Summary: Jesus removes barriers between people and gives us a common ground of love.
Everyone’s Golden Rule
In the name of Jesus Christ, who teaches us to found our lives on love. Amen.
“Do unto others.” This pretty much sums up the Golden Rule. We’ve all heard about it, and to be honest it is a very simple, sensible statement that reflects wisdom in the matters of interpersonal relationships. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” I believe is the full statement. I used to use a more practical variation of it “Do unto others before they do unto you.”
Susan took guitar lessons a few years back from a fellow who is an adherent of the Baha’i faith. The Baha’is, in case you don’t know, assert that there is one God who has made himself known through a progression of different people in different times and places. Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus and Muhammed. The latest is Baha’u’llah, the latest manifestation of God’s Spirit in the world, the founder of the Baha’i faith. The Baha’is came out of what we now call Iran where they’ve been persecuted rather severely for their ‘heresies’ (Iran’s term, not mine), and in many cases sentenced to death.
Susan’s guitar teacher was quite happy to discuss religious doctrinal issues. At one point he presented us with a wall poster which isolated sayings from all the major religions, and many of the minor ones, that elucidated a common theme. This saying is basically the Golden Rule. The purpose of the poster was to emphasize this common ground all the different faiths have in common and thereby support the supposition that all faiths are in fact just different manifestations of the one universal faith. We kept this glass framed poster for at least 5 years, stuffed away in various parts of the house. When we were packing to move up here I finally threw it away saying, quite emphatically. that I’d never, ever have any use for it nor any opportunity to refer to it. How I wish I had it here today!
I don’t plan on spending this morning Baha’i bashing, they get bashed enough, literally. In fact, our world in the 21st century is so much smaller, what with electronic communications and ease of travel that we have no choice but to encounter people from different cultures and religions. And the more we encounter different people, especially if we have to be immersed in their culture or spend a lot of time with them, invariably we find that there are as many similarities as there are differences.
Not so in Jesus’ time. In the 1st century the Jews were a relatively small group surrounded on all sides by ferocious foreigners with strange customs, rituals, beliefs and gods who were poised to consume them at a moment’s notice. As a consequence, the Jews instituted a strict regimen of rules and laws designed to ensure their unique identity as a people.
When we meet Jesus this morning he’s in Jerusalem. At the beginning of chapter eleven Jesus entered the city and it has been one ongoing battle with the makers and keepers of these rules ever since. He’s stormed into the temple and trashed it, he’s refused to divulge the authority under which he speaks. Then he tells the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all the other folk who have come from far and wide for the Passover, the parable of the Tenants. This parable infuriates the chief priests, teachers of the law and the elders because Jesus states unequivocally that the owner of the vineyard, that is God, will come and kill the tenants, that is the aforsaid chief priests, etc and give the vineyard to others, that is Jesus and crew.
So when Jesus encounters a teacher of the law in this morning gospel’s reading, he’s running headlong into opposition, someone with whom he has GREAT differences.
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” the teacher asks him.
“The most important one is this” Jesus continues “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Now wait right there! That’s not a commandment. That’s what Moses said right after reciting the 10 commandments, just before the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan and head into the Promised Land, a land filled with strangers and their foreign gods and their seductive daughters and their powerful armies. Jesus continues to quote Moses “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Well, not quite a direct quote, Moses doesn’t make a distinction between mind and soul, but close enough. And listen to how he talks, Jesus that is,... “Hear O Israel” the opening words to prayer used by rabbis since the 2nd century before Jesus was even born. “The Lord OUR God, the Lord is one.” Jesus is standing firmly in the shoes of the Israelite tradition, holding up Moses’ speech to his people as the starting point for his own.