The Last Sunday after Trinity – Bible Sunday
25 October 2020
Leviticus 19. 1 - 2, 15 - 18
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 2. 1 - 8
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
Matthew 22. 34 - end
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
teach us to be faithful in change and uncertainty,
that trusting in your word
and obeying your will
we may enter the unfailing joy of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today is Bible Sunday, a special Sunday once a year devoted to celebrating the Bible. But surely we should be doing that each Sunday of the year, indeed each day of the year!
If we are to be effective Christians we should be reading our Bibles each day, and I know many of you do just that because you have Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) notes.
My older brother who died over 50 years ago first introduced me to BRF notes over 60 years ago and I have read them ever since. If you don't have BRF or other types of Bible reading notes then you could, of course, read a part of the Bible each day . How about reading through one of the Gospels or reading the parables of Jesus to see how they speak to you and what other meaning you might get from them. Just 5 minutes or so each day and I am sure, like me, you will get much benefit from it. The Bible is there to be read regularly and is not something we celebrate just once a year.
I would like to spend a few minutes looking at the reading from Matthew. (Matthew 22: 34-end)
To place the reading into context, it occurs after the Pharisees and Sadducees had been trying to trick or trip up Jesus by asking him about paying taxes to Caesar and marriage at the resurrection (the story about 7 brothers all marrying one women, one after another before they each died). In this reading you can see that Jesus " cut to the chase" and focused on what was really important.
You could say that Jesus laid down the complete definition of religion. The verse which Jesus quotes is Deuteronomy 6: 5. That verse was part of the " Shema ", the basic and essential creed of Judaism, the sentence with which every Jewish service still opens , and the first text which every Jewish child commits to memory. "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord..."
It means that to God we must give total love, a love which dominates our emotions, directs our thoughts, and a love which is the dynamic of our actions. All religion starts with the love which is total commitment of life to God. Powerful stuff. Do we measure up to this?
The second commandment which Jesus quotes comes from Leviticus 19:18. Our love for God must result in love for others. But it should be noted that we must first love God and then others. It is only when we love God that other people become lovable . The Biblical teaching about human beings is not that we are collections of chemical elements and just part of creation, but that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1: 26-7).
It is because human beings are all made in the image of God that they are lovable, and should be loved. We have plenty of descriptions in the Bible about love and 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 is probably the best known and all inclusive.
But what an "ask" to love everyone. Those we don't like / can't get on with / don't like us / can't understand / live a completely different life to us !! We must love all of them with no exceptions.
The love of humanity is firmly grounded in the love of God. To be truly religious is to love God and to love those whom God made in his own image. To love God and other people, not with a vague sentimentality, but with that total commitment which results in devotion to God and practical service to others involves our whole lives.
The second part of this reading relates to Jesus asking those about him who the Anointed One really is. This may seem one of the most obscure things which Jesus ever said. Jesus repeatedly refused to allow his followers to proclaim him as the Messiah until he had taught them what that meant. Their ideas of Messiah needed to change radically . The expectation was that this "chosen one" would one day come to shatter Israel's enemies and lead them to conquer all nations. But this was not what God had in mind. It was not adequate to call the Messiah, Son of David. He is not David's son but his Lord. What did Jesus mean by all this? He can only have meant one thing that the true description of him is Son of God. Son of David is not an adequate title. Only Son of God will do.
In Jesus there came not the earthly conqueror who would repeat the military triumphs of David, but the Son of God who would demonstrate the love of God upon his cross. There would be few that day who understood what Jesus meant, but when Jesus spoke those words, even the densest of them must have felt a shiver in the presence of the eternal mystery. They must have had the awed and uncomfortable feeling that they had heard the voice of God; and for a moment, in this man Jesus, they glimpsed God's very face.
Very powerful stuff! How would we have felt and reacted had we been there? We don't have to wonder about this. We are in God's presence now, thanks to all Jesus has done for us. "How" you might ask............well I am back to the start of this talk ...READ YOUR BIBLE REGULARLY !