is?”
And in this case Jesus makes it clear that just asking that question makes them look like the foolish ones.
Because even the youngest child within earshot could answer it.
Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
If you do these things, all other commandments will automatically fall into place in your life.
It is interesting to me that no matter how often we hear these words, no matter how second-nature they become, we still find ourselves asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?” as if we are looking for a way out of this commandment.
Having too many neighbors, after all, could be a burden.
If we had too many, we may have to sacrifice too much in order to care for them.
It’s the very same question the expert in the law asked Jesus in Luke 10.
Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The moral of that story was pretty clear: You are not supposed to ask who your neighbor is; instead, you are to be a neighbor to everyone you meet.
So, while Jesus’ simple answer shut down the Pharisees that day, the simple truth of his message still stood.
And it still stands today.
And regardless of how many times we hear it or say it, no matter how we try to make it work so that it fits better into our lives, so that it eases us of our responsibilities, Jesus was still teaching a fundamental Christian truth.
It’s the truth that says if we first truly love God with everything we have, then we will love people as He loves people.
And we will see all people as being made in God’s image, and as individuals Christ came to save.
And the evidence of this belief will be seen in the way we live our lives.
Can we do this on our own?
No! God forbid we even try.
We are saved by faith through God’s grace, and we are sanctified in the same manner.
Galatians 5:22-25, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
We cannot attain any of this on our own.
But with God’s help, we will!
Matthew 22:37-39 is not a suggestion, it’s is a commandment of God.
It is THE commandment.
Upon which all other commandments hang.
At the end of Matthew 22, in verse 42, Jesus asked the Pharisees this question, “What do you think of the Messiah?”
This is a question we all must answer, and our very lives and eternal security hinge on the answer.
If you believe Jesus, the Messiah is the fully human, fully divine Son of God…
If you believe he shed his blood and died on the cross as atonement for your sin…
And if you confess him as Lord and Savior, Scripture says that you will be saved, and born again into new life.
And as God daily works his cleansing power in you, you will grow every day into a more Christ-like human being, and your deepest desire will be to please him in everything you do.
As you grow through the power of the Holy Spirit, God will show you who you really are: a beloved child of God; a sinner saved by the grace of a God who loved you first. Amen.
Prayer of Confession Book of Worship 476
O holy and merciful God,
we confess that we have not always taken upon ourselves the yoke of obedience,
nor have we been willing to seek and to do your perfect will.
We have not loved you
with all our heart and mind and soul and strength,
neither have we loved our neighbors as ourselves.
You have called to us in the need of our sisters and brother,
And we have passed unheeding on our way,
In the pride of our hearts, and our unwillingness to repent,
We have turned away from the cross of Christ.
And have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Words of Assurance Book of Worship 476
Church, may almighty God, who caused light to shine out in darkness,
Shine in our hearts, cleansing us from all our sins,
And restoring us to the light of the knowledge of God’s glory,
In the face of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
“More Love to Thee, O Christ” sung by Fernando Ortega
Benediction 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (NLT)
“And may the Lord make your love for one another, and for all people, grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father, when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.” Peace be with you this day.