"the greatest"

TRANSCRIPT OF THE OCT. 25, 2020, SERMON

BY REV. JEANNIE HIMES


When we lived in Kansas City, one of the churches I served was a block off of State Line Road. If you live in KC, you are always aware of what state you are in, even though the line between Missouri and Kansas is just a regular street. In the part of town where my church was, it was fairly residential – people's houses and driveways were right on State Line. But a block from the church, across the line into Kansas, was the KU Medical Center. And on the Missouri side, the street was lined with shops and restaurants. So at lunch time, and at dinner time, there was a steady stream of people crossing the street, at the stop light. Walking across State Line Road.

Often you would see people, mostly kids/teens, pausing in the very center, with one foot on one side of the center line, and one on the other. Standing in two states at the same time.

 

Which brings up the question – how wide is the line that separates the states? Is it as wide as the street? As wide as the center line? Is it just ribbon-wide?

 

The lines between things are so often up to interpretation, or perspective.

 

This week's scripture is one of the world's best-known. “What is the greatest commandment of them all?” Jesus is asked.

But it is not an easy, slam-dunk of a question.

 

Scholars of the Hevrew faith tell us that there are 613 commandments in the Torah – the scriptures as Jesus knew them.

 

That's a lot to remember, to try to fllow, or not violate, every day.

 

So Jesus boils it down: there are 2, that if you follow them, you'll have all the others covered.

1)                   Love God with all your heart, all your being, all your mind.

2)                  Love you neighbor as you do yourself.

 

Love. Sounds simple. Just love.

But it's not simple at all.

 

Love God with all your being.

Well, how do we do that?

How do we tell if we are doing that? What does it look like? Isn't this pretty much something in our heads? How do we know if we're getting it right?

 

Well, maybe number 2 is the answer to that.

Love your neighbor – like you love yourself.

Now, that gets us out of our heads and to something tangible. Loving other people. That's something we can see. Maybe we can even measure that.

 

So how can we tell is we are loveing our neighbor?

One way of measuring is to consider what love is not.

            And we jump to what most consider to be the opposite of love: hate.

From a human psychology point of view – there's a fine line between love and hate.

Relationships going sour lead us to this conclusion. Once in love, and now hate fills the room.

 

There are similarities, that make us think there is just a ribbon of line between them:

            both have emotion, energy, intensity.

We can see that when we talk of individual relationships. But when we take this line to large-scale operations, though, we see that there are people who are loving people, and then there are people who hate.

Love groups vs. Hate groups.

 

Well, hate groups have emotion, energy, intensity. But do “love groups”?

And just where are these “love groups” anyway? How do we find one?

 

You would think that religion, Christianity in particular, for us, would be a “love group”.

 

But we know that is not always so. And knowing this shows us just how complicated this Greatest and 2nd Greatest Commandment thing is.

It seems pretty easy to know if a group is a hate group. We are less sure if our group is a love group.

 

I think it may be because it's not a fine line that separates the two, but a wide street. And that filling that gap in between is indifference.

Indifference is something lacking emotion, energy, and intensity.

But indifference is easy. It's comfortable. Undemanding.

And a lot of people end up there. Not in a Hate group. But also not in a Love Group.

 

Too many Christians tumble into this gap. Indifference. Not caring very deeply. Staying in comfort zones.

 

But that doesn't fulfill these greatest commandments.

That doesn't get us to what Jesus asks of us. It doesn't make us followers of Christ.

 

Indifference is not loving your neighbor. And it's not loving God.