Sermon: Proper 25 RCL A – “Inspired by Love”

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Boudreaux was sitting in the City Bar in Maurice, Louisiana, one Saturday night, and had several beers under his belt. After a while, he looked at the guy sitting next to him, and asked him, “Hey, you wanna hear a good Aggie joke, you?”

The big guy replied, “Let me tell you something. I’m an oil field roughneck, I weigh 270 pounds, and I don’t like Cajuns. My buddy here is a pro football player, weighs 300 pounds, and he doesn’t like Cajuns either. His friend on his other side is a professional wrestler, weighs 320 pounds, always has a chip on his shoulder, and he likes Cajuns even less than we do, and we are all three proud Aggies. Do you really want to tell us an Aggie joke?”

Boudreaux, all 150 pounds of Cajun attitude, told him, “Mais, I guess not. After all I don’t want have to explain it three times!”

In the life of Jesus, it is Monday of Holy Week. Four more days. Jesus knows what is coming, but instead of backing off and letting the religious leaders’ tempers simmer down, he keeps at them. Our Gospel began, “When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees….” He has shut down one group of opponents, so the second string shows up to see what they can do, so the Pharisees, “gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.” But the question is a no brainer. Any Jew could have answered it: “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus answers correctly: “‘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 neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” But it would seem that Jesus is tired of trying to explain things to these hardhearted leaders, for instead of waiting around for their next test, he asked two questions of his own. The first was as easy as the one they asked him: “‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’” But the question is too difficult for them to answer: “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?’”

The religious leaders would have known that Jesus was referring to Psalm 110, but Jesus was not going to explain the answer, so they went away. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had been silenced. The next time they will question Jesus will be on the night of his arrest.

But why couldn’t they answer Jesus’ question? And what does the summary of the Law (Love the Lord your God…) have to do with who the son of David is?

You’ll remember, many generations before, when the Israelites came into the land, they had judges instead of kings, but after awhile, they demanded that the prophet Samuel name for them a king, so that they could be like everyone else. God said, you really don’t want a king, but the people insisted. So God said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” God’s rule over them was no longer pleasing to them, so God gave them what they asked for. They got Saul, who didn’t work out so well, but then came David, the greatest king Israel has ever had. When David was nearing the end of his life, the Lord said to him through the Prophet Nathan, that through David’s offspring that He “shall build a house for my name, and … establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Since that day, all of Israel has been waiting for that offspring, because that offspring is the Messiah. He is the one who will put all the enemies under his feet. Who are the enemies? Well, ask any Jew at the time of Jesus, and they will say it is those who are occupying the land: the Romans. However, what they failed to understand was that once the Romans were ousted, sooner or later, there would be another occupier. What they also failed to understand was that Messiah wasn’t only bringing salvation to them, but to everyone. You see, the enemy that David’s heir was going to put under his feet was not the Romans, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Communist, the Nazis or any other worldly power. The enemy that David’s son was going to conquer was death, and not just for the Israelites, but for all of humankind.

David said, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’?” David said, “God the Father said to Jesus, ‘Sit at my right hand, for I intend for you to conquer death.’” It is Jesus who sits on David’s throne. Jesus as God was before David, and Jesus as man and God was after him and is eternal.

The reason the religious leaders couldn’t answer Jesus is because of the “Squirrel” problem. The goofy dogs in the movie Up – they all froze and pointed when one of them thought they saw a, “Squirrel!” Well, around the religious leaders, saying “Son of David” or “Messiah” was a bit like saying “Squirrel.” They lost site of everything else including the Law, because like their ancestors they were looking for that king, the one who would come in and conquer the enemies of this world. They had separated the coming of the King from the Law of God. The Love the Lord your God bit had to do with their status in the eyes of God and Son of David had to do with their status in the world, but God had always intended for them to be one.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” And what is the Law? Love.

The Messiah, the Son of David was not coming into the world to fuel and inspire some nationalistic pride. The Messiah, the Son of David was coming into the world to inspire the people to the fulfillment of the Law. To inspire the people to love God and to love one another. And he wasn’t going to do that by backhanding the Romans. He was going to do it by demonstrating his love, God’s love, for them and for us. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

It is in witnessing the love of God in the person and sacrifice of Jesus that we are inspired to love him in return and to love one another. Outside of Jesus, we are not even able to understand what love truly is, and without love, we are nothing. “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

The religious leaders in the time of Jesus thought they saw a squirrel and became so distracted that they separated their life in the world from their life with God. We can make that same mistake. We can say, my work in the world, how I interact with others, my habits, are not related to my life with the church and with God. We can establish boundaries between those aspects of our lives and God, and then tell God, you stay over there and I’ll see you on Sunday. Trouble is, God isn’t interested in just your Sunday best. “For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” For I have not come to call the righteous part of you, but the sinful. God didn’t create just a part of you, he created all of you; therefore, he isn’t satisfied with receiving a part of you in return. “I am a jealous God.” He wants all of you and every aspect of your life so that he might love you and so that you might love him.

Our life in this world is about loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and our life in this world is about loving our neighbor as ourselves. There is no separation between our life with God and our life in this world and they are intimately tied together, by God’s love and our’s.

Let us pray: God, our Father, may we love You in all things and above all things. May we reach the joy which You have prepared for us in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in our hearts a desire to please You and fill our minds with thoughts of Your Love, so that we may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace. Amen.

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