Sermon October 29, 2017 – Pentecost 25A
Gospel of Matthew 22:34-46
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a
question to test him. 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.”
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked
them this question: 42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son
is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them,
“How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, 44 ‘The
Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies
under your feet”’? 45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his
son?” 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day
did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Not long ago, I had the opportunity of making a pastoral
visit to a person once associated with St. Paul’s, but moved out
of the area. I’d heard that she was going through a difficult
time, so I telephoned. She graciously welcomed me into her
home, and we enjoyed a splendid time together.
Two days after my visit, I received a package in the mail.
That dear person sent me a generous gift, a book with her
blessings. The book is written by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop
Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams. The book is entitled, The
Book of Joy, Lasting Happiness In A Changing World.
In the book, included in a conversation with Archbishop
Tutu, the Dahli Lama states: “Material values cannot give us
peace of mind. So we really need to focus on our inner values,
our true humanity. Only this way can we have peace of mind –
and more peace in our world…
He continued: “I feel there is a big contradiction. There are
seven billion human beings and nobody wants to have problems
or suffering, but there are many problems and much suffering,
most of our own creation (like violence and war). Why?
Something is lacking. As one of the seven billion human
beings, I believe everyone has the responsibility to develop a
happier world. We need, ultimately, to have a greater concern
for others’ well-being. In other words, kindness or
compassion, which is lacking now… We must look inside.”
In our reading from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus in once again
accosted by religious zealots who want to trip him up. They
want Jesus to expose himself as a fraud – and so save their own
reputations and delight in their religious superiority. But Jesus
was masterful at responding to challenges concerning religion
He was asked: “What is the greatest commandment?” We
must recall that besides the Ten Commandments, there are 613
other commandments in Judaism. They all have to do with our
relationship with God, with others and acceptable behavior.
As a response, Jesus choose a quote from the Book of
Deuteronomy 5:6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
And, Jesus added a second commandment as inseparable
from the first. This commandment comes from the Book of
Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge
against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as
yourself: I am the Lord.” Ancient Rabbis put it in similar
words: “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor.”
This opportunity allowed Jesus to encapsulate not only
God’s Law for all people, but also his ministry. Jesus’ life and
ministry centered on a loving relationship with God and
compassion for others, while drawing people into their own life-
changing relationship with God.
The love that God has for us and that we are to have for
God and others is described in the Christian New Testament as
agape. Agape love can be translated loving-kindness. It is love
filled with generosity, compassion, kindness and patience. It is
love that is enduring. This is the love we are commanded to
share – just as God so generously shares divine love with us in
many ways, especially through the life, teachings, death and
resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Today we celebrate The Path of Gratitude and our Grateful
The renown German theologian, pastor and martyr,
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote: “In ordinary life, we hardly realize
that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is
only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
Gratitude allows us a deep awareness of God’s incredible
love. Gratitude offers us the path to loving God with all our
being and our neighbors as our self. Gratitude helps us to tap
into our true humanity.
I agree with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu and the
premise of their book. But this is my thinking and articulation,
not theirs. Joy comes from exuding our energy. Joy comes
from exuding our energy of focus, generosity, compassion and
kindness on others. And, gratitude opens the possibility of joy.
Our Path of Gratitude and Grateful Giving open the
possibilities for joy to fill us as individuals, our faith
community, and those whose lives we touch through our varied
Even though secular society diminishes the importance of
the Church, the Church plays an indispensable role in this world.
The Church is not an organization like the many secular
organizations that you and I value and do good work in our
No, the Church is not an organization. The Church is a
Community, the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is
integral in connecting people with God and God’s children of
every race and nation for the mission of sharing God’s life-
giving, redeeming love.
You and I are part of this mission. We play vital roles in
revealing God’s love in this world. We teach children that God
values them as God’s own, we hold the hands of those hurting
and dying, we advocate for justice, we empower the
marginalized by providing food, clothing, and opportunities.
We tell God’s love story through Jesus. We listen, support,
challenge, laugh, give, cry, forgive and serve.
This Community of the Body of Christ here at St. Paul’s
wouldn’t be the same without you. Your time, talents & skills,
and money don’t just provide for staff, building maintenance,
No! Your time, talents & skills, and money build the Body
of Christ in this Community and propels us on our mission as
we touch lives with God’s healing, compassionate, generous,
and patient love.
As we commit our lives to the Path of Gratitude and
Grateful Giving of our time, talents & skills and money, the
commandments of loving God and our neighbors will come
alive in us. We will be people with joy exuding from our hearts,
and we will impact many lives inside our walls and outside our
walls with God’s life-giving love.
God bless you! And, God bless this Community of the
Body of Christ and our mission here at St. Paul’s. Amen.