My name is Jim and it has been 34 days since my last post. I can’t believe how quickly a month goes and how time-consuming the season of Advent and Christmas can be. I wanted to drop you a quick post on the new year and the gist of the message that I gave to start it.
A new year calls for a new commitment – this is common place and almost ritualistic for many…it might be for you as well. This year I hope that many of us will take up the opportunity to make a commitment regarding our faith and spiritual practices.
In the gospel according to Mark, Jesus was asked what commandment is foremost. He replied quoting a prayer and law. “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NRSV)
The prayer is called The Shema. It was a Jewish confession of faith and was recited in the morning and in the evening. One commentator noted that it was a prayer for men and boys over the age of 12. It was not a prayer for women, children, slaves or foreigners. Contextually this make sense for Jesus day and age since men had all the power and responsibility. It would be a reminder for them to heed and obey God’s laws especially in their duty to serve and care for the marginalized of their society. But the only way to do this was to find yourself totally devoted to God and those around you – there was no room for self-promotion or your own agenda. The prayer was a call for abandonment of self so that God could use every aspect of you for His purposes. The portrait of love for God is complete – it requires every fiber of your being, all of your will, and the fullness of your mental capabilities in order to sacrifice to God and neighbor. What a challenge and what an invitation.
In our modern context though, this is an invitation for everyone who is of power and possession in our world. New Testament theology teaches that we are all equal in the grace of God. Paul says that all distinctions and classifications fall away under the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore if we are equal, then we are all equally responsible for loving God and our neighbor.
Moment of confession – I have a long ways to go before I fully love God and others. How about you?
But rather than simply fall into the Eeyore response to life, I plan to view this year with hope and do something to participate with God so that I might get a little closer to His vision for my life. Here is the invitation – investigate one or more of the following three areas:
KNOW – take the time to know God in a more intimate way. I used the analogy of dating God like you would date a potential life partner. You invest time in a relationship so that you can get to know each other on a deep, intimate and personal level. In order to fall madly in love with God you have to spend time getting to know God. The main ways to do this is reading God’s story, prayer, and meditation.
LEARN – intentional faith development is critical to understanding how we fit in God’s global narrative and mission. People typically don’t join a cause until they have learned about it. God wants you to learn through small groups, Sunday School, or study groups so that you will come to understand the heart of God and join in His cause to save the world.
SERVE – the best way to show people that you love them is to spend time serving them. Not in an unhealthy or belittling way but in genuine love and compassion – especially for those who are struggling to make it and live. There is ample opportunity for us to give an hour or more per month to meeting the needs of the poor and oppressed in our city. Get involved in a mission project that will bring you face to face with people who are in need. And may the love of God come forth through you and be showered upon the least among us.
It is a new year filled with possibility and opportunity. Whatever community of faith you belong to I hope and pray that you will make steps in one or more of these areas so that you might grow in your love for God and your neighbor.
Blessings for the journey.