“Hear O Israel, the Lord God is one, and you shall worship the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Mark 12:29-32
Sometimes life gets confusing. Normally it’s just confusing and somewhat of a puzzle but often it really seems overwhelming. We become confused about our homes, our careers, our marriage and children, about politics, our economics and certainly the weather. Truly I need not remind you we become quite confused about our churches and faith!
So we ask, “What’s it all about? What’s the purpose of even living?” As the song Alfie asks, “What’s it all about?” The song concludes as our lesson from Mark today; it’s all about love! Apparently some scribes and religious lawyers of ancient Judaism traditions were disputing with each other about the real purpose in the laws and commandments. Jesus seemed to simplify and even overlook many of them. Of course we know about the 10 Commandments but they had added another 1000 or so over the years to enhance traditions. Like denominations? So Jesus was asked by one of the scribes, “Which commandment is the greatest 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.”’
But first, who IS God? In order to understand the commandment to love God and neighbor, Jesus gave a little definition. “The Lord our God is one.” One what? Is he talking about form or forms? No, it’s spirit. “God is Spirit and those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Jesus explained this meeting a Samaritan woman at the well near or on Mount Gerizim. According to the story, when the woman discovered Jesus was a spiritual teacher or prophet from Judah, she asked him about the true place of worship. She said her northern ancestors taught the proper place for worship was on this holy mountain where the patriarch Jacob settled centuries ago. Then she added, “You say the true place where people must worship God is in Jerusalem, following King David. Which is it?” Jesus answered, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. For the hour is coming and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and truth for the Father seeks such as these to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.” (John 4: 7-25) So what’s the answer? God as Spirit can be worshipped and prayed to anywhere! It can be on mountains or in valleys of the north or south, east or west; it can be in big churches or temples or little ones and what I believe is coming to again, homes. And yes, a great place to worship is also simply outdoors!
In the times of this story, there had been around 1000 years of conflicts among Judaism and the followers of Abraham and later Jacob. There were conflicts among the 12 tribes, conflicts that led to alliances and wars, to the loss of 11 tribes leaving at the time of Jesus the smallest tribe called Judah. Today the conflict still goes on in that troubled land about who owns what and where is the proper place to pray. I’ve read that the Palestinians were very likely to have been part of the ancient family of the nation of Israel. So today the conflict over worship places still continues!
But since God is everywhere as Spirit, as one, God is love, God is Everything! God as love is complete in Itself by Itself. God is a No – thing! God is Nothing but Everything! As Spirit being everywhere, timeless and eternal, God is beyond attachments to anything including our bodies. “The best things in life are NOT things!” God is Spirit as indeed we are in our deepest realities. Again the central message; “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, it’s in you!” Thus our bodies are temporary in time and bound by forms, lots of them, but our Spirit, our Inner Spirit, is eternally one with all that is called God, or Atman, the Buddha or whatever.
Therefore sacrifice is not needed to earn, join and experience this loving Spirit. It becomes experience based on understanding, attitude, or awareness. In the early Christian Book of Hebrews the writer seeks to explain to Hebrew followers the Jesus way. He wrote they need not sacrifice blood of goats, lambs or cattle in order to relieve the guilt of sins. For Jesus came as a manifestation of the incarnated Spirit in all, demonstrating his identity with Spirit by the way he allowed those who hated him to kill him on a cross. The writer of Hebrews wrote there was no need for sacrifice to atone for one’s sins. He portrayed Jesus as offering his body as a demonstration the Spirit continues unchanged in its oneness with the Maker or His father. He made this offering (literally sacrifice or “sacred offering) in order to “purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!”
What does this mean? Jesus is described as going freely to his death, with no bitterness or hatred toward his accusers, as a way to demonstrate nothing actually happened! Knowing his body was simply a vessel or medium for communication, he sacrificed or offered it as a demonstration nothing separates us from God, our Source. Thus in our living with the consciousness of our True Self as part of this one Spirit, we too can live offering up our bodies and our blood for the service and the worship of the One God. This living or offering is not a martyr’s sacrifice, although many live that way, but living in love and forgiveness for our false attachments to bodies and egos. This is the essence of living love as the greatest commandment.
I think this idea was described in yesterday’s Buffalo News article written by sports writer Bucky Gleason titled, “From Tragedy to Triumph.” It’s the story of three young football players from Springville who each lost a parent in the last six months. In this small town everyone knew about the losses. The news affected the football team on which the young men, JP, Justin, and Tyler played. The coach and school wondered how they would overcome their and the community’s sorrow to play. Yet the article relates how the memory of the parents “helped bring the three players together to get into the sectional finals” which were played yesterday at “The Ralph.” What happened? Sensing the presence and legacy left to them by the parents’ love and care, it lifted spirits of the team to play much harder with enthusiasm and hope. Thus with our lives, Jesus’ death can revive us from hopelessness and confusion over “what it’s all about” with the reminder that in death we can still live on inspiring and pushing us along in courage and hope. Jesus’ death can help “bring us together” in the game of life, and live and leave with a “winning record.”
How then is this love demonstrated? How is it defined? The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kindness, love is not envious or rude, love never insists on its own way, love is not irritable or resentful, love never rejoices in wrong but rejoices in truth, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” But how can love believe all things?Onlyby seeing beyond the outward forms of body and place to the inward spirit which is One in all. As a parent you may at times be deeply disappointed in or even disapprove of your child’s actions, but hopefully you never stop believing in them and their potential for great accomplishments.
With this awareness of boundless love, we live fearlessly and with freedom. We grow in its awareness by allowing and letting life simply unfold before us during our walk on Earth. We seek to stay awake and aware that nothing can really harm or destroy us in our Spirit Self; not wars, not starvation, not sickness or disease, not even death itself, or with criticisms and false accusations. We live with the attitude that everything works together for good because we are constantly learning detachment from all which is mortal in form or shape. We even give kindly and generously to others in what is called “karma yoga”, a way which only enhances the sense of abundance in Spirit. Yes, it begins with baby steps, but with concentration, community support, and daily attendance, we can take big strides in this dream life we live.
“He who devotes himself to the Tao or spirit sees day-to-day activities diminish in his doing. He diminishes actions until he arrives at doing nothing on purpose! Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he then does not do. He gets as his own all under heaven and does so by giving himself no trouble!”
What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sorted out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
then I guess it’s wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there is a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there’s something much more,
Something even nonbelievers can believe it.
I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you will find love any day, Alfie, Alfie
would you tell me what it’s all about?
-Burt Bacharach and Hal David, 1965