Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To receive your Spirit,
To be led by your Spirit.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
What is it that informs all of the Old Testament Law and Prophets?
What is at the very core of these books of narrative history, law, wisdom, and
prophetical voice? A lawyer comes to Jesus and wants to know.
Jesus declares that what binds and informs all of these writings is love:
Love for God
Love for neighbor
Love for self.
This is no shallow, feel-good rush of love. This kind of loving shapes and grows out of the entire interiority and being of who we are: heart, soul, mind, and body (Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:25-28). This is not a love that grasps at things, or possesses others.
This is love that is self-giving.
This side of Eden we are unable to love in this way. Our very self is fractured, always seeking something or someone to fill the gaps – hence our clutching on to things and people – for our sake. But true love does not coerce or seek to possess.
The whole idea of loving God with heart, soul, mind, and body is rather daunting.
Partly because we have all kinds of ideas about what we think God is like, and therefore what we should or shouldn’t do to somehow get in line with God. And partly because we are unable to love God with this kind of abandon. That kind of love is just not in us.
We may ask, then why are we called to love God in this way, when we cannot do it?
This is the tension that arises in the Old Testament. The biblical narrative and the psalm for this week’s lectionary reading, both hold up a mirror to our infidelity, our inability to do what the law tells us to do: neither the people of God, the Israelites, nor the wise and courageous leader Moses were able.
It is as Jesus comes – showing us who God is, what God is truly like (John 14:6-10) – that our ideas about God are held up before who God truly is. And we change. We are created in the image of God; we know who we truly are in the presence of God. Hence our need to know God – in order to know ourselves.
And it is as the Holy Spirit is given that this God kind of loving is poured out in our innermost being (Romans 5:5-8). Again, we are changed, transformed. Gradually, out of this kind of love we learn to love God with all of who we are, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It is this kind of love for God and neighbor which then inbreathes and shapes our way of being and doing in the world. Paul, in his letter to the believers in Thessalonica, reflects with them on the transparency with which he and his co-laborers worked among them; the gentleness, tender care, the self-giving which permeated their mindfulness and work.
Self-seeking and flattery were not in the picture, but rather a deep desire to love and please God in it all (1 Thessalonians 2:1-8). It is this kind of loving which gives birth to courage, to being able to stand in the presence of “great opposition”, to being set free from our impulse to manipulate through people-pleasing (1 Thessalonians 2:2-5).
Thus this kind of love sets us free from what holds us captive – within ourselves, and as we relate to others. Gradually the fractures of over-against attitude and action give way to coming alongside, to understanding, to loving as God loves.
Jesus invites us to receive this kind of love, this God-love; to receive this out-pouring through the kind work of the Holy Spirit.
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
- 10/17 Monday: Matthew 22:34-46
- 10/18 Tuesday: Matthew 22:34-46
- 10/19 Wednesday: Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
- 10/20 Thursday: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
- 10/21 Friday: Deuteronomy 34:1-12
- 10/22 Saturday: Matthew 22:34-46
- 10/23 Sunday: Matthew 22:34-46