Readings: Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18, Matthew 22:34-46
Jesus sums up all the laws and prophets (the whole Bible) in less than 25 words, or about 10 seconds of speech.
If someone were to walk up to and ask about your church, about your faith, or about your take on this issue or that, your take on life... it’s safe to say that they will give you 10 seconds. Maybe no more, but 10 seconds.
What would be your answer? Could you give a testimony to what you believe is most important as a Christian in 25 words or less—and have it worthwhile. What makes Jesus answer so complete is that it requires a lifetime of discipleship to love God and love neighbor. 25 words, but a lifetime to complete.
A baptismal life is not only one where God grabs and claims you, and holds you to eternal life. It is that. It is most certainly that! But it is also one where you are given a new life, even right now—which is in Christ. A life which manifests itself in these actions: trusting God, proclaiming Christ through word and deed, caring for others and the world God made, and working for justice and peace.
Living out baptism is living a life that manifests the work of God in the world. It is loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind (in thought word and deed)—and loving your neighbor as yourself.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind: this is loving all that God has made. It is not creating systems that pretend to honor God, keep God holy, but neglect or worse—demonize—classes and groups of people. Leviticus, which Jesus quotes in our gospel lesson, tells us to equal the scales of justice. “you shall not be partial to the poor or defer the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.” Favor not the rich, or white, or otherwise privileged. We are stuck in and perpetuate systems that do just that. Jesus was on the case of the leaders of his time for doing the same thing. Jesus stepped on the side of the poor to equal the scales of justice.
He showed us that “care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace” were as much a part of loving God with heart, soul, and mind as was praying, fasting, and tithing (being religious). He showed us that a religious life, without care for others, is no love of God at all.
There is a hymn that says, “We have no mission but to serve in full obedience to our Lord; to care for all, without reserve, and spread his liberating word.” (24 words)
Religion and life are not two separate spheres. Christ’s salvation for all, and your new life in Christ (your baptism) meet in the real world. They meet in the world where bullying and fighting happens in schools; where we gain power and privilege only when we have rights and influence that others do not; where the only way to eliminate an enemy is, not by becoming friends, reconciling, or through relationships, but by destroying their efforts and inflicting harm; where neither love for God, nor love of neighbor, but only love for self (and a few others, self-selected) matters.
“We have no mission but to serve in full obedience to our Lord; to care for all, without reserve, and spread his liberating word.”
Christ’s work is done in ways that subvert power by a force that those in power do not use. It is that of peace, and love.
Only the love that comes through Christ can bring an enduring light in the darkness, life from death, and change a world bent against love of God and love of neighbor. Only the love, for God and neighbor, that comes through Christ, can truly eliminate darkness and make the world a better place.
Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on two things: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. These two things are inseparable.
You have 10 seconds the next time someone asks about your faith, your church, or your “take on life,”: can the world change in those next 25 words?
In Christ, it sure can.
“He alone, whose blood was shed, can cure the fever in our blood, and teach us how to share our bread and feed the starving multitude.” (26 words).