Each week Pastor Sarah blogs on the Scripture for Sunday's upcoming sermon. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
This Sunday the South Shore UMCommunity will begin a 4-week sermon series focused on becoming Not So Secret Agents of God as part of our Total Request Live Summer Series. We will use texts from the Acts of the Apostles to frame and guide our Sunday studies.
Each week’s blog post during SSUMC’s Not So Secret Agents of God Series will offer a reflection on Jesus’ Greatest Commandment; by faithfully living into – which means faithfully living out! –our Savior’s command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength – friends, there is no way we will be secret agents of God!
Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 1:1-11.
Devotional Scripture ~ Mark 12:30 and Matthew 6:19-21.
Jesus' Greatest Commandment is a triple tradition text, meaning that it appears in each of the Synoptic Gospels. Even though this commandment appears almost verbatim in each of the Synoptics, it functions in different ways in accordance to the context – or the surrounding material and events – of the passage:
In Matthew, Jesus’ Greatest Commandment precedes his Seven Woes to Pharisees where Jesus confronts them as hypocrites; clearly they are speaking the Law of the Ancient of Days, but not living it.
In Luke, this teaching takes place within the Parable of the Good Samaritan – a reminder that we are not just to hear the words of God and speak the words of God, we must live out the words of God through our decisions, actions, and investments.
In Mark, Jesus shares the Greatest Commandment in response to a question from a lawyer, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important” (Mk 12:29)? Jesus answers by quoting the Shema – the central prayer and affirmation of faith in the life of every Jew – “’Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these’” (Mk 12:30-31). The lawyer recognized the wisdom in Jesus’ response, “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mk 12:32-33). Jesus replies, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mk 12:34).
In commanding us to love God with our whole beings Jesus establishes love as the basis for our life and work. God created out of love – God created for relationship. As we partner with God in the on-going creative activity of the world – through words, technology, medicine, sport, and art – remaining grounded in God’s foundation of love will both support and secure us.
Jesus concludes his teaching on acts of piety in Matthew 6 saying, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). Almsgiving, prayer, and fasting increase righteousness and right relationship between God, self, and neighbor.
Accompanying each lesson about a pious act Jesus issues a do not:
Whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet (6:2)
Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites (6:5)
Whenever you fast, do not look dismal (6:16)
Pious acts are meant to cultivate holiness not haughtiness. We do not engage in these acts of personal effect or social gain; God calls and invites us to participate in these acts – in the words of St. Augustine – for “love of God for God’s own sake.” By developing a generosity of spirit through love – as seen here in almsgiving, prayer, and fasting – we become more Christ-like, more outwardly-focused, and more overt agents for God.
Prayer: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Now I will not forget your love for me and yet my heart forever is wandering. Jesus, be my guide and hold me to your side, and I will love you to the end. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”* Amen.
*“Thy Word Is a Lamp,” The United Methodist Hymnal 601.