When Pastor Ran was here and Caleb was a toddler, she shared a story about him. Caleb loved blueberries. They were his favorite finger food. It is a good finger food, because they have to learn not to squeeze too hard when they pick up a berry, unless of course they like to squish them before they eat them. One day Caleb had two blueberries left in his bowl and Pastor Ran asked if she could have them. Because Caleb loved blueberries she did not think that he would give them to her. He surprised Pastor Ran by picking the last up and putting them in his mother’s mouth. Is that LOVE!?
I have heard similar stories by parents and grandparents. My own grandson, Casper, usually shares his blueberries with myself or his mother and now papa. When I say “Thank You” he will respond with “I love you”. I do believe that children learn early about Love, from their family and the people that care for them. But is that love? I feel warmth and joy when Casper tells me “I love you” combined with his sweet little smile. But, is that Love?
Why this story? Well, the scripture today tells us “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is similar: Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Pharisees and the Sadducees were looking for ways to discredit Jesus and accuse him of heresy . Now the Pharisees strictly observed the laws from Moses, mainly through an oral process. The Sadducees were usually wealthy and often priests . They took stock in the written word. Both were the authority of their days, Lawyers and priests. The Pharisees had tried to catch Jesus earlier in the Book of Matthew, by asking Jesus if it was unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar. You know that response, ”Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, Give unto God that which is God’s.” The Pharisees walked away. They had no argument with that statement.
The Sadducees could not argue with “Love the Lord your God”, because they probably recited the fullness of that Law two or more times in a day. But Jesus added the second. Love your neighbor as yourself. They too walked away.
Both groups wanted to silence Jesus. Both were placed in a position that made them decide to walk away that day.
Why should we love God? because the Bible tells us to? Because our Sunday School teachers taught us to? I asked my five-year-old grandson after VBS what he learned. His answer was “God Loves me.” After a moment he added, “and so does Jesus.” He has not had Sunday School, only VBS this year, yet he got that. Why should we love God? Because He first loved us. When we rebel against Him, He loves us. When we turn our back on Him, He still loves us. Even when we do nothing to deserve God’s Love, He loves us.
Caleb knew his mother’s love and seemed to understand it.
What does it mean to Love God with all of your heart, mind and soul? It requires love from the whole person. Those three categories overlap like a VIN diagram. The heart is the seat of our emotions, the soul the center of our personality, and the mind is the place of reason. In Deuteronomy, the word strength is used instead of mind. We do not know why Jesus used the word mind instead of strength. If we include the word strength with heart, mind and soul, we see that even our physical bodies are to show love for God. Pastor Jenny is a good example of that fullness of loving God. God loves us with His whole being, so we should do our best to return that same kind of love. All that is good we have from God. Loving God should be our #1 priority.
Now for a breakdown of “Love your neighbor as yourself “ As a young adult and an active participant in this church, Pastor Zager liked to use a large easel flip pads to interact with the congregation during his message. That Sunday “Love thy neighbor as thyself” was at the top of the flip pad. Several people shared how they interpreted that verse. Finally, I raised my hand. Andy was a baby and I was holding him. My answer was “first you have to love yourself”. My reasoning was that I can’t take care of Andy if I do not love myself. Once you love yourself, loving others comes easy. I would like to think that I am not some ego maniac. You do have to take care of yourself. Which includes loving yourself. You also need to rely on God.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” doesn’t seem so hard if you look at how you would want to be treated. If you were in that situation, what would you want and need? Maybe it is as simple as a hug. Pastor Jenny really likes to send cards. There are members in our congregation that are good about sending cards. Cards are easy, why am I not good at that task. Thank you for being good at sending cards. Cards really do show Love. When I was in the Mayo Clinic Hospital for Breast Cancer, I would go for walks around the nursing station when they were sorting cards and say “Who loves me today.”
Phone calls or text messages help. Tech is part of our world, after all. Every time we give to one of our missions we are loving our neighbors.
When Dave Walters lost his job many years ago when his children where small, they discovered boxes with food in their entryway and little treasures for the children.
There does not need to be stress and difficulty in our neighbors’ lives to show that we love them.
My first lay speaker class that I attended was led by Pastor Steve Ward. He said in that class the only theology you need to know is “Love God and Love people. That sums it all up.”
Does a toddler understand love? I believe that they do. We are always teaching one another about love, including children. Why, because God loves us unconditionally. It’s like a stream trickling down to feed a great river. God loves us. We love God. We love each other.
The entire Bible in a nutshell is Love God and Love people.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God.