Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Keeping A Straight Faith (Mark 12:28-34)

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

November 4, 2012


Series: Let’s Faith It

 “Keeping A Straight Faith”

(Mark 12:28-34)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

     Dumb Laws you may not have heard about.

     In Texas it is illegal to milk another person’s cow.

     In Galveston, Texas Landing an airplane on the beach is illegal.

     In Houston, Texas it is illegal to sell Limburger cheese on Sunday.

     In Temple, Texas it is legal to can ride your horse in the saloon.

     In Massachusetts, it is against the law to put tomatoes in clam chowder.

     In Virginia, chickens cannot lay eggs before 8:00 a.m., and must be done before 4:00 p.m.

     In Oklahoma it is illegal to have a sleeping donkey in your bathtub after 7:00 pm .

     In Wynona, Oklahoma mules may not drink out of bird baths.

     In Alabama it is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church.

     In Chicago, Illinois eating in a place that is on fire is strictly prohibited.

     In Chicago, Illinois it is illegal to fish while sitting on a giraffe’s neck.

     In Moline, Illinois ice skating at the Riverside pond during the months of June and August is prohibited.

     In Juneau, Alaska it is illegal to bring your pet flamingos into barber shops.

     In Fresno, California it is illegal to annoy a lizard in a city park.

     In New Orleans, Louisiana chasing fish in a city park is against the law.

     In Nevada it is illegal to drive a camel on the highway.

     In New Jersey it is against the law for a man to knit during the fishing season.

     In Baltimore, Maryland it is illegal to take a lion to the movies.

     In Salt Lake County, Utah, it’s illegal to walk down the street carrying a violin in a paper bag.

     In Sedona, Arizona it’s illegal to lie about your astrological sign.

     Dumb Is Universal

     In France, it’s illegal to name a pig Napoleon.

     In British Columbia, it is illegal to kill a Sasquatch or Bigfoot if one is ever found.

     In Samoa, it’s a crime to forget your own wife’s birthday.

     In Australia, it’s illegal to name any animal you plan to eat.

     In Cannes, France, it’s illegal to wear a Jerry Lewis mask.

     In London, it is illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the plague.

     Did you know we have an estimated 35 million laws on the books in the United States alone. Some of them are very good and deeply needed. But there are some like the ones we’ve just seen which probably need to be repealed. It’s frightening to think they all started with The Commandments

     Today we meet a scribe who wants to know which of the 10 Commandments is the most important. He wasn’t trying to trap Jesus. He wasn’t trying to be impertinent. This Scribe was a seeker. He truly wanted to know which one of the commandments would get him closer to God. It appears that he was running a sort of Spiritual Checkup on himself.

     As we begin our Stewardship Series, Let’s Faith It, it might be a good idea for us to think of this as our own Spiritual Checkup. So, let’s look at this conversation between Jesus and the Scribe. Mark 12:28-34 (NRSV)

[28] One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"  

[29] Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;  

[30] 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.'  

[31] The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."  

[32] Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other';  

[33] and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,'—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."  

[34] When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question.

     While it might sound like a bit of an oxymoron, what Jesus declared can be seen as the Law of Love. That Law of Love is what helps us Keep A Straight Faith.

I. LAW:

     A. It’s no accident that the Scribe asked this question. He was one of those who was highly interested in every aspect of the law. He wasn’t searching for loopholes but ways to fulfill it. The problem was, there were too many laws. No one could keep them. There were 613 laws that the Jewish people felt you had to keep in order to be holy in God’s eyes.

     I really don’t know how they arrived at that number. I think they practiced some weird kind of math like I saw just before Halloween comic? To paraphase it a little. What do you get when you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by it’s diameter? The answer: “Pumpkin Pi.”

     It’s that sort of math that seems to show 4+6=613. The 4+6 stands for the Ten Commandments. Somehow, over the years, they boiled the 10 Commandments down to 613 laws. And if you look at those 613 laws, 365 of them are negative (the “you shall not” variety) and 248 of them are framed in positive terms (you shall). No wonder the Scribe wanted to know which one was the most important.

     B. But Jesus turned everything on its head, as he often did. He took the 613 laws and boiled them back down to the original two unwritten laws. Not ten but two. “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.” And “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And then he said, “There is no other commandment greater than these.”

     You see, if you look at the Ten Commandments, the 4+6 this is what they are all about. The first four are about loving God. The last six are about loving our neighbors as ourselves. Rather than burdening us with another list of laws to remember, Jesus strips them of all of their excess baggage and made them so that anyone and everyone could not only understand them but live them. And Jesus made it so that we could live them without feeling shackled and weighted down with the guilt of failure.

II. LOVE:

     A. Here we are at the beginning of our Stewardship Campaign, it’s All Saints Sunday, and Communion Sunday. And you’re probably thinking, “Well, so what?” What does all of that have to do with stewardship? What does all of that have to do with All Saints Sunday? What does all of that have to do with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

     The answer is simple. EVERYTHING!

     I personally believe that there are four verses which Jesus spoke that can sum up everything in the Bible. These two and John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

     Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there is more to God’s message than just those four verses. But I can’t think of any verses that sum up Jesus’ mission and purpose better than John 3:16-17. And I can’t think of any verses that sum up how we are to live as Christians and children of God better than Mark 12:30-31. You can’t get any simpler than that. They both put God first.

     And isn’t that the whole point of the Christian life and Stewardship? Putting God first in everything.

     B. Our Saints, are those people who influenced our faith the most; those people who were shining examples of what a Christian should be. Our Saints put God first through their saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Whenever we celebrate The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and partake of the bread and wine, we are reminded how Jesus put God first and the high cost of our salvation.

     And when we begin to ponder any form of stewardship, we are reminded that God IS first. That’s why these two verses “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” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” are the foundation of all stewardship. That’s the Law of Love.

     All stewardship begins with our love for God and our love for neighbors. Everything we do in the Church, every ministry we start, every program we underwrite, every building we build, every activity we start, every person we reach out to is because of one of these verses. We reach out, we teach, we serve, we give because we love God and because we love others. It’s as simple as that.

     Now I know, some of our neighbors aren’t very lovable but then neither are we, at times. So, we can’t fall into that judgment trap. Remember judgment isn’t OUR business. It’s God’s. Jesus didn’t come to condemn, remember. He came to save.

     Besides God’s judgment came through Jesus. God looked at a sinful fallen world and judged us lovable, forgivable, redeemable and worthy of His Son. And if God says we’re lovable, forgivable and redeemable then we better be careful how we treat one another, don’t you think.

     Our job is simply to love. Love inspires. Love inspires change. Love inspires hope. Love inspires action. Love inspires giving and sacrifice. And Love draws people in.

     At Vacation Bible School one year, the five year olds were outside playing Red Rover. You know: “Red Rover, Red Rover send Jimmy right over.” Then if you break the chain, you get someone for your team. If they catch you, you join their team. On this particular day, one team was clearly in the lead. In fact, all that was left of the first team was one little girl, Ashley.

     The second team yelled, “Red Rover, Red Rover send Ashley right over.” Ashley squinted, dug in her heals, reared back ready to go, and then just plopped down on her knees and started crying. Big old tears ran down her cheeks and soaked her T-shirt. The pastor went running over to see what was wrong and Ashley hollered out, “I don’t want to play anymore! I don’t want to play.”  

     When the preacher asked her why she said, “I can’t win. They’ve got each other! And all I have is me.” (2)

     There are a lot of people in our world who feel just like Ashley. They look at the world and feel alone. They look at the world and cry out “I can’t win. They’ve got each other! And all I have is me.” Our stewardship, our giving, our loving God and loving each other, invites them to be a part of something and someone bigger than all of us together, that’s God and the Kingdom of God.

     It’s through the Law of Love that we experienced salvation. It’s through the Law of Love that we are joined together. It’s through the Law of Love that we Keep A Straight Faith.

CONCLUSION:

     An ancient rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day was on its way back.

     "When you see an animal in the distance and can tell what kind of animal it is" answered one pupil.

     "No" replied the rabbi.

     "When you see a tree in the distance and can tell what kind of tree it is" replied another.

     "No" answered the rabbi.

     "Well then" his pupils asked "how can we tell when night has ended and day has arrived?"

     "It is when you look into the face of another man or woman and see that he or she is your brother or sister. If you can't do this, no matter what time it is, it is still night."

     Jesus is the Light of the World and the most important thing we can do is to let His light, the Law of Love, shine through us by “loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and by “loving our neighbor as our self.”

     Now I know, there are folks who are thinking, “Is That All? Just love God and neighbor?

     The Biblical answer is “Yes! That’s all there is to it.”

     That’s not too complicated. There are no special dances, no trinkets to wear, just love God and neighbor. It’s very simple and yet, at the same time, it’s as hard as carrying a cross.

     But when we do it, when we live the Law of Love and love God with all we have and love our neighbor as ourselves, we do see our neighbors as brothers and sisters. And they see God’s love alive through us.

     It’s then that the Law of Love is made manifest in us. It’s then that we are able to truly give. It’s then that we are able to Keep A Straight Faith. Because God is first in all we do. And that is true Stewardship.

     So, forget all about all the dumb laws on the books. I invite you to obey one law; the ultimate law. The Law of Love. If we obey and live this law, we won’t need any other laws at all.

 

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

 

Bibliography

1.    Autoillustrator

2.    Author unknown. From Stewardship Sermons from a Stewardship seminar hosted by Texas Methodist Foundation.

3.   

4.   

 

Other References Consulted

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