Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

The Right Answer

November 4th:

Call:   Hebrews 9: 11-14
Text:   Mark 12: 28-34
Read:   Canticle of Love        (646)

                The Right Answer

This morning's scripture is well known,     but it's not only well known
        More importantly it also presents an essential truth of Christianity.

We call it the "Great Commandment"
        I would suggest that there is no more important scripture for followers of Christ
                To understand
                And to live.

This is how Mark presents it:   Mark 12: 28-34.

It is simple.

It is astonishingly simple
It is remarkably simple
It is incredibly simple.

And I'll bet that you and I could spend the rest of our time together
        Coming up with adverb after adverb to modify and explain how simple it is.

"Unbelievably"          "Awesomely"             "Unquestionably"

But our goal here is to internalize the great commandment
        So that it becomes a part of us.
Our goal is not to show off our vocabularies.

Suffice it to say
We do not need a graduate degree to understand the scripture.
We do not need an undergraduate degree to understand it.
We do not need a high school diploma or GED to understand it

I do not believe that we even need to be able to read to understand it.

For all Jesus is saying in his answer to the scribe's question
Is that in this essential command for those who follow him
        Loving God      and     loving each other as we love ourselves
                Are intertwined and inextricably interconnected

For if we are to love God, then we must love each other
        Not should or ought to  love each other
        But must        love each other

We do not have to be exactly alike
We do not have to agree with each other
We do not have to like the same food, the same music,
        Or the same baseball team
                (for which both Norm and I breathe a sigh of relief                                     And utter a heartfelt "amen.")


We simply have to treat each other lovingly
        As we would want others to treat us.

As I said       "It is simple." "It     is      simple."

Now, skeptical lovers of Broadway show tunes might suggest
"You're dreaming the impossible dream."

Others among us might ask,
        "Jim, have you ever met so and so?"

[If coming up with adverbs isn't an activity that turns you on,
        Perhaps finding names to replace "so and so" might be an alternative.
                        Actually, guessing whom you might name
is more fun for me than the adverb game]

I will admit, however,
        That some people are harder to love than others.

But this isn't my rule.
This isn't my suggestion.

This rule comes from God.       And not everything that is simple is easy.

This scripture is not the only place where we encounter this command.

In John's first letter, he writes       that love comes from God
And tells us that if we do not love each other
        Then we don't really love God.
And way back in the Old Testament
        The prophets    time            after time,             after time
Continually talked about
how the people of Israel had trampled over the poor and the needy
how they had failed to behave justly    or to deliver justice

The story of the exile around which most of our prophetic books revolve
Is the story of the people of Israel and the people of Judah
being punished for their disobedience

But it is not enough to say that they disobeyed God
        We need to be more specific

Which of God's commands did they disobey?
        One:    they worshipped other gods
And     Two: they poorly treated the unfortunate and the challenged.

In other words, they disobeyed God by
        failing to love God with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength AND by
        failing to love each other as themselves.
In short they disobeyed God by disobeying
what Christ said was The Greatest Commandment

Just spend some time reading
Isaiah and Jeremiah     Amos and Hosea
And Micah
        Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams?
        Will the Lord be pleased with ten thousand rivers of oil?
        Will the Lord be pleased if I give my firstborn?
And although it is only implied in the scripture
        I can just hear God and Micah bellow with frustration
                NO!     NO!     NO!
                Ten thousand times NO!

And then going on to say
        He has told you mortal what is good
        And what the Lord does require of you.
        Is      To do justice
                To love kindness
                To walk humbly with your God.

That is what the Lord requires

And isn't that just another way of saying
        Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength
        And love your neighbor as yourself?

The Great Commandment was around and alive - albeit in other words
        Long before Christ was born in Bethlehem/

The Great Commandment is what they disobeyed
        In the northern kingdom of Israel or Samaria
And     The Great Commandment is what they disobeyed
In the Southern kingdom of Judah or Jerusalem
But when even that punishment didn't pound the message
 into human heads and human hearts

and so, God took another approach
        God sent his son
God sent him to teach
        And the essence of his teaching was the Great Commandment

God sent him as an example
        Look at Christ's devotion to His father
        Look at who it was Christ walked with and ate with.
                It was not the elite of society.        No!

And God sent him to hang on a cross to die for us
        Even for the so and so's who seem so hard to love.

Christ went to that cross because he loved his father
        With all his heart, mind, soul, and strength
Christ went to the cross because he loved us - all of us.

The scribe who asked the question of Jesus
        Responded that Christ had given the "right" answer.

And so having seen his example and having heard this scripture,
        We ask ourselves,
Do the ways you and I lead our lives
also provide the "right answer?
                        Or do they fail to do so?"

They should, for like the command itself
        The question is simple   and the answer is simple
Why then is it often such a struggle for us who call ourselves Christians?