Well first of all, there’s this:
It’s Benny Hinn Day.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, it’s Sunday! Let us pause…
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Lectionary: Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34
A friend of mine and was born and raised in Toronto, one of the most progressive and multi-cultural cities in the world. She is black and I remember once asking if she had ever experienced racism (thinking surely not) but the answer sadly, was yes.
I have copied two of today’s Lectionary readings below. They are especially relevant these days as we watch the news and see people of power figuratively holding a golden spoon in one hand and attacking people with the other.
We are actually witnessing ignorance and inhumanity at our doorstep: open racism, sexualization of women, targeted violence, continuing drug crisis, unrepentant pollution, dehumanized refugees, divisive politics and normalization of lies and dirty tricks to do business or keep power.
These verses remind us of where God’s heart and favour is, and where ours continually need to return.
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.
– Psalm 146, (NIV)
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
– Mark 12:28-34 (NIV)
So this is the heart of God.
That includes loving your neighbour (whatever that means).
I’m reminded of the truth of the old rusty saying, It’s not the teachings of Jesus I don’t understand that are the problem; it’s the ones I do understand that give me trouble.
Again this week in the world, we have observed those who are selfish without conscience or remorse. We’ve seen ignorance and hate emboldened in our time and much word-crafting to justify it. Just remember those people are in direct opposition to God. At their peril and ours.
This isn’t meant to be negative, however. There is a lot of research showing that the world is actually safer than ever and that most people live honest, good lives and don’t get caught up in the hype of vilifying one another. It’s just that it’s in our hearts and hands to overwhelm evil with good and spread it around liberally.
At the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, a week after the murders of eleven worshippers, flowers continue to be placed outside in their memory by hundreds of anonymous people. Normally quiet, voiceless citizens have risen to the occasion and lived out compassion and unity and love. As Rabbi Myers said yesterday on CNN, ‘There are so many good people, hate will never win. The outpouring of love gives me hope.’
Scripture is flooded with references and stories about whose side God is on: the poor, the hurting, the innocent, the downtrodden, the widowed, the orphaned, the alien, the hopeless, the humble, the righteous.
We must continually ask ourselves, What side am I on?
Determine in your depths that your words and actions will be more like God’s. In your heart make a covenant, ‘Whatever I touch I will leave better; whomever I meet I will bless.’
You are God of the refugee,
the oppressed and dispossessed.
You are God of the weak,
the starving and suffering.
You are God who asks for justice
like a flowing river, goodness
as a sparkling stream,
love that is seen in action.
God of love, we pray.