Matthew 22:36-40 (NRSV)
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Today’s scripture comes from Matthew; a book written between 70-90 AD. Matthew is the first Gospel book of the New Testament. It was placed there not because it was written first but because it emphasized ‘kingdom.’
Kingdom of God. Kingdom of Heaven. The term ‘Kingdom” was used more in Matthew than in any other book… every story, parable presented to describe kingdom. Kingdom is like…. a vineyard – a banquet – and notice….everyone is invited. Kingdom is a party where all are welcome. In the Lord’s Prayer it says…. Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven… This is good news my friends. This means you and I can manifest Kingdom right here, right now in community through our welcome and love.
Love God. Love Neighbor. Love Self.
Perhaps you remember grade school where we were taught about the Solar System. All the planets – Saturn, Earth, Mars…. Pluto … all in community with each other, all held in tension with each other. Seemingly each suspended in space – balance with one another.
Did you know that Pluto got kicked out?
It happened Jan 2012. One of those big wig science types; in a meeting in Prague demoted it to an Asteriod. He Said it was the wrong size; not big enough; lacked the things other Planets had. So they kicked Pluto out.
That had to be a hard day for Pluto. Being rejected and written out of the solar system family? He was kicked to the curb.
I would imagine he felt sad. Heart broken. Less than worthy – a reject. I bet some of us here know what it feels like to feel rejected; kicked to the curb? I bet some of us here know what it’s like to be written out of the family; knocked off the team, fired, sidelined and berated.
We all know what it feels like to be Pluto.
I bet Pluto got pissed. I wonder if he turned some of his pain onto himself? Maybe started taking more risks? Like maybe he thought his life mattered less or that life had become unbearable without medicating his way through it?
Yeah…I bet he turned some of his pain inward; onto himself and the world around him. I bet there were times where the day wouldn’t go by without him yelling back, raging against self and the world…..
“Where are you God? Look at what they did to me? I am such a loser. No one loves me…”
And Jesus too… Knowing his death would come at the hands of those he taught, fed and healed? Where rage and anger would surely endure if it were us… But the words for his fate were….
For God so loved the world….
Love. Today’s scripture tells us to Love God; hold no one and no-thing above our love for God. Love.
Our scripture today tells us to love others as we love ourselves and in John it says to love-as God loves us….
Love God. Love Neighbor. Love Self. These three are interwoven. Braided, interdependent – the essence of Kingdom.
Love God. Love Neighbor. Love Self.
Today though… It seems that love is watered down word. Used too freely? Used in so many situations its meaning is lost? The word is thrown around like jam on toast; thick and buttery but lacking any real substance. From media to the streets…
We even need to be careful when people say they love us. It may be lies. It may be to own or control us not really help. But God’s love is different. Thank God for God’s love. God’s love is chosen for us; not based on what we do or who we are but because of who’s we are …. We are God’s.
We are the object of God’s love. God, through Christ, has bound himself to us. Hasaq is the Hebrew word that means tethered. God’s love is attached to us.
God claimed Israel and us as His. Because we are love able? No, because he chooses to. It matters not if we are rich or poor, thin or fat, gay or straight, young or old – a planet or asteroid; we each are the object of God’s never-ending, always enduring love.
No matter the Pluto-ed moments of our lives; and believe me we all have had them….God will not let you go. God is handcuffed to you. Everywhere you are, God is, with you in Love and God owns the key. There is no scientist or one with power that can come along and kick us to the curb; there is no rejection we can live or mistake we can make the places outside God’s love. We are forever yoked, tethered, to God’s love.
Yes! Junkyard wrecks and showroom models we share equally in God’s love. We are all loved by God; the difficulty however, is living and basking in the knowledge of this.
Somehow… From my words to your ears it moves… If you are anything like me…. The “buts” move-in. I start saying things like…
But I am a drunk. But I’ve served time. I’ve done things; bad things…. Surely I do not have or deserve God’s love. That love talked about is not for me.
Our goodness can’t win God’s love. Jesus didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. (Ephesians 5:2)
Our goodness can’t win God’s love; nor can our badness lose it. But we can resist it.
Having been Pluto-ed, kicked out and around so often it’s understandable that we would. We can be skittish.
But God’s love knows no boundaries. God’s love is everywhere and in everything if we awaken to it. When one of us give to another; when we help each other. It is in the food shared and the blankets handed. It is when our eyes meet, seeing and accepting one another. When we’re not treated each other like we’re invisible.
It is in the flowers and the sound of laughter. God’s love is all around us hoping to gain our attention; hoping to become the apple of our eye. Longing to be at our core, trusting and receiving it so that we may see that we belong and become whole.
My prayer is for us all to feel the wholeness and grace of God – latch onto our insides the vastness of God’s love. Rise to its heights, plumb its depths – experience it. Wade into the deep waters of God’s endless love.
Where others refuse you; God claims you. Let the voice of God, the universe say…”You are part of my plan.
Love God. Love Neighbor. Love Self. Amen.
Sermon delivered at Open Cathedral at Mission & 16th 10/23/2014 as part of SF Night Ministry. Under the Pastoral Leadership of the Rev Monique Ortiz I was invited to deliver the sermon while taking part in the evenings worship where all are invited and fed in service of www.sfnightministry.org who is celebrating their 50 year of service.