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!
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 ~ I Kings 18:17-39 - as we begin a new series on the Prophet Elijah!
Devotional Scripture ~ Mark 12:31 and James 2:1-8.
We conclude our series Not So Secret Agents of God devotional series this week with a turn from personal piety to social piety, from personal holiness to social holiness.
From secret agents of God to not-so secret agents of God.
We can love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength all on our own…or so we think. Jesus calls us to love God with the entirety of our inward beings and then apply it outward, and specifically, in the care of others. As my friend Ashley constantly encourages her first grade students – show what you know. Show that you love God with all that you are and all that you have by loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
Jesus brings forward the commandment to love our neighbors as we ourselves from the First Testament. Leviticus 19 is the first home of this commandment and in the surrounding biblical material we are provided with many concrete examples of how to love one’s neighbor:
You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien (v. 10)
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another (v. 11)
You shall not defraud your neighbor (v. 13)
You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling-block before the blind (v. 14)
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people (v. 16)
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin (v. 17)
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people (v. 18)
You shall not oppress the alien (v. 33)
Again and again we hear – shall not shall not shall not – and then “You shall love the your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (19:18).
The Letter of James was written to First Century Diaspora Jewish Christians – Diaspora referring to Jewish Christians living beyond the boundaries of Palestine. The intent of this epistle is to expose hypocritical practices and teach correct Christian behavior.
The lore is that James, the half-brother of Jesus, penned this correspondence, and if that is so, then Jesus’ kin champions the Messiah’s instructions. James writes, “Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing” (Jas 1:22-25). And what is it that they are to be doing?James shares in 1:27, caring “for orphans and widows in their distress [and keeping] oneself unstained by the world.”
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters,” James questions, ”if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas 2:14-17). This teaching of Jesus echoed by James demands both our attention and response. God’s word has spoken – what will we speak? Jesus is present with our neighbors – in their delight and in their distress – how will we be present? Jesus spent his entire life serving people – how will we unsequester ourselves from our sanctuaries so we will provide sanctuary to those most vulnerable?
Christ calls us to heed the royal law of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves (2:8). In coming to us Christ called us worthy and made us neighbors. Jesus brought the Kingdom to our fingertips. How will our love of neighbor help bring the Kingdom to others?
In their book, The Shaping of Things to Come, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch write, “The name disciple should be synonymous with history maker. We are a people commissioned with a unique purpose that no other people group can, or will do, namely, making disciples of Jesus. But to embrace such a commission one must become committed to a certain response-ability, that of becoming a revolutionary, an activist committed to changing the way things are” (187). Notice the authors’ intentionally hyphenating response and ability. We have heard the words of the Great Commandment. Now is the time to respond with our ableness – in loving God and loving neighbor – and surely and collectively, we will make a worthy history as overt agents of God.
Prayer: “Lord God, your love has called us here, as we, by love, for love were made; your living likeness still we bear, though marred, dishonored, disobeyed; we come, with all our heart and mind, your call to hear, your love to find. Lord God, in Christ you set us free your life to live, your joy to share; give us your Spirit’s liberty to turn from guilt and dull despair, and offer all that faith can do, while love is making all things new.”* Amen.
*“Lord, Your Love Has Called Us Here,” The United Methodist Hymnal 579.