Blogging towards Sunday, November 1
Philo of Alexandria, Josephus and Hillel all spoke on this. Yet here Jesus equates these two commandments: Love of God and love of Neighbor. They aren't to be confused and yet they can't be separated. One can't simply be a mystic, talking of love of God, abandoning oneself to the divine and invisible without caring and committing to the concrete, the here and now, the pertinence of those with whom we live. One can't simply be an activist, taking up every cause because we all are created equal with the same rights. Love of neighbor has to be more than that. Those two together are the greatest, the essential, the unavoidable.
What's interesting in the story is the respect between Jesus and the Scribe. It's the only encounter related like that in the gospels between Jesus and the religious leaders. Maybe that's how it was. Maybe that's how the gospel writers want to present it to us. The scribe responds to Jesus' question, demonstrating that it's not just about understanding, but about appropriating it, integrating and claiming it for our life. The challenge for us today is maybe who we consider our neighbor. We often don't even know our neighbors in the busyness of life. Or we think of perky Mr. Rodgers singing, or the faceless wisdom giver neighbor of Tool Time Tim. Or maybe we think a good neighbor is defined by the fence between us. Jesus is talking about community: not just those in our "tribe" but in the larger view of things. In our highly partisan world we would rather point fingers and condemn those we disagree with politically, don't know racially, or are opposed to philosophically. LOVE isn't just emotion or passion, it's showing justice, compassion, being mindful, respecting in word and deed. Part of it also involves love of self, we're to love as we love ourself. Of course many are there who love themselves too much. Yet there are also many among us that struggle to love ourselves. This could be the maladie of our post-modern world. Jesus assumes that we love ourselves, not in an egotistical way, but in a way that we recognize that we are loved by God, created for freedom and viewed as good. It's hard for us to sense that in our society today in which we have to prove our worth but what we can buy, how we look or the connections we have. In the fluidity of our modernity in which we try to make sense of life, our work, relationships and ourselves it's easy to see that things are all separated, not inter-dependent. Yet Jesus' words challenge us to see the whole, to recognize that you can't compartmentalize faith, the God calls us to live, to be alive in a way in which all of life is connected, interactive, inter-dependent and future focused. What's remarkable is not what Jesus said, but how Jesus lived this in his life and death.
How do we embody that in worship? How as worship leaders can we create a space in which that can be experienced since it's often so hard to practice, let alone imagine, in our daily life? That might just be the experiential proclamation to empower in worship around this text for post-modern people today.