Yesterday in our service of Morning Worship Mr David Andrews introduced the Lectionary reading of Deuteronomy 34.1–12 with these words: “In our first reading we see Moses, from what is now Jordan, looking down over all of what is now Israel-Palestine. Would it make a difference to people there to be able to see the whole of the land from one place?”

There was a further deep question in our Gospel reading (Matthew 22.34–46), when one of the Pharisees wanted to try to trick Jesus, to see if he really knew what the Scriptures said, and asked Jesus “What is the most important commandment?”

David went on to say “Once again Jesus outlines the core of the good news in the Jewish scriptures as it is to be in the New Testament – love of God and each other – and in coded language talks of himself as being with God from creation. As the Law of Moses is the heart of the Jewish scriptures, the teaching of Jesus is its New Testament equivalent: both the Mosaic Law and Jesus command us to love our neighbour as ourself.

“But isn’t love an emotion we can’t control? You can’t tell someone what they must feel – you will love each other! No, for Jesus love is a conscious decision to seek the other’s well-being. The commandment is to seek that well-being as we would seek our own.

“Jesus was not the first to summarise the law as love for God and love for neighbour. It had already been used by the teacher Hillel who, when challenged to produce a summary of the law short enough for a convert to hear while standing on one leg, said ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour; this is the whole law. All the rest is a commentary to this law; go and learn it.’”

David then went on to tell The Rabbi’s Gift, a very moving tale by Francis Dorff in which an encounter between two different Abrahamic religions led to renewal, before concluding:

“Loving God and neighbour implies being loved. Are we able to accept love from each other as a sign of the grace of God poured out through others? Does our church major on loving God or on loving each other – those we know well and those we have never met – or are we able to get the balance right, whereby we see God’s love and grace all round us and are able to respond in love to him and to all created people?

“In a place where attitudes to strangers both at home and abroad are becoming increasingly harsh, with increasing antisemitism and islamophobia, Jesus’ words again challenge us to show our love for him by acting and speaking for those who need our support and at the same time remember our first call to love God.

“Lord our God, give us grace both to hear and to act on the great commandments of your kingdom, that we may love you with all our heart, and love our neighbour as ourselves – today, tomorrow and always. Amen.


You can read the whole of David’s sermon, including the tale as he told it at this link.

Our picture is found on a number of websites dating back to 2012: we found it used to illustrate Dorff’s story on the website of First United Methodist Church, Manchester, NH, though it has since disappeared. You can listen to a slightly different version of the story as used by Scott Peck and his team at https://chattanoogaendeavors.org/service/community-building/the-rabbis-gift/.

 

Coming up …
  • 14 April 2024 9:30 am Eucharist
  • 14 April 2024 11:00 am Morning Worship
  • 21 April 2024 9:30 am Sung Eucharist
  • 21 April 2024 11:00 am Morning Worship

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1100 Methodist Worship
0930 Sung Eucharist


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