Pentecost 23 Year B

Mark 12:28-34 

One of the scribes came near and heard the Sadducees disputing with one another,  and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is  the first of all?” Jesus answered, “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.” 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’; 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.” 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.

 

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy  Spirit.  

… 

Good Morning! 

As I write this, 

I’ve returned from Clergy Conference at Camp Allen.  Some good teaching. Good stuff to think about.  

And, it was good to see some friends,  

who I haven’t seen for a year or two. Or a lifetime. 

I spent lots of time listening, and a lot less time talking.  Big surprise, huh? Hard to believe. I know.  

But, I really tried to listen to what God had to say.  Today’s Gospel is right on point.  

Mark wrote about what seemed to be a debate  

on ancient scriptures. That is what folks did before CNN. 

This time the talking heads –a group of Sadducees and other folks got Jesus in the loop. Jesus apparently knew his OT stuff. 

 

Now, this conversation was not a minor event. 

The Sadducees were important people.  

They were, mostly, wealthy Temple leadersi, who had concluded  that a faithful Jew could only rely on the written Law.  

So, they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead,  because that idea was founded on oral tradition.  They also denied that people had souls.  

The Sadducees knew that Jesus didn’t agree with them,  But they respected his ability to support his ability to  Support his claims with quick scripture quotes.ii So they listened to what he had to say. iii 

And, so when someone asked Jesus,  

“Which commandment is the first of all?”  

he wasn’t being tricky.  

I think he was looking to Jesus, for his learned opinion, on what was, to the Sadducees, a very important matter.

 

And Jesus’ answer is as simple and as true, now, as it was then: “… 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.”  

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  

When we live and love like that, letting other people go first –letting them take cuts in line – 

we are “not far from the kingdom of God.”  

Let’s all agree to work as one people, to get a little bit closer. 

If we love and live like Jesus described,  

We, as one People, and one Church,  

will be blessed and we will – this place — will endure.  

That is God’s promise. We can count on that promise. We can stake our lives, now, and our heavenly vision on it. 

 

Jesus told that man, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  What did Jesus mean?  

One preacher suggested that Jesus meant the guy was closer  to God’s Kingdom then the other guys.  

But being close doesn’t cut it. “…being in is what matters.”iv 

Those who read Jesus through the eyes of contemporary culture Are missing the target, just a little bit. 

Jesus surely wasn’t encouraging that man, or any one,  to think that life and salvation was all about him or her, alone. 

Jesus didn’t think like we think today. 

He didn’t live in, and couldn’t have encouraged, 

our “Me First” culture.  

For Jesus the Kingdom wasn’t all about Me.  

And it wasn’t all about You.  

It was – and it is – and it will always be – 

about all of us – being with God. 

 

Knowing that, believing that and choosing to live like that,  is the 1st step on the path to God’s Kingdom!  

When Jesus talked with the Sadducees, 

The scribes had discerned 613 laws in their ancient texts.  Which law was the most important of all?”  

One rabbi, a generation before Jesus, had summarized the law:  “What you wouldn’t want done to you,  

don’t do to your neighbor”.  

Hard to argue with that idea! 

But, before we can love others, as we love ourselves,  we must love God with our whole being.  

That is no easy task.  

We can only learn to love one another like that,  

when we all agree to work with together,  

as sisters and brothers. One family, before the altar. Only together can we all be what God calls us to be.

 

The Gospel says the Sadducees were “disputing” with one another.  But, the Greek word translated as “disputing” is “syzētountōn” which means “together-seeking”.  

And that is what Jesus is about. Together-Seeking. 

Working together, seeking Jesus,  

Requires us to live as Jesus calls us to live, and  

Working together, seeking Jesus,  

requires us to build His Kingdom, to work as one family,  pre-school and church alike, right here, in Killeen.  

And, then, who does Jesus call us to be? Kingdom builders!  How shall we build that Kingdom?  

By serving and seeking our Lord, together.  

Together-seeking. 

Together, and only together, will we will build our church home, and fill it with the Lord’s love and peace and grace. 

-AMEN 

 

i …all men.  

ii Something like what scholars now call “proof texting”, with the difference being that the subject ideas were still in formation 2000 + years ago, whereas now most proof texters are not  searching for truth, but are attempting to prove their accepted truths via scripture quotations.  

iii https://www.thingsofthesort.com/sermons-2/2019/11/25/mark-1228-34-the-great commandment 

iv Ibid.