Monday, October 17, 2011

Looking Forward to October 23, 2011 -- 19th After Pentecost, Proper 25A

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Deuteronomy 5:1-22
  • Matthew 22:34-40

The Sermon Title is Rules For Life

Early Thoughts: Love is a verb. Rules are needed for living together. What rules guide your life?

There are, of course, many rules that guide our lives.   Some of them are written down in the by-laws and constitutions of organizations to which we belong.  Some of them find their way into law codes.  Some of them are "house rules", rules of the "while you live under my roof..." variety.  ANd then there are those unspoken rules that we have simply absorbed.

This week we hear a lot about rules.  Rules that have been talked about so much and for so long that we think of them as automatic.  At least in theory.

Over the last couple of weeks we have heard a lot about rules in the media.  More specifically we have heard a lot about people who think that the rules guiding our collective lives are not fair.  The rules seem to favour those who have lots at the expense of those who have less.  And so people fill the streets to call for a change to the rules of the game.

JEsus was born into a culture that had a lot of rules.  613 of them are in the Torah.  These rules covered every aspect of life.  They talked about how to live day-to-day, how to care for each other, how to farm, how to run the society (no separation of church and state in the ancient world).  And so someone, seeking to test or possibly to trap, Jesus asks which is the greatest commandment.  OF all these 613 which one stands on top?  Jesus chooses two.  From Deuteronomy 6:5 he pulls "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" and then he pairs is with Leviticus 19:18 " shall love the neighbour as yourself".  ANd to this day people of faith consider these to be the rules which stand at the top of how we are to live.  And so these rules need to shape every other part of our lives, both personal and communal)  At least in theory.

What does it mean to follow these rules?  IS it possible to COMMAND us to love?  Not if we continue to think of love as a feeling.  Nobody can command us how to feel.  But that is not what the commandment means.  NOwhere in Scripture are we told how to feel about another.  Here we are told to love each other, not to like each other.  Confused yet?

The way to understand these commanments is to see love as the verb.  We are not told how to feel, we are told how to act.  And that can be commanded.  [As an aside, this is the basis behind human and civil rights legislations.  The legislation can not tell us how to feel about others but it can set limits about how we act toward each other.  The hope then is that by acting appropriately towards others our feelings/presumptions/biases about them will change for the better.]  So Jesus is reminding us that the greatest commandment is to act lovingly towards God, neighbour and self.

Does that overarching rule guide everything in our lives?  HOw can you tell?  What makes you doubt it?  How does that overarching rule colour our response to the Occupy_______ demonstrations?

It sounds remarkably simple.  In practice it ends up being remarkably difficult.  But the essenced of Scripture, with all the rules we find there.  Comes down to these three things.  Love God.  Love your neighbour.  Love yourself.  And they come in a package.  It is impossible to do one of them without the others.

What rules guide your life?

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