21st Sunday After Pentecost

October 25, 2020

And Jesus answered him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:” ‘You shall. Love your neighbor as yourself.’

From the Gospel of Matthew this weekend, we hear Jesus giving to a lawyer his summation of the Mosaic law; a brief passage on which our entire religious lives — and the rest of our lives, too — can be built. Jesus was not the first to give this summary, nor is he the last. Uniquely, though, he does connect and equate loving God and loving neighbor. There is a parity that cannot, in Jesus’ words, be missed. Either he makes loving your neighbor contingent on loving God or makes loving God contingent on loving your neighbor … or both. The implication of this saying is that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor, and loving our neighbor is loving God.

This week, Reverend Karen and I were sharing our histories about the messages of love we received growing up from our parents. One of our mothers was a little free with her feelings saying, “I love you” once in a while. The other confessed an utter absence of hearing that phrase in childhood. We mused why it was so rare to hear then what we both agreed is the most important message parents can pass to their children. A frequently offered explanation was that saying ‘I love you’ too frequently (if at all) would “spoil” the children, making them less willing to earn love by good their behavior.

Whatever reason our parents had for NOT saying how much we were loved, it is likely that those who didn’t hear it often enough will wonder for the rest of their lives if they are sufficient or worthy of love from another.

All of this comes to mind as I wrestle with the Spirit in my prep for preaching this week. The text leads me to want to reassure the people of God with the simple message that “God loves you!” For my training (and certainly in my experience as a father), I believe it is impossible to say this too often, too loudly or too clearly. Honestly, I fear that too many of us grew up in parishes where the message of God’s love for us, if given at all, was often clouded by a secondary message that God’s love was conditional: ‘God loves you if you do not sin; if you are a good person or if you are perfect; if you give to the church; if you follow all the commandments.’ What a horrible message! So horrible, in fact, that I feel completely vindicated for over-preaching “God loves you,” if in fact I have!

I believe there is nothing more important for human beings to hear, to accept, and to embrace than that all human beings are loved unconditionally by our Creator. Some spiritual writers go so far as to posit that God created the human species because God needed a being that could return love to God. In other words, in this paradigm, God needs us because God wants love to be bilateral. Even if you don’t buy this idea, is there room in your heart for a God who creates only to be conditional about the way God treats and loves us?

So, before we get into loving our neighbors (which is my intent for tomorrow), I think it important for all of us to revel for a bit in some Good News:

YOU are loved unconditionally by God
YOU love your neighbor because you love God
YOU love God by loving your neighbor
YOU love because God first loved YOU

Our schedule of ZOOM services remains the same:
• Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Morning Prayer at 9 a.m. Here is the worship bulletin for Sunday, October 25.
• Nighttime Prayer is prayed Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
• Bible Fellowship, open to all, continues Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m.

To ensure participants’ online security, we don’t publish the worship/study ZOOM links; if you did not receive the church-wide email from me with the links, and would like to attend services, please email me and I’ll add you to the e-blast, and send you the links.

Our Sunday morning Adult Forum meets on ZOOM at 10 a.m. We are on a journey with the book, “I’m Still Here; Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness,” by Austin Channing Brown. Reading this book is essential in order to join coherently in the discussions. If you’d like to join the discussion, please email Scotty King.

Rev. Karen and I offer separate group office hours each week on ZOOM. My time is Tuesday morning from 10-11 a.m. Should you need a one-on-one session, just reach out and we’ll get something scheduled. My group office hour link.

Rev. Karen’s office hours are Thursdays from 10-11 a.m. at this link

Come to Trunk or Treat Sunday afternoon, October 25 at 4 p.m. in the back parking lot. Bring a canned item or several so that we may pass them along to people in need. If you’ll have little ones with you at the drive-thru Trunk or Treat, we’re asking everyone to wear non-scary costumes. Our volunteers will be masked, and those handing out candy will also be gloved.

Last but not least of all – VOTE!

I love you!