Mark 12: 28-34
If feedback from congregation members was, in any way, a measure of the ‘success’ of a sermon I could reliably inform you that my two ‘best ones’ so far were the first one, where I told you I only have one sermon – many of you have asked me about that statement – and the other was the one where I mentioned Bunnings – largely because of my terribly British pronunciation of it, and your inherent love of the place!
Anyways…if it were true that there really is only one sermon, then Jesus seems to be the true modeller of that theory. And today’s gospel reading really boils down all his teaching, all his life, into just four very simple words:
And that is it. Jesus’ message and life’s work, in 4 words – Love God, love others.
I seriously considered just saying those 4 words today and then sitting down, and if there is anywhere in the world where I could legitimately do that, it is almost certainly here, and some of you are almost certainly longing for me to do exactly that, but I want to say a few more things before we take time to sit and reflect.
Love God. Love others. The 4 most important words in all scripture.
Imagine if those 4 words were the measure by which we made every decision, every choice, every single deed. Does this thing demonstrate I love God? Does this choice enable me to love others more? How can my time be used better in the quest of love? That is how it is supposed to be. It’s not a golden aspiration or aim we can never reach. It’s the plan! The greatest of all commandments. It is possible. Everything we do, don’t do, spend, give, take, everything we even are is intended to be for love of God and others.
So, the question is not, should we love God or could we love God. The only question is how. How Lord, how can we love you and love others well. Better.
In the four short Sundays we’ve been together we have already had some great examples of what loving God and others looks like. We explored the need to lay down all we have, even our very lives if we need to, and come to God hungry and expectant, willing to place ourselves in the very hands of God that we might, as that gorgeous Methodist Covenant Prayer says ‘be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you….’ Last week we considered how we might love God by throwing ourselves upon God’s mercy….and love others by extending that same mercy to them.
Jesus preaches throughout scripture but the message is always the same:
Love God, love others.
Yesterday I went along to the diocesan training on keeping children safe from sexual abuse. Many of you have been on the course, I know. It was shocking and deeply concerning and the church has a long way to go until all God’s children are safe within her walls but, do you know, one of the things that really shocked me, (particularly as I was thinking about this morning’s reading) was when the trainer shared words from scripture about forgiveness. She seemed to be saying we should forgive those who abuse children and extend love to them. And then she said, ‘but only the ones who are repentant’.
But I don’t think that is what Jesus says in his 4-word sermon.
You see, love is a gift from God; a fruit of the Spirit. It is the very source and essence of who God is – not just something t we somehow muster up. Friends, loving like Christ is life giving, life threatening. But there are no caveats; it is not ours to arbitrate or ration. Like mercy, it is a gift we are given, in abundance, not to keep, but always to pass on – whether or not we think the recipient deserves it. And when we love we become more and more like the Creator. More and more like the One we seek to love.
Love God. Love Others.
And our most perfect example is found in Christ. And how does Christ Jesus love?
He Loves, outrageously and indiscriminately. He Loves, even when the world tells us to hate. Or even, especially when the world tells us to hate.
Jesus loved his disciples with everything he had and everything he was and everything he did. He loved them when they were loveable and when they were utterly unlovable. He loved through healing, feeding the hungry and welcoming the outcasts. He loved the sinners and the untouchables. He loved through touch, hospitality and welcome. He loved all people; Jews and Gentiles, men, women and children, those who were sick, paralysed, possessed with demons. He even loved the dead…and loved them back to life. He loved and loved and loved, in every thought, word and deed…and then commands us to do the same.
Giving our lives over to love is crazy and bold and all-consuming and life altering and Jesus said it over and over. It was his one and only sermon!
And in these pages of scripture He is speaking to us as individuals, and to the church as a whole; this is our commandment. This is how we should behave to the person next to us and how the church should be behaving to the world. This is what we should be known for.
Love God and Love Others, Jesus says. Love Extravagantly and unconditionally. Love in every thought, word and deed, and continue to keep on choosing to do so, even when it hurts, even when we don’t want to, even when we aren’t thanked or noticed, even when we aren’t loved back. Love more abundantly, more outrageously, more like Christ.
Jesus’ teachings are simple. Easy to understand, but world-changing if we take them seriously. If we are serious about joining and remaining in this Jesus movement, it will take us to the very edge of ourselves. It will cost us everything and give us back even more. All through this crazy revolution of love.
You know, sometimes I’d really like to just say 4 words as a sermon, and then sit down. Maybe I should.
Love God. Love Others.