What Might Matter Most?

Wow—Christin and I have really missed you! We are so glad to be back—coming to Redeemer feels like coming home. And we’ve been busy since we left you last summer. Christin has a new book project and has started a graduate program online at Northwind Seminary, doing doctoral work in Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Formation. And I’ve enrolled there too—I’m pursuing a doctorate on C. S. Lewis and his friends the Inklings. (My notes say to pause here for gasps of surprise). That’s three graduate programs in one two-bedroom apartment if you’re keeping score at home.

VTS is also keeping me very busy. I’ve enrolled in Liturgical Music and am learning how to chant, in part to see if I can get Fr. Wood off my back about that.

And I’m also studying Homiletics, the craft of PREACHING. I hope I can count on you for a good report to my professor!  So far, he emphasizes two things in particular: he wants us to title our sermons, and he wants ever sermon to have a clearly identifiable claim.

So, I’ve titled this sermon: “What Might Matter Most?” As for a claim—well, let’s see if you can figure it out by the time I’m done.

So, let’s face it. By modern standards, Jesus would not exactly have made the most polite dinner guest. I mean, what are the three things we never talk about in polite company? Money, religion, and politics? In this last confrontation with the religious leaders, Jesus, frankly, meddles with all three. Remember last week’s Gospel reading? That whole “Render unto Caesar” thing?  And in the verses right before today’s reading, he has a huge religious dispute with the Sadducees. Money and politics? Check! Religion? Check! Yes, Jesus is a terrible dinner guest—unless you want to come to the Lord’s table for the Last Supper. Because that’s only two days away from where we find ourselves in this passage—on Tuesday of Holy Week. Two days ago we had palms and praise and Jesus in the middle of it, looking for all the world as if the people are about to crown him king. And then yesterday, Jesus tears through the Temple, turning over tables and confronting everyone with hard, Heavenly truth.

Two days from now: Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper, then betrayals and beatings, and trials all night long. And then of course Good Friday, followed, thanks be to God, by Easter Sunday.

So here we are on Tuesday, looking at a last, deadly doctrinal dispute with the Jewish leaders their plots, and Pilate waiting in the wings. So, let’s look closely and this last conversation—and I invite you to follow along in your bulletin.

An expert in Jewish law (not really a lawyer like WE understand it) asks Jesus which of all of the commandments “carries the most weight”—that’s a better translation than “greatest.”

And in Jesus’ answer we find the words of life we most need to hear. Listen to how he personalizes these commandments. In the original Greek. Jesus actually says, “YOU shall love the Lord God of YOU with all the heart of YOU and with all the soul of YOU and with all the mind of YOU. . .and YOU shall love the neighbor of YOU as YOURSELF.” That’s eight “yous” in two verses. So, you and I should probably pay attention.

I think these leaders feel called out—remember, they have plotted to KILL Jesus. Although they hardly realize it, they have deluded themselves into HATING both God and neighbor in the person of Jesus. And so they snap back with a question intended to shame Jesus, and to bring up that old question about his parentage. Essentially they respond to him by saying “Oh yeah? Well who do you think YOU are—and who’s your daddy, anyway?”

Jesus replies by quoting Psalm 110, claiming that his father is actually the LORD God, which shocks them into silence. And with that, Jesus draws a line under every argument and leaves both them and us here today with the two most important questions in all the world: Who is Jesus? And what should we do about it?

I rejoiced when I discovered that I get to talk to you about this Scripture, because the love of God is my constant theme. And so here is my Claim: I believe with all my heart that living out these two Great Commandments to love is what matters most. Especially today.

And that brings me to a meddling question of my own: in response to Jesus’ final orders for us, what should our lawn signs say?

This deeply divided election season grows more hate-filled almost everywhere I look. And that’s on top of unprecedented illness and aching unrest that also convulse our country. What does Jesus call and equip us to do today? What matters most? Well, I know what I need to do, and, frankly, I’m not very good at it. I believe Jesus today calls me, calls all of us to set up LOVE as the yard sign of our lives. Let us bring all the emotions of our HEART to the love of God in Christ. Let us take captive all the thoughts of our MINDS and bring them before the gracious throne of our King. Let us continually turn our souls in these dire days towards our God who loves us so greatly that He spared not His Son.

And then let us turn to our neighbors to offer that same, selfless, sacrificial, costly love—and by “neighbor,” Jesus of course means EVERYONE, especially those people with whom we most disagree. Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, turn every curse into every blessing. Like our Lord before us, let us prove ourselves so much more than polite—let us pepper our lawns and our lives with signs of God’s great love towards all. And so let us cling to Christ with love, and turn his love towards our neighbors as ourselves, now, as never before.

Sermon preached by Andrew Lazo, Seminarian

Church of the Redeemer

Sarasota Florida

21st Sunday after Pentecost

25 October 2020