Proper 26, Year B: Mark 12:28-34: The Greatest Commandments

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 26, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

A teacher of the law comes to Jesus. He has heard Jesus arguing and giving good answers to the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He asks Jesus which of God’s commands is the most important.

Jesus responds, “The most important command is this: ‘People of Israel, listen! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second most important command is this: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.”

The man tells Jesus that it’s a good answer. He agrees that those commands are more important than any sacrifices they offer to God.

Jesus tells the man that he is close to God’s kingdom. 

I always think of this passage when I find Christians (or even myself) obsessing over rules of morality. This is the real key to following Jesus and to a moral life–love God and love your neighbor. What more is needed? This is what we always have to keep in mind.

Proper 4, Year B: Mark 2:23-3:6: Rules Made for People

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 4, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

This week will be a little different, because on this week I did the homily for our church’s family service, so I’m going to copy over the written version of my homily.  I write everything out in Word and check how it reads aloud. Then I make note cards with just a few words on them to glance at while I’m speaking. I have not yet found the confidence to talk without the notes, but what I end up saying can vary a lot from this original written version. But here it is, anyway.

Let me tell you about the only two rules we have in my house.  OK, there are more than two, but I tell my kids these are the main rules that all the other rules fall under.  The #1 rule is Don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.  That makes sense, right? That’s a good rule for everywhere, not just in my house. And the #2 rule is, Don’t make a mess your mom has to clean up. I do a lot of cleaning of bathrooms or laundry or washing dishes, but this is specifically about them not making a bigger mess and leaving it behind when they’re done playing. I think that’s a good rule because I have a lot to do and I don’t need more work.

What are some good rules you can think of that you have to follow at home?

Is it ever ok to break a rule?

What if we had a rule that no one should get up and come up here in the middle of the service? (we don’t really have that rule but let’s imagine).  Then what if I was up here speaking and I tripped on the stairs (this could totally happen as I’m pretty clumsy—I’ve ended up in the emergency room after just slipping on the sidewalk).  So there I’d be lying on the floor and maybe I need help to get up—but the rule is no one gets out of their pews. Is it o.k. for someone to get up and come help me up off the floor?  Of course it is! It would be silly to follow the rule at that moment if someone needs help.

Today’s gospel story is about Jesus breaking a rule.

What do you know about the Sabbath? It’s often Saturday but in our church our Sabbath is on Sunday. The Sabbath is a day to worship God and to rest. We don’t have very strict rules in our church but in Jesus’ culture and in some religions today it’s very serious and strict. Certain leaders didn’t like that Jesus let his disciples pick some grain on the Sabbath (because it was like a form of work) and they really didn’t like it when he healed a man on the Sabbath. Do you think the Sabbath was made just to give people a hard time and a rule to follow? I don’t think so—I think it was designed to teach people to rest and set aside a time to spend with God.

So let’s talk about the Sabbath (bring out poster).  For us it happens to fall on Sunday, the same day as the Resurrection. I’ve thought of some good things to do on a Sunday that are about spending time with God and resting. Go to church. Pray. Have brunch.  Spend time with your family. What are some good things to do on a weekday—write them. How about on a Saturday? Now, what’s a good day to do a good deed—like Jesus healing? ANY DAY. Does it make sense to say you can’t do a good deed on Sunday because that’s not worshiping God? What would God love more than us helping other people? Showing love to people could happen on any day. (Draw in a cross or a heart in each day of the week.)

Now this part is really for the adults. We have a real problem with this in our country, even though we don’t have the same rules they had in Jesus’ time. People are being mistreated every day and many times the mistreatment is justified by some arbitrary rule. But Jesus said the rules are made for people and the people are not made for the rules. If rules mean that people are often imprisoned for years for minor offenses and if those people are disproportionately people of color, something is wrong with the rules. If our rules mean that parents are separated from their children just for wanting to enter our country, then something is wrong with those rules. If rules are made about how people protest, and nothing is done about what those people are protesting, something is wrong with those rules. The rules are best when they help people and we should rewrite them if they are hurtful or we should elect new rule-makers. I was talking to my husband Brian about this subject and he put it very well: “Don’t miss the principle of ‘loving your neighbor’ by blindly following a rule.” The bottom line is to love your neighbor.  Love the people and not the rules.

Proper 25, Year A: Matthew 22: 34-46: Commanded to Love

Jesus Christ mosaic icon

Source: iStockphoto.com

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 25, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

The Pharisees are questioning Jesus again. This time an expert in the Law of Moses asks Jesus this: “Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?”

Jesus says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.’ All of the law and the writings of the prophets take their meaning from these two commands.”

If this was meant to be a trick question, Jesus answered it well. And I think it’s an important lesson for Christians today–such a succinct answer for how we should live. Love God and love others. Love in this case is not some mushy feeling but an unconditional love and an action. You have to choose to live that love–it’s not just the emotion of a moment. It takes work and practice. Love does not always come easily. We must make it a part of every aspect of our lives as much as possible.

Next, Jesus asks them a tricky question in return: “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

They give the accepted answer: “The Messiah is the Son of David.”

So Jesus says,

“Then why did David call him ‘Lord’? David was speaking by the power of the Spirit. He said,

‘The Lord God said to my Lord:
Sit by me at my right side,
    and I will put your enemies under your control.’

David calls the Messiah ‘Lord.’ So how can he be David’s son?”

He is quoting from a Psalm here, and the Psalms are generally believed to be written by David. The Pharisees have no answer for his puzzling question, so they were not brave enough after that to ask him any more challenging questions.

 

I love how Jesus turns the tables on them and gives them their own theological challenge–except in their case they have no answer. He challenges them to contemplate the Messiah in a new way–as someone like David but also greater than David. They don’t know what to make of it.