The Scripture Readings this Sunday are:
- Deuteronomy 6:1-9
- Mark 12:28-34
The Sermon title is Shema Yisroel
Early Thoughts: This passage from Deuteronomy is a key part of Jewish religious practice. It has been suggested by some writers that countless Jewish martyrs have died with the phrase Shema Yisroel, Adonai elohenu Adonai echad (Hear O Israel the Lord is our God, the Lord is One) on their lips. It is a phrase that is used in daily devotions. To quote from this essay:
It was a familiar instruction, one that pious Jews recited in their morning and evening prayer services, urged their children to say at bedtime, carried in script on their wrists, and attached to the doorposts of their homes in a small container called a mezuzah.Is it any wonder that Jesus pulls it as one part of the greatest commandment?
And then Jesus pulls another verse from the Scriptures of his people. "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). And while the Gospel portrays them as two separate commanments I truly believe that we can not do one without the other. We cannot love God and hate our neighbour (because our neighbour is made in the image of God). We cannot love our neighbour and hate God (because our neighbour is made in the image of God).
One of the markers of Judaism was and is its radical monotheism. This is why the Shema has such a central place in Jewish devotion. One of the markers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (and many other faith traditions) is a commitment to serve and care for each other. Which brings us to love of neighbour. One of the markers of our Scriptural story (and something that we seem to forget far too often) is that we are all part of the creation which God "said it was good" which brings us to those crucial last words about love "as yourself".
And so it seems to me that this threefold love of God, neighbour, and self sums up not only the law (which is what Jesus was asked) but also the life of faith. What would it look like if we said daily that there is only one God, if we reminded ourselves daily to act out of a place of deep and abiding love? It would not be easy. For many of us it would require a whole-hearted change in our priorities and actions. But maybe it is worth a try?????