A Heart of Love
October 3, 2021 anno Domini
Every year we take one Sunday to thank the Lord for the work of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League – the LWML. Since 1942 this group has served in the Missouri Synod supporting global missions through their monthly mite offerings. In this current 2-year convention cycle they will support 28 mission projects around the world with over 2.1 million dollars in grants. Our District LWML is supporting 12 missions with $140,000. Thanks be to God.
This year’s theme for LWML Sunday is found on your bulletin cover – Our heart in His hands – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly. 1 Peter 4:8. Heart and love – those words fit the LWML, and they also bring us into today’s Gospel reading. Jesus says, (read vs. 37-40)
The reading starts with the Pharisees. While we picture them as the villains of the Gospels the people of Jesus’ day had incredible respect for them. They were the pastors, the religious leaders, the District President. We look on them as villainous because we know what’s going on behind the scenes – like in today’s Gospel.
Jesus had just silenced the Sadducees – they were the liberals. They didn’t believe in miracles and didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. Jesus proved the resurrection to them from the Old Testament and that silenced them. At this the Pharisees rejoiced because they were the conservatives. They preserved the traditions of the Old Testament and even added a few hundred for good measure. If Jesus took down the Sadducees and the Pharisees took down Jesus, they would really have some boasting rites.
So, they schemed and came up with a question no man among them had ever answered, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Like pastors at a conference, they had debated this question for hours. Was worshipping on the Sabbath the most important? Was making sacrifices for sin most important? Or perhaps the command to circumcise – after all that marked you as one of Abraham’s descendants.
So, if you didn’t know Jesus’ answer, the right answer, and you were in a debate, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Which commandment upsets you the most when other people break it? As a pastor I’m a third commandment guy. As a father I’m big on the fourth commandment – as a son not so much. When I’m wearing my collar, I’m really good on the second commandment. When I’m in my garage and I just hammered my thumb or started something on fire, well, then I’ve misused the Lord’s name. If you’re a hard worker, you like the seventh commandment because those who aren’t working are stealing. If you remain married, you’re a fan of the sixth commandment.
We like the commandments that we think we can easily keep – that make us look better than someone else. As the Pharisees debated this amongst themselves, they probably did the same thing.
Jesus destroys all our favorites with one word – Love. Love God. Love your neighbor. And this isn’t our fuzzy definition of love. You can say you love God, but you might also love being in the woods or watching your kid’s hockey game on Sunday morning.
Love the Lord your God with all. With all your heart. Your heart is the source of your desires. Do you pursue God with as much heart as you pursue your work, your wealth, your pleasure, your children’s success? With all your soul. Your soul is your emotions, your faith. Is God your greatest joy? Your highest pleasure? Your peace and happiness no matter what happens? With all your mind. Your mind is your thoughts – are you daydreaming right now? Is everything you desire and do guided by God’s Word believing whatever He gives you is good and sufficient.
That would be enough to silence us and the Pharisees, but Jesus delivers another hammer blow. Love your neighbor. Not just your neighborly neighbors – but love your neighbor as yourself. How do you love yourself? You seek your good. You hide your faults. You love yourself even when you aren’t lovely – when you’ve done evil and sinned. When there’s something you want you’ll work with all your might to get it.
Do you love your neighbor that way? Do you seek his good no matter how much work it takes? Do you hide his faults? Love him when he isn’t lovely. Just think of all the gimmicks at work in our society so we love one another. Someone is injured in a accident or struck by tragedy and there is a fund-raiser meal, or bingo, or an auction where we are “bribed” into loving by being offered some little token in return. No one needs to bribe you to love yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself.
If I’ve damaged your self-esteem – good. If you need to confess you’re loveless – good. If, like the Pharisees you don’t have anything to say for yourself — good. If you wish I would stop preaching – bad, because if Jesus left you where you are then all you would have is sin, sorrow, fear and misery. Jesus doesn’t want to leave you or the Pharisees there, but He needs to take you there so you hear the better Word.
That better Word is found in Jesus’ question to the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is He?” The Pharisees rightly answered, “The Son of David.” Then Jesus asks, based on Psalm 110, “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his Son?” With that question Jesus takes their eyes off the commandments by which they fail to be Godly, and directs them to the Christ who is God.
King David was promised that his son – a male descendent – would sit on His throne forever. But David calls this son also His Lord. Who is both a son of David – of the house and lineage of David and the God who was David’s Lord? Jesus is.
Do you want to know perfect love? Look away from your heart to the heart of God. Look to Jesus. Jesus loved His Father with all His heart, soul, and mind. He always desired what His Father desired. He desired You. He delighted in His Fathers Word so when His Father said, “Go and save my people, Jesus came and saved you.” His Father’s thoughts and ways were His thoughts and way. So Jesus went His Father’s scandalous way – glory in suffering, life in death, the greatest becoming the least, the Master who serves, the God who dies for His people. Jesus always loved His neighbor more than Himself. He loved the Pharisees. He wanted them to look away from their laws to their Lord – to Him. He loved them enough to tell them the truth which would anger them so much they would kill Him. Yet, His death was the very thing that would forgive them of His murder. Perfect love is Jesus’ love for you. He loved you to death and to life again.
A long time ago there was a camp song entitled “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Will they? Do they? Does the world see in us the love that Christ has given us? In our love for God above all things? In loving our neighbors as ourselves? Our love will never save us, Christ alone saves us. We will never love like Christ, but as our Savior He expects us to reflect it, to be a dim light of love in this dark world. Do you know how Jesus helps us love? By loving us, by not holding back the hard word of the Law or the precious medicine of the Gospel, by being here week after week in His body and blood, by giving us more forgiveness than we have sin, and by putting neighbors in our path who need love. As the bulletin cover says, “Our heart is in His hands and that’s reason to “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.