What’s the most important commandment?
Jesus says it’s this – “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
Jesus is quoting something that every single Jewish person in his world knew….just as they know it today. Every Jewish child, including Jesus, has been taught this since they were babes. These words are usually referred to as the “Shema’…and according to the Shema, they are the words you are to teach thoroughly to your children, and speak when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. These are the words that should be on your hands as you do your work and between your eyes as you look at the world. Words that should be written on the doorposts of your house.
Because there is nothing more important….nothing more important than placing God in every space of our lives…than filling our lives, our moments, with God’s presence and love. You see, Loving God…means seeing God in everything around us. In our families and our homes…in the trees and the rivers…in our neighbors and in people we don’t even know. Loving God …means walking with God in every situation…whatever road we travel…wherever we find ourselves. Loving God…means trusting God with all that you have and all that you are –from the moment we rise to the moment we lie down until we rise again…it means trusting God with your whole life…with your family….with your future.
I think it seems pretty fitting that we remember that today. That we remember that everywhere we are …GOD IS. God is in your home with you. In the midst of this strange and uncertain time…God is with you. As you sit in your house and as you go through your door. When you lay down your head on your pillow tonight…God is holding you. When you arise tomorrow morning…God’s spirit surrounds you to help you face whatever the day may bring. And these days especially, we know how thoroughly we can be stunned by all the changes one day can bring. But whatever it is…whatever this day brings….or the next….God is with us in the midst of it. And God is greater. God is greater than whatever we face. Whatever challenges or fears or anxiety we face. God is greater. Today, Let that be on your hands and between your eyes….as you do your work and look at the world…God is greater. And God’s love never ends.
Yes..the most important commandment….is to love God. To trust God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. To place your life firmly in God’s hands and know that the one who made you…adores you. The one who made you….will never leave you. The one who made you and knows you better than you know yourself…has you and holds you and will not let you go.
Now…does that mean that everything’s going to be okay? Hardly. The history of the world tells us differently. Everything is never “okay”. Let’s be honest…life in this world has always been a bit of a crapshoot. Some rolls are better than others. But it does mean that no matter what happens…God wins. It means that love wins. That in the midst of the darkest days…the light of kindness is more powerful than evil. And the light of generosity is more powerful than fear. The light of love is more powerful than death.
And we recognize that somewhere deep inside of us, don’t we?. All of us. We recognize the rightness… the beautiful and awesome power…of love…of the ones who show kindness.
One of my friends shared an experience she had this week on Facebook. I’m going to share it with you.
Maria writes –
I finally got out to do my isolation shopping. I dropped Costco levels on money at Safeway, Itelluwhut. Anyway, my first stop was the toilet paper aisle, where I saw three packages of paper towels and no TP. I put one of the 6-packs of paper towels in my cart and moved on. Filled my cart (no rice, sugar, garlic, cold meds) and texted Tony to see if we actually need paper towels. We do not. So I headed back to the aisle to return them. There were a couple of people there, shaking their heads at the empty shelves. I said, “Anyone need paper towels? I’ve got a package here and I don’t need them.” An older gentleman stepped forward and I put the package in his cart. A woman standing nearby beamed at me like I was a saint from heaven. I mean, it was a nice thing to do but it’s only paper towels, not food. Or TP.
When I went out to my car that woman was across from me, loading her groceries into her car. She came over and said, “I just have to tell you. I was talking to that man and he said ‘I don’t understand people. God will provide.’ And then you walked up and gave him paper towels. It was such an amazing moment!”
So now I’m all chuffed. 🙂 A little bit of grace in the grocery!
Here’s the thing…my friend is not really a person of faith. But she still knows…grace matters. She knows deep inside her that grace and kindness are a light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot destroy.
And that is the gospel…the good news of Jesus, my friends. That God shines in the darkness…that love wins…that grace is more powerful than evil. And that is the God we love. That is the Shema that fills our spaces… our homes….our world. This is the Shema that is on our hands and between our eyes.
God is in it all…and nothing…not even sickness or death…can push God away.
Of course, Jesus goes on…and he says the second commandment is
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
When we see God everywhere…in us…in those around us…it moves us to love. When God’s love is written on our hands and between our eyes….we live out our lives in love. This week, we have seen amazing acts of love and sacrifice….health care workers and grocery store workers and first responders who keep going to work, despite the risk, so that others might stay home. And we’ve seen the acts of love and sacrifice by those staying home… kids missing their school events…senior celebrations…concerts…semesters abroad…so they don’t pose a risk to others. We’ve seen teachers and school leaders working hard to find a way to feed kids and help meet the needs of families. We’ve seen local businesses finding ways to help and community members trying to help local businesses. We’ve had so many folks contact us, wanting to help any way they can…as they see people hurting around them. That is living with God’s love written on your hands…and between your eyes. Even those who are hurting…those who have lost their jobs, who are struggling to make ends meet…have asked how they might help others.
And this is what it is all about. People…living out love.
In our gospel today, Jesus sits opposite the treasury box… basically watching what everyone puts in the offering plate. (As if that’s not an image that makes most people uncomfortable. ) People put in all sorts of offerings, some large, some small. But the person he lifts up is a widow who puts in only a penny. We live in a world where large gifts are the ones pointed out…the ones given great honor. You donate a huge sum to a college and you get a stadium named after you, right? But for Jesus, it is not about the amount. It is about seeing whatever we have…no matter how small…as an opportunity to care for others. The widow gets it. She may not have much…but she wants what she has to make a difference. God’s love is written on her hands. Between her eyes.
During this time…we do what we can to love others. For some, that will mean serving on the front lines, going to work each day despite the risk. For some, it will mean sharing toilet paper…or paper towels at Costco. For some, it will simply be staying home…and taking care of your kids…or making phone calls or sending cards or praying. For some, it will be sharing online — words of encouragement, things that make us laugh, songs that give us hope. And it is all love. All of it. Written on our hands. Between our eyes.
But whatever we do…wherever we go….may we know…God is with us. Here by our side. Walking our way. And that is the Light that will give us hope…even in the darkest night. Amen.