My sermon for today was based on Mark 12:28-34.
To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.
If you google "You had one job", you will be treated to some pretty hysterical examples of people who literally had one job to do and cocked it up magnificently.
In the Gospel passage for today, Jesus tells us what our one job is, and it demoralizing how 2000 years later, we still cock it up with equal magnificence.
The problem is that the "one job" is simple, but not easy. The job is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love you neighbour as yourself.
The setting is this: a scribe, who for once is looking for Jesus' wisdom rather than trying to trap him asks Jesus, "Which commandment is the first of all?" (meaning which is the most important commandment).
As we are all aware, there are 10 commandments, and the scribe is likely interested in knowing which one Jesus thinks is the most important. Rather than respond with any of the 10 commandments, Jesus actually states the foundation of the 10 commandments: love God and love your neighbour.
Think about it: if we loved God and loved our neighbour perfectly, we would never have had to be told not to murder them, lie to them or steal from them. But because we are not perfect, we had to write that down.
Kinda sad, huh?
The reason why I say this commandment is simple but not easy is that the commandment is simple to understand, but difficult to live into. We need to start by asking the questions: How can I love God? How can I love my neighbour?
When I worked with addicts, one exercise that was always interesting was to ask what they wanted out of life. Invariably, the answer was "I just want to be happy". Well, doesn't everybody? The problem is that my happiness looks much different from yours. For some, happiness means being financially independent. For others, money is not important. For some it is being surrounded by family and friends. For others it is solitude and alone time. For some people it is traveling the world. For others it is being a homebody.
How we love God and our neighbour is as various as our definition of happiness.
But however we do it, this love should move us to action. For example, if you love your children, you don't let them play in traffic with a loving look on your face. No, you protect them and keep them safe. If you love your spouse, you tell them and you do things to show them. You don't just keep it to yourself and hope they get the picture.
Loving God and loving our neighbour means that we are moved to act, that we are moved to do things that demonstrate love to God, God's creation and God's people. We don't just sit back and watch it all go to hell with a loving look on our face, hoping that everyone gets the picture.
I propose that we each need to find our vocational love. Vocation is not just for the clergy, we are each and every one of us called to contribute to the betterment of God's creation, and they ways in which we do that are plentiful. Perhaps we need to look at volunteer work, maybe we need to help organize church events, maybe we need to put on a food or clothing drive, perhaps we need to sponsor a refugee family, maybe we need to start a community garden, maybe we need to form a prayer/meditation/support group...I could go on forever.
The reason I say this is that a number of people have approached me lately complaining about a "blah" phase in their faith. Let me be the first to say this is totally normal and healthy. Faith is not nor can it be a 24/7 laugh riot. A life of faith, like any other, is a serious of peaks and valleys. There are days when you are into it, and days when you are not.
When it starts to become a concern is when it endures for several weeks or months. I see faith like any other relationship or endeavour: we have all had jobs we liked, but there are just some days when we wake up and are just not into. We might be deeply in love with our spouses, but there are days when we would just love to be left alone. If this goes on for several weeks or months, this might signal the need for change.
Maybe we have gotten so good at our job that the necessary element of challenge is absent. So we need to try our hand at new challenges. Maybe we have gotten so comfortable in our romantic relationship that we are taking our partner for granted. So we need to break new ground somehow.
Faith is like that. It gets dull. It gets repetitive. It gets routine. But when this happens, this might be the ideal excuse to try something different. What is that one thing you always wanted your church to do? Offer to spearhead it? What is that one ministry you have always wanted to be a part of? Ask to be on the team.
Faith needs to break new ground, and we need to make the effort in order to show love to God and to our neighbour.
I pray that you can do that today.