- Deuteronomy 34:1-12
- Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
- 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
- Matthew 22:34-46
Over the past few weeks we’ve heard how the Pharisees continually challenge Jesus. Today they try one more time: “What is the greatest commandment?” In reply, Jesus quotes the Shema, the ancient Hebrew prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). He summarizes the law and the prophets by combining the two great commandments.
Love God. Love neighbor. Commands such as these, at least in general propositions, do not seem difficult to obey. They are found throughout this week’s texts and are infused throughout the scriptures, yet we regularly need to be reminded of these commandments. Love God. Love neighbor. Our own preoccupations with ourselves makes living these commands difficult. Bot commands require that we look outward. How can we possibly love God with all our heart, mind, and soul? How can we possibly love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves? These commands are not as easy as they seem. We need the reminder of these texts to keep God and our neighbors at the forefront of our thoughts and actions.
With children, watch a clip of the movie Cars (Pixar, 2006). Lightning McQueen has the opportunity to win the big race and all the fame, fortune, and notoriety that goes with it. Instead of completing the race, he stops before the finish line and turns back to help another car that had been run off the course. He then helps the other car cross the finish line ahead of him. This is a vivid example of loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.
With youth, watch Kanye West’s music video for “Jesus Walks” (The College Dropout, Roc-a-Fella, 2004), everywhere the singer goes he is able to help out others, and Jesus is always next to him. He is able to love his neighbors, give money to those in need, provide food for the hungry, and even heal the sick. The video ends with him praising God in a worship service. This music video profoundly depicts love of God and neighbor.
Our Baptismal Covenant repeats the commandments to love God and neighbor. To embody the covenant means responding to God in praise, seeking and serving Christ in others, and striving for justice and peace (BCP 305).
- Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
- Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
- Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
- Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
- Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
- How is love the basis for all the “law and the prophets”?
- Notice that the word “love” is used in today’s Gospel as a verb requiring action. How do we express our love for God with all our heart, soul, and mind?
- How does the combination of the two great commandments provide the link between religious faith and ethics (behavior)?
- What do you think Jesus means in verse 40 when he says that “all the law and the prophets” hang on these two commandments?
- What is the relationship between loving God, loving others, and loving self? Is one of them primary? Why or why not?