Reflection for Sunday – October 29, 2023

Readings: Exodus 22: 20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1: 5c-10; Matthew 22: 34-40 
Preacher: Susan Howard

We have always needed God’s instruction to learn what love is. From the very beginning of time we have struggled to learn how to live together on this planet— how to survive complicated social structures, how to communicate with people, how to honor people’s differences.

And so we have Commandments, or rules to live by, rules meant to be a road map to peaceful cohabitation. These rules on how to love and respect others are the opposite of the natural inclinations of humans to self-protect, to isolate, to form clans or groups of like-minded people, to teach our children how to fear, loath, and even destroy people unlike themselves.

I ask myself if I can understand and follow the first Commandment “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Honestly, I have to say no. The world and all its social and financial pressures and obligations often get in the way. But more than that, I have given up trying. I forgot to make this Commandment the center of my life and quest. My hopes and dreams are more often focused on how to enjoy life, what show to see next, what family gathering do I not want to miss. It seems as though the good life means, “Let’s just eat, drink and be merry!”

And because of this, my neighbors, the ones I truly like, are the ones who want to join in this party of life with me. The others—who cares? It’s their life to live as they please as long as it doesn’t encroach on my good time.

But really, life is more than just a party. Ask those who are running from terrorists, mobsters, extreme poverty and governmental malfunction. Ask those who have suffered government sanctioned genocide and destruction of whole cultures. Ask those youth who are suffering depression and social anxiety, the mentally challenged, the grieving and the severely ill. These are the situations that Jesus entered into; these are the stark realities that call us to extreme love. A love that we can only comprehend when we first turn our focus to loving God—the Creator—the one whose image we each share.

Learning the rules of love is not an easy task. It is a task; it is a subject to be learned and studied. We think nothing of 12 years of education to create good citizens, to take driving classes, learn the rules of football or the skills to play the piano. The self-sacrifice needed to internalize any skill is a value that is taught, but only realized when it is practiced.

So this week let’s practice our faith. Let’s ask ourselves: “How can I retrain my focus to include God’s Commandment to love?” “In what way can I begin to learn how to love and respect my neighbor.”

God Bless your week with new insights and a warming of your heart.

Sue Howard
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