“Give it Your All”
A teacher was testing the children in her Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting to heaven.
She asked them, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?”
“NO!” the children answered.
“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, the answer was, “NO!”
Now she was smiling. Hey, they’re getting it, she thought! “Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?” she asked.
Again, they all answered, “NO!”
She was just bursting with pride for them. “Well,” she continued, “then how can I get into Heaven?”
A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”
This morning we catch up with Jesus after he has entered Jerusalem for the final time. He is in his last days, soon he will be betrayed and turned over to the Romans to be executed.
In our reading this morning, Jesus has been walking about in the Temple teaching and talking with people. Some Pharisees and Sadducees have been challenging his teachings and his authority, just before our reading.
Then we read of an encounter with one of the scribes in the Temple. Scribes are experts on Old Testament Law, and are Pharisees. The scribe comes to Jesus with another question. “Which commandment is the first of all?”
Jesus responds not with the literal first commandment that Moses brought down the mountain, he responds with a quote from Deuteronomy 6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
This is immediately recognized by those in the Temple. This is part of the shema. The shema is used daily in prayers and worship in the synagogue in the Jewish community, and is based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
Jesus then follows is up with the second great commandment. This time he quotes from Leviticus 19, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
The scribe, the expert, affirms Jesus’ answers. He even goes on to say these are more important than sacrifices and burnt offerings, which Jesus then affirms as correct by telling him he is not far from the Kingdom of God.
By why would Jesus quote these things? Why not simple pick something from the Ten Commandments? Well, you could say he did.
The Ten Commandments can be broken down into two groupings. The first four: No other God’s, no idols before God and not taking the Lord’s name in vain, and keeping the Sabbath are about our relationship with God. In other words, to do these things, we need to love our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
The last six commandments: honour your parents, no murdering, adultery, stealing, false witness, coveting your neighbour’s stuff… all these things are about how we interact with the world. It’s about how we love our neighbours.
And there it is. The whole of the ten commandments in two simple commands. Well, simple to read and remember… not so simple to follow.
The scribe had it right. These two commands are greater than what is done inside the temple. The temple is the place where people bring their sacrifices and offerings to God. These two commands are greater than what we do in our worship this morning.
Being a Christian is about relationships. First priority is our relationship with God. God is to be first and foremost in our life. All of it. Jesus reminds us of the shema, to love God with our entire being. Our heart, soul, mind and strength should be put into service for God.
Our ability to do this will flow naturally into the second great commandment. When we love God with our entire being we open ourselves to be readily aware and willing to follow God’s plan in our lives and in our community. We begin to change the way we think and act. We treat our neighbours differently as a result.
There is the famous question asked of Jesus, “Who is our neighbour?” Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan, which indicates all people are our neighbours. Anyone we encounter in our daily life is our neighbour. Anyone who is touched by our actions, or our inactions, is our neighbour.
Because of technology and improved forms of global transit our world has become much smaller. We have many more neighbours than we once had. The old saying, “The world is at your doorstep” is truer today than ever before.
This building has stood here proudly on this corner for 103 years. It has been a Christian witness to Sydney Mines as we continue to gather in this sanctuary all these years later. We celebrate those who have gone before us, those who built this church, those who grew up here, raising their families and serving this community. Young men and women have been led by God to serve in this church, and some have left to serve in churches elsewhere.
We share a proud history in this place. A place where lives have been changed, people have been served, families cared for, all in the name of Jesus Christ and led by the Holy Spirit.
It is good for us to remember. It is good for us to celebrate our rich history.
And we also need to look forward. The world is a very different place than it was 100 years ago. People look at the world and the church differently now. People communicate in much different ways.
Change has happened. It’s not happening, it’s already here. Churches have been struggling what to do with change. Trying to figure out how to re-market itself so it’s relevant in today’s world.
The only problem is, we’re often trying to do what other churches are doing, or businesses, or whatever. The church is seeing other successes and trying to replicate it in places where it won’t work.
So what works?
It’s simple. Jesus told us what works.
“Love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength… Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Listen to God. Seek to serve God with all you have. Your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength, give it all to God.
This is what brings about the right kind of change. It begins with each and every one of us. We need to make God our priority in our own lives.
Remember what the scribe said in response to these two commandments, “He is the one, and besides Him there is no other… This is much more important.”
God is the answer. Jesus Christ is the way.
As we remember and celebrate 103 years of worship in this great building, let us also remember that God is with us and guiding us ever more into the future. A future that is formed by our past, but begins today, as we look forward to see what the next 100 years might bring as we seek to be God’s witness to the people of Sydney Mines.