It seems the Gospel reading for this stewardship Sunday gets straight to the heart of everything- love God, love our neighbour.
May sound simple, but when we are told to “love God’ what actually does this mean?
We may have some more sense of what we mean to ‘love one another’ but even love for our neighbour comes in so many different forms. After all, we overuse the word love for so much- I love my children, I love the smell of the earth after heavy rain, I love nachos…
In these last weeks in our Christian meditation talks we have heard the word attention suggested as another word for love. I found the practicality of this helpful- where we give our attention, there we show love.
Yesterday I saw a large billboard advertising car maintenance that read “Cars need servicing. People need attention.”
Odd, I thought, that marketing finds it lucrative to remind us of this- that it is not things that need attention, but people and relationships. How far have we wondered from our selves as we were created to be, that we might need reminding to give attention to people instead of things?
We know instinctively, I think, that to give our time and attention to those we love is the way of love. It is to forget ourselves and our own agendas to make space for the other. It means sharing our resources and talents and sometimes working to help the one we love to flourish.
But how do we enact love for God?
Paying attention is still the way of love here. We not only pay attention through prayer and wholehearted seeking, but it is a two-way interaction where we are changed even as we give of ourselves to listening and serving. If we say we love God, we will desire to be aligned with the purposes of God….aligning our will with God’s will…ordering our priorities with God’s priorities.
In today’s Gospel we are once again we are in Holy Week, once again we have religious leaders setting out to entrap Jesus. They are trying to draw Jesus into a misstep where he will begin dividing scripture and the commandments. There was at the time steps taken by some teachers to divide Torah into greater and lesser laws, and this had become a minefield of conflict.
Jesus handles this by quoting instead not from rabbinic tradition or Levitical law but from the Shema (Deut 6:5) ‘you shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
And then Jesus adds neighbour love, even calling it ‘like the first command”.
To love God is to love our neighbour and to love our neighbour is to love God. Indeed, in the first epistle of John we hear this clearly, ‘Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.’
And when in Luke’s Gospel Jesus is asked “who is our neighbour” Jesus expands the definition beyond just Israel to the stranger, the enemy, the oppressed and the marginalised.
The way of seeing and living in the world through the triadic pattern of loving God, self and neighbour, with all of our will and attention, liberates us from the oppressive prison of individualism where we are continually a slave to our self-interested desire. Everyone worships something. Where our idols are greed…or personal gain or power or status or influence or success or fame or popularity…these gods will never be satisfied, but continually demanding more and more from us, even while they reduce and deface the integrity of our personhood. Only worship of the God who self-empties, demanding nothing but giving everything, can release us from this kind of prison to be able to attend with love to our unique vocations, discerned through the illuminating triad of love of God, self and neighbour.
It is true that what matters most to us will be revealed by where we spend our time, our energies, our talents, our finances.
It is also, mercifully and gloriously, a truth that as we align with God’s will and the love and mercy of God present in our lives by the Spirit, we will know life, freedom, and joy as we become our truest selves, using our gifts and resources create the kingdom of God on earth.
What makes us good also makes us glad. What makes us good also makes evident the goodness of God all around us for others to see and feel and experience as blessing.
What that looks like is what stewardship Sunday is all about. How we work together to love God and love our neighbour, collaborating to pay attention to all that this means in our place and time.
Looking through that triadic lens of love – where do your desires lead you to life in the year ahead?
Is it a year where you focus more on prayer, consider leading a small group in a book or Bible study, or be open to any of the many opportunities suggested in our stewardship material for entering further into our life here together and reaching out to our communities?
How might God be calling you to steward your resources and live more fully into your vocation in the church and in the world? How might your contribution however small, but offered with great love, be made available to grow and multiply in God’s new creation?
May you know the Spirit’s wisdom and grace in these decisions. May we together share our resources and gifts so that Christ will be known through the way we live- loving one another and loving God with all our hearts and soul and mind and strength.