- Deuteronomy 6:1-9
- Hebrews 9:11-14
- Mark 12:28-34
In our text from Deuteronomy today, Moses receives these words from God to give to his people: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead,9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This is the fundamental text that goes with our Jewish brothers and sisters when they wake in the morning, when they leave their homes, when they return home, and when they rest for the night. It is a reminder of a relationship with the eternal creator of the universe. This is so very important that they are commanded to teach this to their children. They are to affix it to their hands and foreheads when they pray; they are to put the text on their doorposts to acknowledge it each time they leave or enter. It is indeed quite remarkable.
If God were giving this command today, he might say, post this on your homepage, Facebook page, bathroom mirror, and refrigerator door. God wants this to be a constant reminder. Unfortunately, what happened was that this soon devolved into a ritual that often lost its meaning. And lest we say this is a Jewish problem, we do it as well in our day and time. Our cherished traditions can also slide into meaningless rituals, like having a Lovefeast where there is no expression of love, or a candlelight Christmas-eve service that leaves the light inside the sanctuary and does not follow you into the world.
This verse comes back to life in our Gospel lesson as a lawyer asks Jesus an important question. Interestingly, he comes to Jesus and asks for the one commandment that is the most important of all the 613 commandments found in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was challenging to keep track of all of these commandments, and there was always great debate among scholars of Jesus’ day as to how they were to be prioritized. So, this scribe asks for THE most important commandment.
Jesus’ first response was a predictable one as he recites the command found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Again, this would have been the most familiar passage of scripture to anyone in that region, be they Jew or Gentile. Jesus could have easily left it right there since he had answered the question that had been posed to him.
Instead, Jesus goes an important step further and picks up another important theme from the Hebrew Scriptures, most notably “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34. Here Jesus connects the love of God to loving both self and neighbor, essentially saying that if we don’t love our neighbor, then our love of God might prove to be quite shallow and self-serving rather than self-giving.
Part of our everyday ritual should be not only celebrating our relationship with God but seeking ways to make this relationship influence how we speak to one another, how we manage our money, how we conduct our work life.
How do these verses impact the mission of your congregation? How do they affect how you will use your time today? How do they call you to be closer to God and closer to the world around you?