Jesus said…“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
My Dear Friends in Christ,
Our message series, Wavelength, has been all about thinking (thinking about thinking…sounds like Andy Rooney, doesn’t it?), and we’ve got the expressed aim of getting you to change your mind. How we think, especially how we think about the big questions of life, determines our actions and, our actions in turn determine our destiny. Thinking affects the state of our hearts and impacts all areas of our lives. When someone is thinking like we’re thinking, we say he or she is “on the same wavelength.”
We started with Saint Paul’s admonition to think about godly things. St. Paul reminded us that we don’t need to be slave to our thoughts even if we can control them. But we can mold our thinking, and correct sinful thoughts, by examining what goes into our brains. Our thinking, St. Paul reminds us, is formed by what we feed our brains: what we watch on TV, what we look at on the internet, what we read, what conversation we have, what friendships we have, what we allow in and what we filter out. All of this happens, often without our awareness, so St. Paul challenged us to be intentional in thinking God’s thoughts and filtering out anything opposed to God, to think about Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise…
Then, in our second week, we shifted focus a bit, looking at a practice to help us focus on God’s thoughts. It’s what Saint Ignatius of Loyola described as the Examen. It’s about stopping for a moment and focusing on the contents of your day, not your whole life, just one day, but from God’s perspective. Doesn’t take a lot of time and can expand or shrink to whatever time you have. It’s about examining the day seeking intentionally moments the require gratitude or grace. In other words, where was God present? What are you thankful for? Offer these moments to God with a grateful heart. God also wants you to reflect on the moments of your day where you missed God, or misunderstood what God was asking, or (like me often) knew full well what God was asking but stubbornly refused to do it? Think about and offer these moments to God as well, asking for grace to do better next time. Simple as that.
And then last week, we focused in on the intersection of thinking and faith, prompted by the challenge of Jesus to “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” Jesus challenged the Pharisees and the Herodians (strange political bedfellows banded together only in their attempt to trick and to trap Jesus) challenged them to ask questions, to examine reality, to think intentionally from God’s perspective. It is not about separating faith from reason, the Church from the public square, or my faith from the rest of my life. IN fact, it’s just the opposite. It is not about what I repay to Caesar as much as what I repay to God. God doesn’t want what I have as much as who I am. And the challenge of Jesus lies ultimately in the example He offers. His is the only complete “repayment” to God.
And now, Jesus challenges us to match our thinking to God’s, and our hearts to God’s as well. For God does not simply think. No. God thinks, God speaks, God acts. For God it’s all one and the same. We see it in the Book of Genesis. God speaks, “Let there be light.” and there is light. For God to think is to speak is to act is to love. And that how Jesus sidesteps a further trap offered this week by a scholar of the law: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” We know this with 2,000 years of 20/20 hindsight but this was a matter of great debate in the time of Jesus. The question was of supreme important because, until Jesus Christ, one’s relationship with God (along with life and society in Israel) was governed by the law. For the Israelite the Law is the word of the Lord found in the first five books of the Bible. In the course of the development of Jewish culture and theology the teachers of the law had identified 613 specific commandments in the Law.
These laws were endlessly debated and discussed and defined and redefined by the religious professionals. Some said that all the laws were equal and must be applied equally. Others, that there was a hierarchy to the laws, some more important, others less so. In any case, Jesus is called on the carpet, but He answers without any hesitation at all; He answers immediately, efficiently and completely. But His answer is not flippant nor incomplete. And, although the scholar only asked for the greatest (read one) commandment, Jesus offers two quoting from each scripture but from two different books (Deuteronomy and Leviticus): This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” The answer, Jesus offers ties together God and my neighbor, love and action, faith and service, heaven and earth. In other words, the greatest commandment is to love God which we do essentially and necessarily by serving our neighbor. And again, the ultimate challenge is to fulfill these commands, not out of compunction but out of love, as Jesus Himself showed.
No easy task but we’re not alone. Again, from Saint Paul, this time from the Church at Thessalonica. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Saint Paul commends the Thessalonians receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that… [they] became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. If we think as God thinks, then we know, along with the Thessalonians that even “great affliction” can’t keep us from doing what God says.
God thinks differently than we do, and actually wants us to think like Him too. And God wants to help us do that, to get us on His wavelength. That’s what this series is all about. And, again, here’s the bottom line for this week and for the whole series: When we think as God thinks, we do as God says.