Matthew 22:33-40 CEB
Now when the crowd heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
A reflection for you:
I like baseball. I'm really the only one in my house that does. As a Kansas City native, I am watching the World Series this year. True, the Giants destroyed the Royals perfect post-season record in game one, but the Royals destroyed their own dry spell just making it to the World Series. Plus, they did come back to win game two last night. I can't complain.
In baseball, I like the "three strikes and you're out" rule. It's simple; easy to understand. If only the Pharisees had baseball back in biblical times. Before verse 33 in our scripture today, the Pharisees had struck out three times. They wanted to trick Jesus. They wanted to make him fall for a trap that would get him killed. They should have considered themselves out, and given up. No, instead, they try one last time. Maybe they just fouled that third hit, so they had one more go at it. There question was deceptively sinister. "What is the greatest commandment?" It was sinister because there really wasn't a good answer. Choosing one commandment over the other would negate the other commandments. Like he had just done, he could have given an easy out: "They are all equally important. No commandment is greater than another." Instead, I believe throws the Pharisees a pitch straight down the middle.
Instead he says, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself." This actually is all ten commandments. The first five commandments are related to worship of God, and the second five are related to how we treat one another. In giving the teachers of the law the answer in this way, he gives them ammunition. It wasn't the ammunition they wanted, a way to destroy Jesus. It was the ammunition they needed, a way to destroy their own destructive behavior. The answer is love. The greatest commandment is love. Love God. Love self. Love others. Let go of these dark and unhealthy attitudes and love.
Now a personal reflection:
Normally, this is the point where I would pull out my journal and write. You would be surprised what I journal out instead of sharing. (It's a healthy process for anyone who openly writes online. So many opinions are really better left between the writer and God.) Today is different, and it is different because it needs to exist on something other than a journal page.
I'm going to participate in the NaNoWriMo this year. (National November Writing Month) Normally, I wouldn't see a need to openly announce this, but this year I've decided to write out my experience at my ill fated call three years ago. Depending how it turns out, it might just be added to the stacks of written text, or I might seek publication. It really matters how the process goes. As a minister, I would only be able to publish if I could maintain a certain confidentiality between myself and the experience. If I can do that, I want to share my road to healing with others.
After meditating on the text this week, I truly believe Jesus was attempting to help the Pharisees. He was helping the very people who would get him crucified using the most disarming weapon we have: love. Therefore, before I can write a single word for NaNoWriMo, there is something I must write publically first. It's something I have journaled and prayed. Now it needs to be openly said:
- - -
To my previous call,
I've forgiven you. I forgave you when I didn't believe it. I forgave you in the car on the way to a retreat. I forgave you in my darkest nights when nothing was there but God and myself. I do not see you as spiteful or ill-intentioned. I see you as broken. It was in your brokenness you broke me. I cannot be angry or vengeful in that. I can only be sad you haven't found healing.
I am also sorry. I'm sorry it didn't work out. I'm sorry the type of minister I am was not the right fit for the type of church you are. I'm sorry it ended with people leaving the church. I personally talked with some of the families and suggested they stay at the church. They couldn't do it. I know they are ultimately where God wants them to be, so I'm happy for them.
As I have found peace and healing over the past three years, I hope you find the same.
Rev. Melissa Fain