Pastor Sherry’s Message for October 25, 2020

Scriptures: Matt. 22:34-46; Deut 34:1-12; Ps 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thes. 2:1-8

You hear a lot of talk today about people who claim they are spiritual but are not really interested in committing to Jesus. I hear this from the young people who spend 30-60 days at Honey Lake Clinic. They come in admitting they have tried everything they know to help themselves overcome their addictions, or their hopeless depressions, or their paralyzing anxieties. Through the testimonies and examples of staff, we tend to be able to convince them that Jesus loves them and is able to heal them. Where we have less success is in persuading them to join a body of believers–to support their newfound faith–when they return home. You see, they can believe Jesus loves them, but they doubt they will experience love from His body, the Church.

They look around at us and say, “Hypocrites!”   Unfortunately, they see us as judgmental, critical of them and of their lifestyles.  Sometimes I think they are so sure we will reject them that they reject us first.  While we may be able to win them over to our God because He loves them and wants to heal & bless them—even though they cannot see Him, we do much less well at talking them into getting involved with other followers of Christ—who they can see.

Remember last week I encouraged us to pray for those political persons we find ourselves hating or at least severely disliking.  This is tough to do, isn’t it?  It’s not our natural inclination. We’d rather hold onto our resentments and our anger.  This is exactly what nonbelievers hold against us.  I have shared with you before that G.K. Chesterton, the noted British writer, said 100 years ago, Jesus…tells us to love our neighbors.  Elsewhere the Bible tells us Jesus said we should love our enemies.  This is because, generally speaking, they are the same people.

So, how exactly do we go about loving the seeminglyunlovable?  Those who have offended us or harmed us?  Our lessons today speak to this point:

First of all, Jesus instructs us on the primacy of love in Matthew 22:34-46The Pharisees are now colluding with the Sadducees to try to trap Jesus.  This is like a coalition of conservative Republicans and Green New Deal Democrats, a very unlikely coalition.  An expert in the Law asks Jesus (v.36), Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?  Now bear in mind they taught there were as many as 613 commandments, the original 10 plus others.  Hoping to trip Him up, the Pharisee is saying “What’s the most important one?  Give me the bottom line.  What’s our takeaway?  Come on, Man, let’s cut to the chase (and bear in mind that we will make a huge deal of the ones You omit!)   

So Jesus, who is great at getting to the bottom line, says two things matter most in this life.   Citing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, Jesus ties them together as the greatest commandment.  Deuteronomy 6:5àLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  And Leviticus 19:18àlove your neighbor as yourself.  We tend to believe these two laws were created by Christ, but God the Father set them out early on in the Torah.

Then Jesus politely shuts them up by tossing them a riddle from Psalm 110:  If the Messiah is David’s son (descendant), how can He also be David’s master?  This is for them an unanswerable question, somewhat like, Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?  From this side of the Cross, we know the answer is “Jesus is Lord of all,” including King David.  What the observing crowd understands is that Jesus has bested them—again–at their own game.

 As Christ followers, we are to love God above all things, and love our neighbors—even the ones we don’t like– as ourselves.  This means we are to begin with a healthy love for ourselves.  I’m not talking about an arrogant or narcissistic self-love, nor do I mean a self-love so self-effacing as to appear we hate or loath ourselves.  As they say in Live Oak, Florida, “You can’t get back from where you ain’t been! “  We have to love ourselves in order to be able to love others.  Jesus is saying, we are to love God and others because God the Father has commanded us to do so.  We are to love God and others because Jesus seconded the motion. 

Finally, we are to love God and others because this is what wins the world to Christ!  Remember in world-wide plagues in the late 100’s and late 200’s, the Church grew because Christians remained to help nurse those who were sick, while other religious and political leaders headed to the hills to save themselves.  Christians also rescued infants abandoned on the city trash-heaps and raised them.  Their pagan neighbors were so impressed by the selfless love involved in both actions that they decided to become Christ-followers themselves.

Now, let’s look at our other Scripture lessons to see if there are hints as to how we demonstrate the primacy of love:

Deuteronomy 43:1-12  describes the death of Moses, at 120 years old.

Some scholars say this final chapter ought to be the first chapter of Joshua.  We know that Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—the Torah (Law); but how could he write this last chapter describing his own death?  Perhaps Moses was being prophetic?  Or maybe his successor, Joshua—who was not there—recorded what God told him about the event.  Afterall, verse 9 says Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid hands on him.

Verse 6 tells us, He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.  Who is the HE who accomplished the burial?  God.   God the Father probably had His angels perform it, while He presided—what a funeral!   Some scholars say, He [Moses] died by a kiss of God.  The Israelites then honored Moses by grieving for him for 30 days.

Why did God see to his burial?   Verse 10 tells us, Since then [until Jesus], no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.

Because Moses loved God and served God, our God was with him until the end of his life and appears to have ushered him into the one beyond.  I believe that If we love and serve Him with this kind of dedication, He will welcome us too into eternity with open arms!

            Psalm 90:1-6, 13-1 7 tells us that grasping the concept of eternity is really beyond the capacity of our earthly intellect.  Seriously, think about it for long and it will give you a headache.  Same result if we try to understand how God always was, is now, and will be forever.  Moses wrote this Psalm in about 1400 BC.

Now, having shepherded the children of Israel out of Egypt (1-2 million of them), and learning from God that none of them (except Joshua and Caleb) would enter the Promised Land—due to lack of trust in God to help them conquer the tribes living there—I think it is safe to say that Moses attended a lot of funerals!

He has, as a result, written a Psalm of death.  He lived to be 120, and yet he refers to how brief life is:  He says our lives are like a watch in the night (v.4);  like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered (vv.5-6).  Then he compares our lifespans with God’s: (V.2) …from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.  Literally, in the Hebrew, that means, from vanishing point to vanishing point; from east to west or from the past into the future.  In other words,

                                   [1] Before time was, God is;

                                    [2] When time shall be no more, God still is.

                                    [3] God never was;

                                    [4] There is never a time when God will be;

                                    [5] God simply is (I am who I am).

So, in light of God’s eternity, Moses asks God to (v.12) Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Moses is urging us to remember that we are mortal, and that we make our days count by demonstrating/living out God’s love to others.

            1 Thessalonians 2:1-8àWe make our days count by sharing the Gospel with others.  Sometimes we do this with our words.  But, perhaps more powerfully, we do this by our actions.   Paul says he did not come to the Thessalonians out of self-serving motives, or to earn money.  He did not minister among them to gather prestige, honor, or position.  He came to them out of his love for Christ and Christ’s love for them.  That’s how we make our days count.

We do what God has put before us to do, out of love for Christ and for His people.

God’s View of what’s crucial in this life ought to be ours, right?

The upcoming election next week is certainly very important. However, it is not as important as loving God and loving others.  This week, let’s try to be aware of being a good example of a Christian.  If non-believers were watching you or watching me, would they want to become a follower of Jesus Christ?

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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