Message: 2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
Yesterday afternoon, Epiphany, the church on the corner, reached out to the neighborhood, inviting folks to come celebrate Trunk or Treat. Halloween made its mark here with Epiphany. Thank you to all those who made the day possible and such fun for more than 135 children and adults. On Tuesday, while most of the country will be trick or treating, Christians across the globe will remember October 31, as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Simply, on that memorable day monk, theologian, professor and devoted follower of the faith Martin Luther, fed up with the Roman Catholic church, its hijacking of Christianity, its sale of indulgences to secure salvation, its papal hierarchy alienating the faithful from religious freedom and the study of scripture in a common language, pounded ninety-five theses or criticisms onto the chapel door of the University of Wittenberg in Germany launching the Protestant Reformation, denominational variety, societal change, political shifts and economic renaissance across the continent and into Great Britain.
Jesus, in the story we hear today, teaching the single greatest commandment, establishing his authority, just days before he’s relegated to die on the cross, is initiating a reformation time as well. We can give thanks that Jesus, in his summary of the Law, is taking God’s 613 commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai and consolidating them to one Love Law: “Love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, and Love your Neighbor as Yourself, solidifying for us the hallmark of who we are as reformed Christians.
What does Jesus mean in this summary of the Law, Love God, Love your neighbor, Love yourself? First, before we’re able to love in any other fashion, we’re to love God. Jesus is recollecting the Shema, the great Deuteronomic Law given to Moses where, first we’re called to listen. Listen that the Lord is our God alone; faithful, true, one.
We love God because God first loved us. We love with our every being, our every thought and intention, with our heart’s every desire and emotion, with every strength. What does loving God look like? Loving God is manifested in how we love others. Or as one wise thinker writes: “it’s only when we love God that other people become loveable.” In loving others, we make the effort, we seek out with interest the desires and aspirations of others, we strive to serve others and in so doing, we’re unfolding the company of God as we love our neighbor as the children of God.
Love God, Jesus teaches. Love our neighbor, Jesus reminds us. Love our very selves. As God’s own, we’re required to develop what God has given us. Life in truly loving God and truly loving neighbor is a life of being true to our highest self; not as selfish; but as selfless; a life of self-respect, and honor.
Yesterday, we celebrated the life and ministry of John Lowe, devoted friend to Epiphany and the best liver and lover of the Love Law you’d ever want to meet. John knew the Law; practicing as a lawyer for nearly five decades; and John was a reformer; filing suit against The University of Virginia which led to the university becoming coed in 1972.
But, for many of us, John was the one generous soul who stood patiently, lovingly night after night in the parking lot during the Hypothermia Christmas week, assuring every guest had a ride to the appointed shelter. Often John would say of his humble, selfless giving of time, talent, and treasure: he was simply paving his way to heaven. John, heaven is a better place because you are there good friend.
We’re told, and you’ve heard me say this before, we get a reformation every five hundred years whether we need one or not. In fact, as we GROW to be the church in the 21st century, and faithful folks seek to know God’s love with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind and love their neighbor as themselves we are reforming to be God’s people. As Epiphany, we’re reforming our community and beyond. We serve as reformers is through our giving.
In just a moment, we’ll hear from folks about why we give to the life of Epiphany. Then, immediately following worship, we’ll grab a picnic lunch and take it to the tables in the back of the worship space. While at the tables, we’ll hear from leaders as they speed date through their ministries giving each of us an opportunity to learn more about how we can give to God through the life of Epiphany. At the same time, we’ll receive your pledge commitment envelope. Listen, learn, and then pray over these next weeks.
How do you want to be a reformer in helping God’s church GROW? We’re striving for 100% giving. Perhaps your giving is a dollar a week, or ten dollars a week, our, hopefully, even more. God loves a cheerful giver. You and God work out what your pledge commitment will be. Next week, we’ll continue our celebration with All Saints day, remembering that great cloud of witnesses who have passed onto God’s nearer presence in the past year. Then, on November 12, we’ll offer up to God our pledge promises. We’ll give thanks to God for calling us to be bold, generous and cheerful givers of the gifts God has given us. Our giving reforms God’s world to the fulfillment of the Love Law. Now, let’s hear from some of you…why do you give to the life of Epiphany? Thank you generous and cheerful givers.