Every time we meet together for our Sunday service, we hear some of the words from this week’s Gospel reading.
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
This is Jesus’ definitive answer to the question of what is most important in all the Law of God. It was the Pharisees who asked the question – the Pharisees, who set so much store by the Law of Moses that they amplified every tiny nuance of it, and made it more complex.
Always, particularly in these recent weeks, we hear the differing political wings of the Jerusalem Jewish authorities, vying for power, and trying to trap Jesus into saying something which will condemn him – something which will prove to them that he is not legitimate, that he is not who he claims to be.
They are crafty, and he is clever.
Here, we hear him saying to the Pharisees, that the Law is simple – more simple than they could ever accept. Yet, when you begin to unpack what he has said, it becomes enormous! Bigger and more difficult than anything the Pharisees dared to impose on the people.
Loving God is not easy. Putting your whole self – heart, soul and mind into it is huge! It means that everything we do, everything we think, everything we contemplate, must be checked through the ‘filter’ of whether it fits into loving God.
Will it show that we love God, if we make this decision? Will it be consistent with loving God, if we don’t do this?
And the second commandment is like it…. Actually, the Greek word implies that it is the same – just like it – a simile. You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
How do you love yourself?
You wash and dress each day. You take care of yourself. You make sure to eat healthily, and give yourself a treat now and then. You do things you enjoy, and provide a roof over your head, and the things you need. You try to stay safe.
I ask myself now – do I love my neighbour in that way? Do I care for them that way?
It is very true to say that we cannot love God if we don’t love our ‘neighbour’ in the way we love ourself. If we can’t love the people we see around us, how can we love God, who is unseen?
It’s a huge challenge, every single day. The two commandments are the simplest and most succinct statement, which explains the huge complexity of the Christian life!
Here is the link to our hymn:
The hymn I have chosen for this week is “Love is his word.” By Luke Connaughton, sung to the tune: ‘Cresswell,’ by Anthony Milner. Because the recording I found does not use all the verses, I have printed them out here for you.
I love poetry, and the skillful use of words. This hymn uses a simple progression from verse to verse, changing two words in each first line, (taking the second half of the first line from the previous verse to be the first half of the first line of the following verse), in order to expand the concept, and lead us forward. The first verse begins with the concept of love being the word. We know Jesus the Christ as the Word made flesh. The final verse returns us to this truth – that Love is the Word, and the Word is Love.
The belief that God is love, and that the meaning of that word has never been a mere emotion, or feeling – but rather a powerful verb – a word which compels us to action, is the heart of this week’s message. In all the meaning of our faith story, the command to love is the driver. We cannot live with integrity as Christians any other way.
God bless your week – Jennifer
Love is his word, love is his way,
Feasting with friends, fasting alone,
living and dying, rising again,
Love, only love is his way.
Richer than gold is the love of my Lord:
Better than splendour and wealth.
Love is his way, love is his mark,
Sharing his last Passover feast,
Christ at his table, host to the twelve,
Love, only love, is his mark.
Love is his mark, love is his sign,
Bread for our strength, wine for our joy,
‘This is my body, this is my blood’,
Love, only love is his sign.
Love is his sign, love is his news,
‘Do this,’ he said, ‘lest you forget
All my deep sorrow, all my life’s blood.’
Love, only love, is his news.
Love is his news, love is his name,
We are his own, chosen and called,
Sisters and brothers, cousins and kin.
Love, only love, is his name.
Love is his name, love is his law,
Hear his command, all who are his:
‘Love one another, I have loved you.’
Love, only love, is his law.
Love is his law, love is his word:
Love of the Lord, Father and Word,
Love of the Spirit, God ever one.
Love, only love, is his word.
Luke Connaughton 1917-79 alt.