Summary: This is the third in a series I did on the Great Commandment from Mark 12.
September 15, 2002
A lawyer came to Jesus, spurred on in part by his Pharisee cohorts and, I believe, in part by a desire to know the truth. He came asking an important question; he came to the right place to get the answer. No one could ever be more qualified to answer that question than Jesus! His question forms the basis for our sermon series begun a couple of weeks ago, focusing on “Priority One”. Stand with me as we read the question—and Jesus’ answer—from Mark 12:28-ff!
I have long had an appreciation for Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard lived in Denmark in the early to mid-nineteenth century. His was a brooding and dark personality; he was preoccupied with guilt and fearful of death. But you wouldn’t have known it to speak with him. Kierkegaard made it his practice to appear early in the lobbies of Copenhagen’s theaters; he would make it a point to be jovial and friendly, chatting up the hoity-toity crowd who made up Copenhagen’s high society. Once the play would begin, though, Kierkegaard would rush home to write. Carefully he would time his writing, so as to be back in the lobby in time for intermission, during which he’d repeat this façade of gaiety. What his high society friends did not know was that his business was to write some of the most trenchant—and at times scathing—social commentary on Danish society.
One of Kierkegaard’s frequent targets was the church, a church he found to be so far removed from the teaching of Jesus as to be laughable. He spared no part of the church, beginning with the state-paid, professional clergy who so watered down Jesus’ message as to make it a whole other gospel, to the people, whose everyday lives lacked passion and commitment. To illustrate this, he told the story of a magical land inhabited only by ducks. And of duck church. One fine Lord’s Day, he wrote, all of the ducks dutifully waddled to duck church, where the parson duck stood to deliver his homily. He opened his duck Bible to the place where it spoke of God’s great gift to ducks—wings. “With wings”, said the duck preacher, “we ducks can fly! We can mount up like eagles and soar the heavens! We can escape the confinement of pens and fences; we can know the utter euphoria of unfettered freedom! We must give God thanks for such a great gift as wings!” To which all of the ducks in duck church stood to their feet with a hearty “Amen!” And then, they turned around…and waddled home.
I wonder what Soren Kierkegaard would have to say about American Christianity? Specifically, I wonder what he would have to say about our lack of obedience to Jesus’ command, wherein He tells us that priority one is that we love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Specifically, today we focus on loving God with all of our souls. The soul, our translation of the Greek word psuche, represents, according to Kenneth Wuest, “the seat of will and purpose”. It is the source of vitality in life; it is the motivating power that brings strength to the will. Thus,