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God’s Greatness — A sermon by Joanne Rich

Filed under: Writings of the people — Pastor Jeff at 10:25 am on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A sermon preached by Joanne Rich on October 15th, 2017 — Laity Sunday — based upon Mark 12:28-34.


Today’s reading highlights a man referred to as a “scribe.” During Jesus’ days, the group to which the scribe belonged was considered to be very influential  and important. There are several texts in the Bible that refer to the scribes. Some were men who were employed by the secular government  while others  were part of a theocracy of the Jews. Ezra, one of the most famous scribes in Jewish history was also a priest. It was common in the early days of Judaism for priests to serve as scribes. Also, under Roman rule there has been mentioned a servant employed as a scribe and also a city clerk. They wore many hats as we would say in these contemporary times. Their roles were covered by city clerks, lawyers, public notaries , school teachers, theologians, scholars and pastors. Their responsibilities were as influential as today’s media. I could picture Jesus standing behind a podium, cameras flashing, film rolling as these guys grilled him, trying to trap him. They pretty much thought Jesus was a jerk! Picture the tweets and the memes too! What a great youtube video. Imagine all the hits!

This particular scribe walked into the middle of Jesus’ ”press conference” and heard him being quizzed with questions by other scribes such as, “Do we have to pay taxes?”and “If a woman is married more than once, whose wife is she in the resurrection?” Often Jesus would respond to a question with another question or he would minimize the importance of a certain question by pointing out some other question that was more important. This scribe wanted to see how he would handle another question.

When this scribe put forth the question, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered directly. The scribe was very impressed and restated Jesus’ answer. In front of all his peers, who despised Jesus, this scribe broke ranks and praised Jesus for his strong answer, which put an end to any more lame, “Gotcha!” questions. The interrogation was done, over, kaput. I guess nobody could tweet anything negative that day!

Jesus gave that scribe the ultimate “thumbs up” by saying he was one step closer to the kingdom of heaven. He pretty much was saying, “ Keep it up and you will get there.”

The first part of the answer was “The most important one is this: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Juxtapose this to what the Romans believed, which was that there were hundreds of gods. They were known as the “Pantheon”. There was a different god for different aspects of life. They worshiped a god of war, a goddess of fertility and on and on.

Jesus continued his answer with, “Love the Lord our God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” God created us with all of those essential parts and with a spirit to use them all to love him with.

He connected this commandment to a second one:  “ Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

I would like to hone in on the second part.

In Jesus’ teachings our relationship  with all men, women and children, should be the same as the loving relationship we have with God.

“A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV John 13:34-35)

Love thy neighbor..neighbor!! Most often we think of our neighbor as the person who lives close by.  But Jesus meant our neighbor to include ALL mankind-even our enemies. That is a difficult pill to swallow, especially today! With social media, and with cable news 24 hours a day we are inundated with  stories of division. How often do we get to see true goodness — people truly loving their neighbors? It DOES happen, and probably more than we are shown. WE can make our own stories, we can bring about love in big and wonderful ways and well as in small ways. What can we do to bring more love into the world? We contribute to UMCOR as Anna is helping our kids do by making hygiene kits for those in need following the catastrophe brought about by the hurricanes.   Tracy spoke of this a few weeks ago in her beautiful sermon. We need to follow through and brainstorm (which is a POSITIVE storm).

The enemy part is the hardest for me. The politics have divided us. There are those who look at the world as us vs. THEM. It has hardened hearts and this makes me sad and MAD! I am working on the mad part. I have taken to going on a diet from the news. I only need to know a little bit and this way I can put my energies into positive thoughts instead of angry ones. Perhaps if more people did THAT we would have less tension and more love. Dialogues would be beneficial if there was civility. Looking at at each other as children of God would too. And YES loving them would too. Tough one, but isn’t that what God wants us to do? Would praying together on that be an answer?

I live in an apartment complex. It is a melting pot and I love it! There would be wonderful wind of change if people could hear the sound of people speaking different languages and hear it as sweet music, different modes of dress and consider it beautiful to behold.  With more love and acceptance, we’d come closer to meeting God’s commandments.

Yesterday as I walked to my apartment I saw a lovely Indian woman coming toward me, wearing colorful attire. I smiled at her. She smiled back, oh just a tad. I have made it my mission to smile as a person passes me. In the old days this was normal. People automatically would say hello and smile. But these days we live in a more guarded world. Too many of us are wrapped up in our own thing removed from others with our devices and earbuds and headphones. It is possible that the smile we make the effort to offer another person might be the only smile they receive that day, or for days to come for that matter.

I’m thinking maybe we can come up with a SMILE PROJECT. I am not sure how we would give out FREE SMILES, but this is something we could ponder over. We can talk about this!

Think about the parable of the Good Samaritan. The backstory is that the Jews of Jesus’ society considered the Samaritans to be ceremonially unclean, socially outcast, religious heretics.Yet the Samaritan took pity on the poor man who had been robbed and beaten . He gave of his time and money to help this Jewish man who was not only a stranger, but an enemy from a foreign country.

In conclusion let’s go back to the beginning, ALL of our beginnings. We were born into this world as innocents, as babes knowing only that we were loved. We knew nothing of hate, for God created us TO love. Jesus commands us, gives us this direction, to love God with every fiber within in us. God is the supreme being who knows all and knows what is best for us. We were made in his image and likeness, which means he is all loving and we should be too. In loving HIM we are to love all his children. In a sense, if we are all his children, then we all belong to the same family!  It should be a loving family. Compassion is key!

We have that HERE in this place I call my second home, for here is where I find love, acceptance, laughter, warmth. This is my center and YOU all are my family! Love is found here and I can only pray that other people in this world can find a home where God and people are so very well connected. The hope is that as we walk out of here we keep the contagion of that love and carry it to others and they in turn will carry it to others — a chain reaction of kindness!

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