Prayer Reflecting the Lections:
We praise you, LORD for your great mercy in Christ Jesus, our high priest who gave himself for us--once and for all. Through your Son Jesus you call us to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In our weakness we do not know how to love as we ought. Teach us, God of love, hear our prayer. We praise and thank you for those who strive for peace and justice in our world. Bless their endeavors so that the senseless killing might cease, that the earth may be cleared of hunger, poverty, injustice and war and that we may start to love one another as we love ourselves. Amen.
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The Litmus Test of Love
a sermon based on Mark 12:28-34
by Rev. Frank Schaefer
Once again Jesus was put to the test by a scribe, an expert in the law
of Moses. Some scholars have suggested that it was a tricky, even
dangerous question, given the predominance of the so-called purity code
in first century Judea.
The purity code was a means by which the status quo of society was
upheld in Jesus' days; it was the glue which kept the patriarchal,
social and economic structures in place, including the role of women and
children (mostly viewed as property of men) and slavery. The root
problem was the political corruption and economic imperialism that left
the vast majority of the people in Judea in a state of subsistent
poverty and without social security.
The law of Moses and the elaborate codex of the purity law was used as a
means to keep the poverty stricken masses at bay. It was used as a means
to reinforce your place in society in order to prevent uprisings and
revolutions. The message of many religious leaders of Jesus' time was:
keep the law of God and God will care for you.
Now, we know that Jesus understood his mission as bringing good news to
the poor, and his message was not just spiritual, it had political
dimensions as well. Jesus advocated for a policy of justice that
emphasized God's compassion and love over the purity laws. This surfaces
especially when Jesus turned over the merchants' tables in the temple
and when he said to the rich young ruler: give your riches to the poor.
As a politician he would have gained those riches on the backs of the
poor (while keeping all 10 commandments, mind you) so Jesus appealed to
his compassion for the plight of those he ruled.
In other words, placing one of God's commandments above the others, at
the expense of others, was a revolutionary idea that could be seen as
challenging not only the religious traditions, but also the status quo.
And that's exactly what Jesus did when he answered the scribe's
question. When Jesus put one law (or actually two laws) above others he
was treading on thin ice
. . .
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