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Deuteronomy 34:1-2 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 Matthew 22:34-46
When was the last time you were rendered speechless by God? In a state of utter wonder… filled with awe… struck by truth so profound silence was the only response… confronted/challenged by a conviction you already knew and needed to hear with umphf.
Moses is speechless before the reality of the promise being fulfilled for the people he had led, cared for, witnessed to and for. Seeing that God was coming through with the blessing even as he would not experience it himself, in awe of the living God who walks alongside the people and keeps promises.
Paul is … not speechless, I don’t image that ever happened to him, who knows, and still there is a character of wonder, awe, profound gratitude in the words he uses today. He holds the same startled nature as he praises the community of faith in Thessalonica who show Jesus to the world through their actions with him and one another.
And then there are the Pharisees and Saducess. Two groups of devout practitioners of the sacred texts – law and prophets. Specialists in the word of God. Experts in the field of interpretation, application, and teaching the sacred expression of God in the world. Matthew tells us that the Sadducees had already been left speechless at the teaching of Jesus, specifically when they attempted to stump him in the law. Now the Pharisees seem to believe they will succeed where their brethren failed. When you are reading Matthew through you know at this point that they have been trying to trap him into saying or doing something blasphemous, against their law, so that they may get rid of him. In today’s passage a legal expert steps up with what seems straightforward. We do not know what he is expecting to hear. Jesus takes the question in stride and gives a simple, direct, clear answer on which is built the core of Christian practice since. “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all you strength, and with all you mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus takes one question deeper into a two part answer. What I want us to see this week is that he answered a lawyer’s question directly out of the law over which we are told he is an expert. Pulling directly from Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19. In my mind I hear Jesus saying, you want a legal answer I will speak right from the law you know and love. In a further move Jesus offers the concise statement “on these hang all the law and prophets.” That is everything else in the word of God is connected to, rooted in, grounded on, attached to, grows out of, develops from, points back to, these two tenets of thought and action.
This would have been sufficient. Jesus goes further. Pointing again to the sacred texts he draws attention to David and Psalm 110:1 when he asks the Pharisees a question. “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
Now notice the last line of today’s reading:
“Nobody was able to answer him. And from that day forward nobody dared to ask Jesus anything.” Speechless!!!
Coming at Jesus with a motive to trip him up, have him prooftext a particular point of view, shore up a certain belief or doctrine, affirm a worldview — this is not Jesus purpose or mission. Jesus gives the most direct and simplest of laws by which to center and order our lives. These two he draws out from the section directing the people of God how to live together as a community! When we profess to be followers of Christ we are bound in unity with the whole body of Christ, the full community of God, in oneness in the kin-dom. All our actions after that are about witnessing to this love of God with our love of God and one another. When one is hurting all hurt. When one suffers all suffer. When one is oppressed all are oppressed. Effectively Jesus answers and teaches that when these two laws are kept all are fulfilled, when these two are broken all are broken. Fulfilling them points us to the Messiah. A completion of the blessing and promise of God to all the ancestors and nations as witnessed through David. The pharisees are speechless. There is no more debate about any further interpretation or application of law.
Today we are far from speechless in the presence of God’s word. There is much wrangling, arguing, and division in Christ’s body over how to interpret, what doctrine to believe, how to apply the laws and precepts. We have far too many words for and with each other which tend to lead us further away from the community praised in Thessalonians. We talk too much and listen too little about the two laws Jesus lifts up as the greatest.
This point can be made with one word… … vote. As Christians we apply our faith in every area of our lives. Election season is no different. Scriptures point us to pray for our leaders, follow our leaders, and hold accountable their actions. In our model of government this often takes the form of a vote. Yet how often do we sit at the feet of Jesus and listen, letting his teaching impact and inform our conversations or vote? Can we apply these two greatest commandments to this privileged freedom in this country? What would it look like to allow Jesus’ command compel us to be in wonder, awe, delight, challenged, confronted – making us speechless about our own point of view and listening deeply to the people who are our neighbors and are hurting, broken, desperate, afraid, alone.
I want to challenge us in these next nine days to the election and how many ever days beyond it takes to get the results – to let Jesus cause us to be more speechless. Consider where we can love our neighbor as ourselves within this process. Be intentional about spending time actively loving God while participating in a major election. Listen for Jesus. Hear his clear, direct, connected words remind us to be community with God and one another. Let Pauls’ words inspire us to live in unity trying to please God. Let speechlessness turn our hearts to praise.
August Wesley Tidings: 2020 September Newsletter
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