When I saw the gospel passage for this morning (MT 22:34-40) I thought, “How can I say anything new and inspiring about one of the most familiar texts in Scripture?” We’ve all heard the sermons that tell us it isn’t about loving our neighbor as much as ourselves; that would be a disaster in many cases, given the lack of self-esteem in some of us. The implication there is that we actually have to love ourselves too. Lately an interpretation that has come to prominence is that I need to love my neighbor as if s/he were really, actually myself – because we are all one in God. I can accept all of that but what makes me move from theory to practice is an experience of that depth of loving.
In our religious congregation (called by our founder “The Congregation of the Great Love of God”) we often can be heard saying that where one of us is, all of us are. Well, today I am proud to say that I have a walking, talking visceral experience of that truth in what I know will be an outpouring of love of mammoth proportions. Yesterday morning all four of us were in our kitchen commenting on the terrible flood event in Louisiana. Susan wondered about our Sister Chris Pologa who lives and ministers in Baton Rouge. “I planned to call her today!” I said as I prepared to leave for a meeting. Susan offered to take that over. By the time I had returned home we learned (by email since phone service is spotty) that half of the 500 students in the school where she ministers and 30 of the teachers had lost everything. By dinner time we had a plan of how best to contribute and were all thinking of what more we could do. I am confident that this process is rippling throughout our entire province and that the people of Baton Rouge will benefit greatly by our love for God and neighbor. So let me close with those familiar words as I am certain that we all have experiences on which to draw this morning that will solidify and deepen the impact on each of us.
…”Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Emphasis mine)