What’s the Message / Sermon 15 August 2010 / Matthew 22:34 – 40

It seems like a lifetime since I have been standing here and worshipping with you!  In one way, it has been… I left for the Atlantic School of Theology in June not only to learn but also to be further trained and transformed for the work of ministry in this place!

The summer has again gone by in a blur for me… I explored the gospel of Matthew with a Roman Catholic sister, I explored the life of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a life that was ended by his murder at the hands of the Nazi regime and finally, I explored pastoral ministry in smaller congregations.  Three very different subject areas but they all seem to connect at various points that broaden my understanding and my ministry.  As a friend has put it… it is like we are pieces of sea glass put into the tumbler to be mixed together with grit and each other, to have our rough edges smoothed and polished and at the end, we are no longer the cloudy piece of sea glass but a piece of clear coloured glass that allows the light to pass through it.  Each piece of glass, each of us, transformed and made new by our contact with each other through this intense education process.  A process by which each piece of glass becomes a treasure!  I feel like I am still in the tumbler.  Soon though, I hope to be that clear coloured glass that can be treasured because I certainly feel changed.

On one of our day trips this past week…one of the many signs we passed caught my attention.  “We don’t change the message….the message changes us.”  And as I thought about that and reflected on it, I realize that it’s quite true.  The message is consistent, the Bible and scriptures are consistent.  Today’s scripture, the Greatest Commandment…has two parts … You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  AND 3839You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  As scripture and scripture lessons go, this is quite clear.  It is also clear that there is a message here, a way for us to live our life, one of those guiding principles, a compass for living life as a Christian.

Matthew’s message is that the love of God and the love of neighbour are synonymous and the command of love is in a twofold direction… to God and to neighbour.

That still leaves us to interpret the message…. what is the message? Is it only one?  Or is there more?  Do they build on each other?  Is the message only available here?  On Sunday?  Do you share the message that you have with others?  Do you keep it for yourself?   What happens when you share it?  What happens to the message if you have a different status?

In my role as minister, it is one of my responsibilities to guide a shared exploration of the message… the process starts with what I see as the message in the hope that what I see can mean something to you and that it may spark a further message in you.  I see my role and relationship as minister as being best expressed this way:

“I am saying in effect that I am standing in a universe in which every being is of worth, that my localized responsibilities and loves are related to a larger whole, and that there are sources of loving power at work with me (and against me) to seek the well-being of all.  This affirmation demands that I work for justice and that the justice I seek for myself, for other women [this would be for others in my personal view], and for those others with whom I am connected must exist in a universal circle of justice to all beings.”

This quotation comes from a text entitled ‘the great commandment a theology of resistance and transformation’ by Eleanor H. Haney.

This not only describes how I see myself but also puts it in the perspective of ‘the great commandment’ – to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbour as yourself.  What this excerpt also says to me is that I am not the only one involved to provide the message or to work for justice.  We are, each one of us, part of the universal circle.  Each of us is able and capable of providing the message.  Preaching the Gospel, sharing the message is not only about me… it is about us and about what we do with the message.  What happens to the message beyond these walls, beyond our worship time together?  What we may need to do first is to become more aware of the message and what it means to us before we are able to know what it means to have a message to take beyond this faith community and to share it.

We each have a personal ability and responsibility to share the messages.  For those who have not heard the Good News or may have fallen away… they need to hear our messages.  Messages that say we are not alone, messages that say we care about our creation and all that is in it.  Most importantly, the message that we are each children of God, that each of us matters and is important and has an important part to play.  We each have something important to say that adds to the message….You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  AND You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

The message…. allow it to change you.

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