Message for September 6, 2020- “Soul-food!”
(From Romans 13: 8-14)
The specific command “love one another” appears in the Holy Scriptures 11 times in the New Testament. Jesus spoke these words to his Disciples and followers in the text of three separate New Testament passages. Two of these passages are found in the Gospel according to St. John. In John 13: 34-35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Again, in John 15:12 Jesus states, “My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.”
The Apostle Paul opened our scripture lesson for this morning from Romans 13 with these very same words. He said, “Owe no one anything except to love one another.” We will recall that Paul’s main purpose in writing to the Romans was to provide an introduction of both himself and his message ahead of his planned personal visit to Rome. He considered this command to be of prime importance to share as a means of his theological introduction. It seems to me that any command that is used so repeatedly within the message of the New Testament is both important to us and worth our exploring in greater detail. We will then be equipped, through a greater understanding, to discern how to best to implement the spirit of this command.
In this morning’s lesson, Paul continued his command by sharing a further revelation—that those who love one another have actually fulfilled the law. This is a very important point for us to both recognize and understand, just as the early Church would have understood it. You see, the Commandments of the Law were a very important part of the historical faith journey of the Hebrew people who became the early Church. God gave the Commandments to Moses so that the Hebrew people may have the knowledge and understanding of their sin, of their missing the mark, in the course of living as children of God. It served both as measuring device and a behavioral guide for the Hebrews for proper living as a people of God. Therefore, anything that provided instruction, aid, or clarification regarding the Commandments of the law would be important to the Jews. Their ears would surely have perked up when Paul shared these words with them.
Paul was actually echoing a similar sentiment to one that Jesus shared with his followers in Matthew Chapter 22. When he was asked by an expert in the Law what the greatest commandment of the Law is, as a means to test him, Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus was the first to share the revelation that to love with a deep soul-love of others, just as we love God, is actually to fulfill the spirit of the Commandments of the Law. For if we love other as we love God, we cannot think, speak or act in ways that will cause them injury or harm.
By now, given this understanding, it should be obvious to us that Jesus’ commandment for us to love one another deserves our undivided attention and unwavering energy. Yet, if we are truly honest, especially in these difficult times we are living, we admit that our thoughts, words, actions and deeds can sometimes fall short, or miss the lofty mark of Jesus’ commandment to love others. We may just have taken a step or two out of the kingdom this week, or maybe sometime in the last few months. Life can be difficult, sometimes even draining of our physical and spiritual energy, as we struggle to live as Christians, as followers of Christ Jesus, amid all of the issues impacting us during these days.
What we know we should do can sometimes deviate from what we feel we can or even want to do in some of our most difficult human moments. Well, my friends, it is at these moments that we stand in need of God’s mercy and grace. And, there is no better place to prepare believers to receive God’s grace than at the table of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christ invites all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and who desire to live together in peace with one another to share a place at his table. It is a table of reconciliation and love, the kind of unselfish and self-giving love he both showed us and commands of us, the kind of love that fulfills the law.
Forgiven of our sin, we are freed to go forth in newness of life to work with the Holy Spirit to live lives beyond the scope of our own narrow understanding. That is the mystery of Holy Communion; that powerful spiritual change becomes possible as we partake of the bread and cup. These are the symbols of the body and blood Christ sacrificed for us for our salvation.
Gathered together at Christ’s table, we earnestly pray that we may become one with Christ, one with each other, and one in our ministry to all the world. Alone, we cannot love one another as Christ loved us. By God’s grace, with the power of the Holy Spirit working in, through and among us, we can do infinitely and abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine.
Grace humbles us, and grace empowers our ministry and mission together as Christ’s Church in this very time and place. So, let us now prepare ourselves to gather around the table of our Lord. The world greatly needs us living as Christ’s grace-filled and loving followers-as those who have fed upon his marvelous and mysterious soul-food. Amen.