Oct 25, 2020, Matthew 22.34-46, Deuteronomy 34.1-12
I speak to you in the name of God, who shows us how to live a generous and compassionate life. AMEN.
The first reading, from Deuteronomy, raves about Moses as a leader. As a man. Moses persisted and did something they all thought impossible at the beginning. They were in that wilderness a long time! Yet with persistence, trust and faith in God, working together and caring for each other – they reached the promised land.
The authors of Deuteronomy stress that, “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses…he was unequalled for all the signs and wonders and mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power.”
The Gospel of Matthew was the second gospel written, approximately between the years 80-90 in the Common Era. Mark was written first. As far as the author of the Gospel of Matthew was concerned – Jesus was the new Moses.
The author of Matthew is speaking to his Jewish community – who are open to the teachings of Christ. They are not Gentiles. As a Jewish teacher, Jesus is teaching the people to follow the law as God has given it to them.
“Hear O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these tow commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” So says the Book of Common Prayer.
In the Jewish Tradition, this is called the Shema. It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism. It has been recited morning and evening since ancient times.
The Pharisees ask Jesus which commandment in the Law is the greatest? Jesus responds by reciting the Shema. The Pharisees and every Jewish person within ear shot would have recognized and known what Jesus was saying. [slight pause] Loving God with everything you have! Loving your neighbour as yourself!
Jesus calls on us to love our neighbour. If we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, we actually ought to love our self! [Don’t you think?]
Otherwise, loving our neighbour as our selves won’t make much of a positive difference in the world. “19thC philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, describes our obligation this way: ‘The second commandment teaches us that all the respect, dignity, concern, forgiveness, grace, and charity we are required to grant others is actually what we must offer to ourselves.’”[i][ii] Or as I saw on Facebook yesterday: “Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.”[iii] [pause – maybe repeat]
Loving our self means we recognize – we are of value; we are whole; we are enough! – our confidence increases in our self, and has a positive effect on our relationships. This is significant because it helps us connect with God, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit. In other words, it helps us love God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This strengthened connection within ourself, both psychologically and spiritually, helps us enhance our relationships with the people in our life and with the world around us.
The Commandments, Love God, and Love Your Neighbour, don’t say anything about who our neighbour is. Our default is to imagine our neighbour as someone similar to us. You know, white, similar heritage, similar tax bracket, similar education, similar neighbourhood, similar vacations, etc.
Now, there is a saying that’s been circulating for a few years, I first heard it from Bishop Michael Curry, at a conference a few years ago. It goes like this: Love your Neighbour as yourself: Love your Homeless Neighbour Love your Muslim Neighbour Love your Gay Neighbour Love your Immigrant Neighbour Love your Jewish Neighbour Love your Christian Neighbour Love your Atheist Neighbour
Love your Addicted Neighbour Love your Indigenous Neighbour [slight pause]
Melanie Delva, Reconciliation Animator for the Anglican Church of Canada, gives us a different view of our neighbours. Delva challenges us to decide whether we respond to carry on the status quo, or step up to the plate and make a difference. Delva brings to our attention that Indigenous rights in Canada are “not only consistently ignored in Canada, but also when Indigenous peoples begin to stand up and claim their rights, there are dire and violent consequences.”
For instance, there is the militarized presence against Six Nations Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane. In Nova Scotia “mobs of angry fishers” have raided Mi’kmaq a fishing storage building, torching vehicles and trapping fishers in facilities, while, and you might have seen a news photo of this, the RCMP did nothing. In the west, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and supporters are being characterized by CSIS as being involved in terrorism!
As a country we are continuing to interact with the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of this country as if they are somehow not like us. Not the same as us. Many of us have been taught this since we were children. And then there are the difficult living conditions experienced by many Indigenous communities, some isolated: issues of the lack of clean water, lack of mold-free housing, lack of indoor plumbing; lack of enough housing to decrease crowding and the easy transmission of illness. Canada has still not introduced legislation implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!
CL Lewis had another take on loving our neighbour. He said, “Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love [them].” – C. S. Lewis[iv]
Act as if you love your neighbour. LOVE them. [pause] What would that look like? Caring for each other. Seeking understanding. Offer your neighbour what you might want from someone who related to you as an equal member of the human race.
Melanie Delva suggests 3 ways we can join in the ecumenical coalition call Faith in the Declaration, adding our voices, loving our neighbours, showing our support. I will include the article by Melanie Delva with the video link of the service this week. [slight pause]
Love God. Love your neighbour. Love yourself. That’s it. That’s all. Each of us has the ability to do these things. Each of us.
May God the Creator show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your Spirit, for you are God, now and forever. Amen.
[i] Jarrod Longbons: Don’t Overlook the First Command https:/lday1.org/weekly-broadcaster/