25th Sunday After Pentecost, November 22, 2020
– Luke 23:33-43
– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –
Why do we do this? We follow a lesson plan of biblical readings subscribed by the World Council of Churches that repeats itself every three years. And the hope is that congregations will become familiar with some of the most important and thought-provoking biblical passages.
Starting the New Year, I’d like to offer an opportunity for you, the members and friends of Good Shepherd, to share your questions, thoughts and insights in an informal monthly or biweekly Bible Study following worship. You may notice that I sometimes have mixed feelings about the Bible readings on which I preach, and would appreciate whatever point of view you have to offer.
So, what’s the point in continually reading and hearing these scripture passages? First of all, each passage of scriptures may incite questions that cannot be fully answered in a single sermon. And each sermon may, in fact, raise more questions. So, having several chances to explore matters of scripture are beneficial for both the preacher and, hopefully, the parishioner.
Secondly, like any important message, it bears repeating and applying to different circumstances and contexts of our lives until we finally discover that moment of epiphany when the message is embraced and becomes a part of us. How often do we remind our children of important things they forget or neglect to do? And how often are we reminded of important things we forget or neglect to do?
When such reminders come from loved ones, it’s their way of letting us know not to take them or their priorities for granted. So, let the ones you love, through words of affection, know how much they are loved. But words aren’t everything. So, take out the garbage, sweep the floors, wash the dishes, make dinner, clean up after yourself and your lover as a way of showing that you’re willing to share the load of caring for each other.
Jesus also didn’t wish to be taken for granted. “If you love me,” he said, “you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Now a commandment commonly comes from one who has authority over us, whose law, if disobeyed, will punish us, possibly causing us much harm, even death. How can we love anyone who wields such power over us unless we willfully entrust such power to that person?
Jesus said that if we love him, we will keep his commandments, which are to love God with our whole being and others as we wish to be loved. This is a love that goes beyond mutual affection; beyond the preference and prejudice of religious piety; beyond race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and nationality; beyond the boundaries and dictates that we, as of yet, thousands of years beyond the origin of these commandments, are still unwilling to accept.
The commandments to love God and one another without exception reflects where we want to be rather than where we are. Yet until such love becomes a heart-felt priority over worldly priorities, God will remain an inconceivable notion, and Christ a king not of this world.
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us,” said John. (1st John 4:12) This is why we do this. We repeat this ongoing cycle of biblical mandates until we finally encounter that moment of epiphany when the mandate becomes the heart-felt priority we embrace as God among us and within us; when paradise, with Christ as our king, becomes our quest in this world. Amen.