Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD is 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 might.
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deu 6:3-9 NRS)
The Lenten season, as a 40 day encounter, calls us to offer meditation of our humanity, in relationship to who God is for us. Specifically, it calls to consider our mortality, and the immortality of God, in new and rich ways. It calls us to understand our flesh, as dust, in light of the cross, centering on the intersection between our lives as created beings and Jesus life as our savior. So this lent, let us dig into the authenticity of God for the world of God’s creation. Let us begin by focusing on what Jesus says is the most important of all the commands. It is here we begin the discovery of our spiritual formation as a human being.
Quoted above, are the words known as the Shema. (in bold) They are a sacred part of the Jewish faith life. Each morning these word are spoken, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” They are spoken when they get up, when they leave their homes, when they arrive home, when they go to sleep. Teaching them to the children, so that the children also understand their deep connection to God. There recognize the verb recite and know they are to speak them and know them intimately as part of their everyday experience.
As a devout Jew there is a high probability that Jesus was also raised speaking these words each day, throughout the day, by Joseph, who was a righteous man. So, it makes since that when Jesus is asked which command is the greatest, Jesus responds with the following, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with our mind, and with all your strength. The second is this love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than this.” (Mark 12:28-33, Luke 9:57-62)
No greater commandment. Really? Yes, really, as Jesus was reciting the Shema, Deuteronomy 6 and also reciting a passage from Leviticus 19:18. And then he clarifies, There is no greater commandment that these. He makes it clear the Loving God and Loving Neighbor, is the first priority.
Thankful, my Lutheran heritage gives me freedom to ask, “does this mean?” It means that maybe, just maybe, Jesus is trying to remind us that we too are supposed to begin our spiritual journey each day, focusing first on God, and then our neighbor. Jesus is teaching us that the essence of our faith life, and our spiritual formation can be found in these simple words. Finally Jesus is inviting us, to recite them each day, and teach them to our children and our children’s children, so that the deep committed relationship God has with God’s creation is know by all.
So this Lent we focus on this. Each day remembering our call to love God, and love neighbor, learning from our Savior the way in which we should go. Amen
Hear O Israel, the Lord our God. The Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with our mind, and with all your strength. The second is this love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.