Yr A ~ Pentecost 21 ~ Matthew 22:34-40, John 13:35
Renowned theologian Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann wrote these words that have been resounding in my consciousness and inspiring me to think really deeply since I re-encountered them while on retreat last week. Brueggemann said, “The task of prophetic imagination and ministry is to bring to public expression those very hopes and yearnings that have been denied so long and suppressed so deeply that we no longer know they are there.”
That strikes me as deeply profound and important.
I have three main roles: priest, pastor, and prophet.
As priest I preside at public worship.
As pastor I teach, and administer, and lead, and support the congregation I serve.
As prophet I take inspiration from God and call people to God’s leadings as I understand them.
Today, I’m the prophet. Nobody likes prophets – because they make us feel uncomfortable – because they call us from complacency to conviction and repentance (which literally means to have a change of heart and mind and embrace a new or renewed direction). Prophets usually get run out of town, which is why priests and pastors tend to stay in their lanes and not venture into the prophetic. No such luck today.
“The task of prophetic imagination and ministry (like this) is to bring to public expression (like now) those very hopes and yearnings that have been denied so long and suppressed so deeply that we no longer know they are there.”
So, what long denied and deeply suppressed hopes and yearnings do I believe God has called me to bring to expression today?
And more specifically, our love of God.
“Um, Larry, isn’t that what we’re always all about?”
Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you? And I’m not saying that we’ve been horribly misguided and have fallen away or whatnot. (I’m not that kind of prophet!)
I’m saying we (and mostly I’m using the whole denominational ‘we’ here, not just this community called Faith United), we have had our priorities somewhat ‘misaligned’.
See, I told you nobody likes a prophet.
In today’s reading Jesus is challenged to say what he thought the most important teaching of all was. So he turned to scripture and quoted a beloved prayer called ‘the Shema’ from Deuteronomy 6:5.
Matthew’s version is: “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
(That’s it. The love neighbour part is from Leviticus, not Deuteronomy.)
The Shema is traditionally recited by every Jewish child and adult at the conclusion of each day and at the start of each day – when you lie down and when you rise up. That means they bookend every single day of their life with a reminder to themselves that their absolute, primary, number one job in life is to love God with their whole being.
This scripture passage is the heart of my favourite theological concept.
This isn’t my idea. I didn’t cook it up.
Sure, I gave it the catchy expression ‘love, love, love’ (and made it into our church butterfly logo) but I didn’t decide on my own that this was the most important thing for us to focus on in church.
In all of Jesus’ recorded teaching there are only 3 things that he elevated to the imperative of being a commandment: “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind,” “Love your neighbour as you love yourself,” and in John 13 he said to his intimate, close friends “love one another as I have loved you.”
We are commanded to love – love God, love people, and love one another – love, love, love.
I’m a person of faith. I’m a disciple of Jesus, and so are you. I get the love, love, love thing, but it’s pretty vague. They’re nice words and all, but I need more direction in my discipleship. How do I do all this love stuff? Where do I begin?
I need to know what the most important thing is that I’m supposed to be about.
Is it that I’m supposed to believe certain doctrines? Nope. read on