October 25, 2020: The Greatest Commandment

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

If we are honest, the word “commandment” makes us quite uncomfortable. It feels like someone telling us what to do. We do not want anyone telling us what to do. Misbehavior on the part of some authority figures like clergy and police makes many of us even more distrustful or suspicious of commands.

So when Jesus is asked to name most important commandment and answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” can we take Jesus seriously?

I start each day with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” I didn’t make this day. My country didn’t make this day. It comes to me as a gift. That verse reminds me that I am not the center of the universe. For me, that is what the idea of a commandment, from outside me, says to me. I am, from my birth to my death, enjoying a life that is a gift of God.

Jesus then says that another commandment is like the first: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This commandment, like the first, tells us that we are not the center of things, that we are bound to others, our “neighbors.”

Those commandments and the psalm verse put a frame around my day, today and every day: I am bound in relationships with God and neighbor. As I write this, the pandemic very practically reminds us of this, of how bus drivers, custodians, grocery clerks, postal carriers, meat-packing workers, sanitation workers, as well as medical staff, are essential to holding our lives and communities together.

The great commandments are not oppressive dictates. They are, rather, the truths that hold together our lives and provide the guidelines for living our lives to the fullest.

Hermann Weinlick, retired pastor

Minneapolis, Minnesota