Love One Another

Sunday, March 22, 2020
Intern Teleen Saunders

Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall 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, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Grace and peace to you, our faithful community, wherever you may be. Our Sunday scripture readings are taken from what is called the “Narrative Lectionary”. It is a four year cycle and we at Augustana generally follow the assigned readings for each week. When we looked at what was assigned for this Sunday, we all knew this scripture fit our strange and uncertain circumstances. The setting takes place in the Jerusalem temple where Jesus is teaching with
parables. A religious scribe approaches Jesus with an honest question. He asks, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Now, Mark’s gospel is gentle on the scribe. This isn’t a lawyer who is out to “test” Jesus like Luke’s gospel writes. This is a simple question asked to a man who teaches with authority. “Which commandment is the first of all?” What our curious scribe really wants is direction for living life. “Which commandment is the first of all?” What should we

Many of us are asking the same question during this pandemic where we are continually becoming more and more isolated. We see empty store shelves, empty schools, and empty church pews. We worry about our health and our economy. And we too ask Jesus, what should we do? “Which commandment is the first of all?” And Jesus answers us the same way he answered the scribe. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all
your mind, and with all your strength.’ And ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
So let’s do this. Let’s love God through the chaos. Our pews may be empty, but our worship continues as we gather in new and innovative ways. We will love God with our heart as we lean into scripture and prayer. We will love God with our souls with rituals like gathering in some way on Sunday morning and lighting candles. We will love God with our minds knowing the eternal God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is our God too. And we will love God with our strength as we actively cling to hope even when we are afraid. Loving our neighbors is simply an extension of loving God as we live out our calling to follow Christ. A friend of mine calls it physical distancing combined with social solidarity. We will continue to reach out to each other through online communication, phone calls, and
letters. We will continue to support our faith partners locally and abroad. And we will continue to physically distance ourselves, not out of fear or overreaction, but out of love. We have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us and if this means limiting physical contact with society, then that is what we will do.
Finally, when Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself, he means it. We are to love our neighbor as WELL as love ourselves. This pandemic brings many emotions, some of them intense. Loving ourselves means being gentle with ourselves. Breathe, pray, listen to music, take a walk in the park, and keep connected as much as possible. We are all in this together. Perhaps we are finally realizing that we are interconnected beings separated by the smallest of differences. What affects one affects all. The first commandment means living in a world of love. We shall love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our
soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. And love our neighbor as ourselves. Worship. Reach out. Breathe. This is the kingdom of God. And this is how we get through life – together.

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