This week we begin a new series we are calling, “more than all others.” Jesus when speaking about a poor widow who gave only two coins to the offertory, said she gave more than all others. It is a great honor and respect from Jesus and it is the approach we should have in all we do for the kingdom of God.
We are not trying to create a competition, or even do a comparison when we work toward “more than all others,” we are saying we want this to be our goal in all we do. To be a follower of Jesus, we are not asked to go half way, we are challenged to give our all, to go all the way. We want to determine what it looks like to follow Jesus, more than all others?
In this first week we look at love. How do we love? This is the command of Jesus when asked which is the first commandment. Jesus replies you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength and love your neighbor as yourself. This week we look at what it means to love more than all others.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary time; We begin with; Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Psalms 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51; Hebrews 7:23-28 and Mark 12:28B-34. Each of these readings gives witness to love and how we are meant to love. First we will look at each reading and then we will take a look at what it means to love more than all others.
In the reading from Deuteronomy we have an introduction and the Shema prayer. It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism since ancient times. The first part of the Shema begins with one of the best-known, most fundamental expressions of Jewish belief, and the one from which this prayer gets its name: Shema Yisra’el… (Hear, Israel). It continues with the words we hear from the reading in Mark, love the LORD, your God … This prayer is commanded in the Torah to be prayed morning and evening by every faithful Hebrew. It is hung on doorpost in a Mezuzah, it part of the scroll inside the phylactery worn on the arm or head by devout Jews. It is a reminder that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. Every Hebrew of the day would recognize these words when they hear them. These words are a reminder of God’s love for them, freeing them from slavery and bringing them to their Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey as the reading includes. This reading is a reminder of a long relationship and deep love between God and his people. These words and the history are meant to demonstrate to the children of Israel they are “more than all others” in the eyes of God.
The reading from Hebrews speaks of a superior new priesthood. It is a priesthood with a better hope, a new covenant, one that does not pass away, and one that is holy, innocent and separate from sinners. Of course this new priest is Jesus the Son of God who freely came as a gift of love, to demonstrate to all people that there is nothing God won’t don’t to free us from the bondage of sin, and that we truly are more than all others in the eyes of God. This new priest offered one sacrifice that stands forever; “one for all when he offered himself.” Although the reading speaks of this new priest, it is an example of God’s love. In ancient times the priest would have to sacrifice an offering for sin constantly, they were men who were sinners themselves, weak and appointed by men. The anointing of Jesus as high priest, ends the sacrificial system and gives us a priest to go to when we need, directly, without requiring an intermediary. God’s new covenant makes room for every individual to be with God.
In the reading from Mark Jesus is asked which is the first commandment, and Jesus reply’s with the verse from Deuteronomy from above, the Shema, which everyone listening would have known. Then Jesus adds that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, a command from Leviticus. Jesus was the first to put these two commands together and by so doing gives shorthand to all the other commandments. Everything we need to know is covered in these two commands to love God and love others. The scribe who asked the question affirms Jesus response; speaking of this love for God and love for others. Praising him Jesus sees someone who has an understanding of the whole of Jesus mission. He is near the kingdom, but also he is not there yet. We should look at Jesus response with hope and a challenge as well. The overall message we hear is that God wants our love; from all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength and God wants us to love all his children. God wants this love to show through as much as we love ourselves, but in reality we must love each more than we love ourselves. This is what Jesus did, he put his love for us above his own, His is a selfless love, loving us more than all others.God wants this love to show through as much as we love ourselves, but in reality we must love each more than we love ourselves. This is what Jesus did, he put his love for us above his own, His is a selfless love, loving us more than… Click To Tweet
The message of love is deep in these readings, but I suspect we could look at any scripture and find and act of love. The readings are reminding us that God loved us deeply, that we are everything to God, that each one of us is more to God than all the others. It may sound impossible, but let me try to illustrate this point.
I have been blessed, I have an amazing family, we love to be around one another, we love supporting one another, we love celebrating with one another and when we are hurting we are there for one another. It began when I married a beautiful lady Debbie, who is the best wife in the world, I honestly believe I would be dead, or homeless or in jail if we did meet and get married. I have tried to support her too, help her be the best person she can be and support the things she wants to do. Although I am quite sure she wouldn’t be dead, homeless, or in jail if she hadn’t met me, I do think I have been a positive effect in her life. She lives for family and really has shown love through doing for others. We had three beautiful girls, they are amazing, supporting one another and us, they have their life passions and one of those is family. They each have their own beautiful family, each daughter having two children, who they hover over like you wouldn’t believe and who they would give their life to help and support.
I could speak about each of my daughters, their gifts, how I think about them with so much love and how when I am with one, there is nothing I could be doing that is better. I love speaking to them, getting their input, their praise is amazing, and their interest in my life floors me. I could go on to tell you about each one and as I did, I will tell you she is my favorite and I love her more than all the others. This is completely true, one by one I could say it, and say it about each one and while saying it would be totally honest. I can’t explain how it can be true, I just know that it is true.
But, let me move to my grandchildren. My eldest grandson is Colin, he is beautiful and lights up my heart when I see him. He is an eight year old and I have been hanging out with him his entire life. You see one of the blessings in my life is Debbie is the day time care provider for the grand-kids at our home so I see them all often. Colin likes video games, movies, books; he likes to play basketball and swim, and he likes math and art. He truly is amazing to me. I love talking to him and we try to make a special time to go see a movie together, buy a book and have lunch on a regular basis. Colin is really more to me than a family member, even when we are not together I am thinking about him or looking at pictures of us together. There is no doubt Colin is my favorite, I love him more than all the others.
Colin has a brother Gavin, a couple years younger than Colin. Gavin has a smile that could melt anyone’s heart and it does mine all the time. I love seeing Gavin and although we don’t have a special outing together yet, when he comes over he stops into my office, he shares with me the new Fortenite dances, he challenges me to catch him as he runs off (which is getting harder all the time) and sometimes he just sits and plays a game on my phone while I do some work on the computer. Of course there are other times when he takes over my computer to watch a YouTube video under the pretense he wants to show me and other times he just straight out takes over. When we are not together and I see a picture of Gavin, I can get lost for a half hour thinking about him. There is no doubt in my mind Gavin is my favorite, I love him more than all others.
Gavin has a cousin Will, they are best friends. Will is named after me and when he lived in New York I use to get to hang out with him as a baby all day. He is a beautiful boy, with a killer smile that melts me. Will is serious and definitely a hard worker. He gets mad when I interrupt his game playing until I get him laughing that is. He thinks about everyone and if he stops with Debbie on the ride home from school to get a milk shake he always thinks to bring me one. I have been hanging out with Will for most of his life, and it is awesome to be with him and joke together. When I get him talking he loves to tell about what is happening at school and he is really proud of all the success he is having. He is at the age where I would like to get some one on one outing time, but it is hard, he is always thinking of the other. For example we were planning to go to a movie together but his cousin Gavin was free too, being torn he asked is it ok if Gavin could join us? If I didn’t say yes I think I might have been left to go alone. Will is amazing to me, without a doubt my favorite, I love him more than all others.
Will has a brother Sean, from the moment he was born there was something special about Sean, now I see it in his smile, he smiles with his whole face. He singularly protects his older brother more fiercely than anyone I have ever known. He has a charm that gets him whatever he wants and he has a way of making me feel special. He has a love for planes, trains, trucks, especially garbage trucks that borders on an obsession. He is always looking to play with his cousins and he also plays really well on his own. He comes to my office and we watch space rocket launches on YouTube together. He also likes to just sit using my phone to watch trains and trucks on YouTube while I work on the computer. He is such a beautiful little boy I look forward to seeing him and miss him when he is not around. Sean is amazing to me, without a doubt my favorite, I love him more than all others.
Sean has a cousin Isabella that is his best friend. She is just a little younger than him, a beautiful little girl with long blonde hair, beautiful eyes, an amazing smile and a laugh that is contagious. Whenever she visits she is always coming into my office to scare me, and then gets comfortable watching something, making a smoothie or playing a game with me. She asks a thousand questions and won’t stop until she has the answer that makes the most sense. She is a bright girl and loves Sunday school. She plays with her cousins as if she is one of the boys and loves it when her hair is in a pretty pony tail as well. She always wants to sit and watch a movie with me, and she doesn’t let me follow casually while doing something else, for her we are doing it together and she sits on my lap the entire time to make sure. The best part is when a song begins in the movie, she always jumps up to dance and twirl. She has become so comfortable and close she will just start climbing on me and trusting she won’t fall or get hurt. Isabella is amazing, without a doubt my favorite, I love her more than all others.
Isabella has a sister Olivia, she is the youngest of them all, just over a year old and she rarely says anything. She walks around the house quietly and like the others sneaks out to the office to see what I am up to. She smiles with her entire face and has a special look that reminds me of my own mother, who passed a few years ago. We have discovered she likes to be tossed in the air and so it is a game we play regularly. She walks in and out showing me something and then disappearing, only to return a while latter with something else I must see. She wasn’t always sure about me, but these days she will run up and give me a tap and then run away. Olivia is amazing to me, without a doubt my favorite, I love her more than all others.
I say this with all truth I love them more than all others, and can only hope you as a parent or grandparent know what I mean. But also as a son or daughter that you could feel this kind of love more than all others in your life. I don’t me to say everything is always beautiful, that there isn’t hurt, and suffering at times. But, the love breaks through and is what remains.
I could share small vignettes about my own children, the parents of Colin, Gavin, Will, Sean, Isabella and Olivia. But speaking about their children allows me to make a point about God. If my children ever see this tribute to their children, they will be proud, these words will resonate with them, and in fact there love for me might deepen in a particular way knowing how I feel about their children. This is how it is for God. We are God’s children and God tells us if we want to show our love for him than love his children. Every parent will tell you, when we show love for their children they are being told by us that we love them as well. God, is a parent who loves more than all others, and asks that we do the same.
More than all others
Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) It is a simple command, not complicated, but it is also more demanding that all the commandments in the Hebrew scriptures. Following Jesus new command to love we are encompassing all the commandments previously passed down. Jesus gave selfless love, and his love requires that we do the best for others. As a follower of Jesus it is not an option. We must find a way to love each other more than all others. In doing so we honor God, we honor Jesus selfless sacrifice and we honor each other.
Find one person you can love more than all others. Let it be someone close and easy to love. Love them deeply, let nothing get in the way of this love and whenever you think of them smile. Then find another person and do it again, until you love all more than all others.Find one person you can love more than all others. Let it be someone close and easy to love. Love them deeply, let nothing get in the way of this love and whenever you think of them smile. Then find another person and do it again,… Click To Tweet