Proper 26 (November 1, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Deut. 6:1-9; Ps. 119:1-8; Heb. 9:11-14; Mark 12:28-34
We spent last week in Lebanon, meeting with MCC representatives from Europe and the Middle East for fellowship and to begin work on a strategic plan to guide MCC’s programs in the region during the next five years.
In Irbid, Julie Lytle works at the Arab Episcopal School, which integrates blind and low-vision children in the same classrooms as sighted children. In Salt, Brent Stutzman works with 16-year-old Mohammed on the deaf-blind unit at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf.
The Common Lectionary readings this week speak of the importance of a singular focus in our lives.
In the Old Testament reading, Moses reminds the people: “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (Deut. 6:4). Therefore, we are to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our might (v.5).
The psalmist says that those who seek God “with their whole heart” will be happy (Ps. 119:2). We are to walk in God’s ways (v.3), be steadfast in keeping God’s statutes (v.4) and keep our eyes fixed on God’s commandments (v.6).
In the Epistle reading, the writer of Hebrews describes the “once for all” sacrifice that Jesus made to redeem all creation so that we can freely worship the living God (Heb. 9:11-14).
In the Gospel reading, a religious leader asks Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all? (Mk. 12:28). Jesus responds: “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” (vv.29-31).
At the core of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith is the affirmation that there is only one God. This simple theological truth has profound impact for how we live our lives. If there is only one God, then there rightly can be only one focus for our affections, our worship and our service. And yet our affections are many and our lives feel torn in many directions.
We were impressed this week watching MCC SALT worker Brent Stutzman at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf. Almost all of his time is spent giving attention to one student, Mohammad, who can neither see nor hear. By focusing intently on this one relationship, Brent and Mohammad have developed an impressive ability to communicate with one another. May our lives have such a singular focus in loving and serving God.