The Twenty – second Sunday after Pentecost.
Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46
Blessed art those who come in the name of the Lord.
What is the meaning of love?
In our Gospel story today, Jesus silenced the Sadducees. One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” And Jesus said,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love has many descriptions: the love of a partner or companion, the love for a child, the love of an offspring, the love of one’s siblings, the love of one’s parents, the love of friends, and the love of labor. Love can be a concept such as the love of peace, or the love of one’s passion in life. Love is something that all of creation needs.
Therapists have written, “love is something that is cultivated between two people and grows over time, through getting to know him or her and experiencing life’s many ups and downs together.
Agape, a Greek word describes love as something that is unconditional. It is the highest form of love. Agape is a selfless love. It is giving love without expecting something in return for love. In a biblical form stemming from the New Testament, it is abounding God’s covenant made to all and made for all people. God so loved the world that he sacrificed his only begotten son to save human souls from sin and destruction. Agape love goes back and forth. God is steadfast in his love for us. We must return love and be steadfast in our love for God.
From Matthew 5 verses 43-48 Jesus’s teachings tells us that being loving is to love completely and that includes loving one’s enemies as well. We are not flawless, and we do not always get everything right.
How can we be more loving as humans?
In the Forward from Day by Day St. Paul suggests that we pray unceasingly. Even when we despise our neighbors that would be leaving love unfinished and not giving love a chance. Love is being kind. Love is being compassionate and giving of oneself, by helping those in need.
The homeless and the destitute in our communities need our love. Giving them a change can be a simple act of kindness such as a smile or a silent prayer, that they will recover from whatever they lack. Love can be volunteering to help provide food to local food banks.
Joes’ sermon concerning Stewardship also reminded us that in tithing we are showing our love for our church which needs to be supported and loved for the sanctification that a sacred space, the House of the Lord provides for us. Love is being sincere, honest, and serious about that which is righteous in the eyes of the Lord.
In Corinthians from Chapter 13: verses 4 -8 teaches us that love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Moses was steadfast in his love for God. Like a good shepherd he led the Israelites on a treacherous journey to the land of milk and honey. He sustained steadfast love for God and God’s people.
Harriet Tubman, born into slavery around 1820 in Dorchester, Maryland, was another good shepherd known as the Moses of her people. She managed to escape slavery against all odds and helped other slaves to escape and gain their freedom as well. She was an abolitionist also called Araminta Nee Ross, and a social activist before the American Civil War. I remember hearing my parents and their friends talking about the Underground Railroad. It puzzled me. Not until I was a young adult did, I realize that it was a network of safe shelters sponsored by loving neighbors, that the black female slave known as Moses started, conducted and organized. Harriet and her constituents were a
flock of good neighbors who shared their love for God’s Creation even though they were risking their lives.
Levi Coffin, born on October 23, 1798, in New Garden, North Carolina now called Greensboro, called the “President of the Underground Railroad” was a good neighbor for the slaves. He was a devout Quaker who in 1821 opened a Sunday school for slaves in New Garden. But when the slave masters discovered what Levi Coffin was doing, they shut it down. Coffin moved to Newport Indiana. He and his wife made their home a depot for the underground railroad because they wanted to continue serving fugitive slaves in their escape to Canada for Freedom. Other neighbors of Coffin who wanted to help in other ways opting out of providing shelters provided supplies for more than 3,000 fugitive slaves.
On September 22nd, in the year of 1862 Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America declared that all persons held as slaves shall be forever free and the Executive Government of the United States including the armed forces will protect these people in their efforts to maintain their freedom.
Abraham Lincoln loved his fellow Black American neighbors as much if not more than he loved himself. He had faith in God, and he knew that mattered. And that was God’s mission for him. He knew in his mind, in his soul, and in his heart, that this proclamation was right thinking and the right thing to do for fellow human beings living with oppression.
Another God loving human, Martin Luther King Jr. was preparing for graduate school. He gave a sermon reflecting on his conception of God with a bible story from Luke 2 verses 44-52. Every year Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. At the end of the festival when they left, they assumed that Jesus was with them, but he was not. Worried and troubled they went back to look for him. After three days of searching and checking with friends and relatives they found him in the temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Being typical parents, they confronted Jesus with the stress they had endured about not knowing his whereabouts. Jesus’s reply was simply, “Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?”
Dr. King exclaimed, “society should rediscover the precious values that had become lost in the rationalizations that guided behavior in the modern world.”
Martin Luther King Jr. advised, “If we are to go forward, if we are to make this a better world in which to live, we’ve got to go back. We’ve got to rediscover these precious values that we’ve left behind.” Just as Joseph and Mary went back to find their precious son, Jesus.
Despite the advances of our today world, in Dr. King’s argument, humanity has lost the spiritual compass provided by a deep and abiding faith in God. Martin Luther King exclaimed, “The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve failed to make it a neighborhood of brotherhood.”
There are many righteous souls in history who died for a cause they believed was right. As we turn back the pages of history and the Bible, we realize the First Commandment is the most important, Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. And the second is like it. “You shall love your neighbors as yourself.” These two commandments are inclusive of all the other commandments. Simply explained in Martin Luther King’s words, it is right to love, and it is wrong to hate. It always has been, and it always will be, but love is stronger and with God’s help and love, peace will reign victoriously around the world. Amen.