By Rev. Jeff Lackie On Apr 08 2020
Matthew 22: 34-40
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Questions and tests; we know a thing or two about those, don’t we? “Have you been out of the country?” “Are you feeling well today?” “Have you washed your hands?” All asked from a safe social distance as you enter the grocery story, or the post office, or the bank. And tests - insufficient tests; tests that give us information we wish we didn’t need - tests and questions rule the news and the world and indeed, our lives lately. All in the name of information.
How to proceed? How to plan and how to protect the vulnerable (and those who think they are perpetually immune.) honest answers to todays questions will do nothing but good, in the end. And so it was in Jesus’ day. Though Jesus’ questioners had unruly ambitions, and were looking for excuses to to harm rather than good.
Leave it to the lawyer: ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ That’s rather like asking a parent which is their favourite child, for Jesus was a child of Abraham and familiar with the law and all its complexities. He would certainly understand how each depended upon the other - that the law was not designed to be broken into bits; favourites in one column, those less ‘admirable’ in another. The lawyer clearly imagined that he was asking the impossible.
Not so. For Jesus, two commandments stand out - indistinguishable, one from the other in their greatness; Love God - love one another.
With the simplicity of his response, Jesus undoes centuries of co-dependence. Far easier to treat the law like a tottering tower of stick - one that will collapse the minute you select a single piece of it for closer examination. The lawyer might have been prepared for an argument about the intricate complexities of the law - how interdependent each commandment; how their could be no precedence without imperilling the whole of the law…for the religious institution depended on the complexity of the law, and a simple answer threatens the power of those who depend on the institution.
And now they have another reason to want Jesus silenced. All because he insists that love is the foundation of the law - in fact the only law that really matters; Love God, love one another. It really is that simple.
And yet we continue to doubt - to shift and shuffle and say ‘yes, but…’ while we marshal ourselves behind various institutional edifices: economic, political, religious, secular - hoping that their ‘power’ might shield us from the slings and arrows of our outrageous modes of living.
Not any more.
One by one, these shields are reduced to splinters. Economies are proven fallible; politics is revealed as a cruel game; and now - suddenly - of necessity - we are forced to deal with one another as fallible, frightened human beings. Political differences are being (mostly) ignored. Religious communities are re-learning what it means to be communities - at the expense of rituals, sacraments, and seasonal celebrations. Our heroes are no longer celebrity athletes or actors, but ordinary people forced to do their jobs under extremely difficult circumstances: health care professionals; food service providers; grocery store staff; these are the folks whom everyone wants to celebrate now.
And it turns out, though other regulations are now in place to keep the harm from spreading, it is possible that they might by summarized thus: Love God- love one another.
Let us pray:
Loving God - may it be by your good grace
that on the other side of this chasm, we will have learned the truth about love -
the truth about simplicity -
the truth about our dependence on you and on one another.
Lead us to love - in love. Now and always. Amen
Be assured of the Peace that God has promised,
which is yours now and always through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen