Summary: A short all-age talk given to a congregation where about a third were visitors to the Church. Jesus calls us to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves - with all of the love, care and attention that we would wish for ourselves.
I need someone to tell me about their favourite singer or favourite band – someone you’re crazy about. How often do you listen to their music? Would you like to meet them in person? Would you travel to see them in concert?
Now I need someone to tell me about their favourite author, an author that you love and really respect. Would you buy every book they write? Do you read and re-read their books?
The next one could be risky. I need someone who is very much in love with their husband or wife. Tell me what he or she means to you.
These are pointers to the love that Jesus was talking about in our Bible reading. Jesus was quoting two small sections of the Old Testament – the Jewish Bible that he knew so well. First he was quoting from something that we call Deuteronomy 6 verse 5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
And he then said, “This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22: 38).
In other words, for Jews and for Christians this is priority number one.
In a world where most of us seek to look after number one as our top priority this command of Jesus is counter-cultural. It’s a completely different way to do life.
It’s the way the greatest moral teacher who ever lived told his followers to do life. It’s how Jesus says do life!
Much more than a favourite singer, a favourite author, and a husband or wife all rolled into one.
To love God with everything you are, heart, soul and mind, is to put all your eggs into one basket. It might mean singing his songs – not just in church but as you’re driving your car and as you’re shopping in Tesco and as you’re watching a game of football. It means having your own copy of his book and it means experiencing God’s incredible love and generosity for yourself – and I love it!
But Jesus didn’t stop there. It’s not just about loving the author of creation, and the composer of the heavens and the earth.
Jesus also said, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) – and yes, that means the next door neighbour who gets up your nose, and the bloke at work who you wish would have a bath more often, and the gossip at the school gates with the fake tan, and yes, it even means the school bully.
Jesus said to love God with everything that we have and everything that we are, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.
In other words, every good thing that you hope for, dream for, wish for, and provide for yourself – turn all of that outwards towards your neighbours, both those you like and those you don’t like.
Love your neighbour as you love yourself.
I know we find it quite easy to plan and to do good things for ourselves; and we love it when people do good things for us – when they show that they care.
Jesus asks us to take care of others with the care and attention that we give to ourselves and those close to us.
Our Harvest Gifts for this year are going to the Basildon Women’s Refuge and this is just one way of loving people in need.
Our neighbour might be lonely and in need of a friend. Our neighbour might need someone to talk to, someone who will listen. Our neighbour might need someone to think the best of them when no one else does. Our neighbour needs to be loved and cared for just as much as you and I.
Jesus said if you want to know the essence of faith then love God with everything you are and everything you have, and love those around you with the same love that you desire for yourself.
What a different world it would be if we all loved God, and loved others with the same love that we desire for ourselves. It would be more and more the kind of world that God intended from the very beginning.