Lectionary Scripture: Mark 12:28-34 (NRSV)
Mark’s reading for Sunday is what I consider one of the key passages of the Bible. Sometimes, we play the game of “God, what is it you want me to do with my life?” We just want to know. Just tell us and we’ll do it.
If you could ask Jesus, what is the most important passage in scripture, this one pretty much wraps it up. However, loving God with all our being is not original to Jesus. He gets it from the Shema which is partly from Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
Loving our neighbor is also from the Torah. It is found in the second part of Leviticus 19:18. So while neither of these was unique to Jesus, he does combine them in a way that helps us to focus our faith. It was the original mission statement for the church!
This Sunday, many churches will celebrate All Saints Day and we are no exception. Within the Protestant tradition, we refer to the saints as those who are in Christ rather than those especially good people who are now deceased. So within this understanding, we honor and remember those members of our local churches who have passed away since the last All Saints Day was held.
One of our local traditions has been to have cards available to write down special people or relatives who have passed on but were not a member of our local church. These are left at the altar rail following Communion and we pray for these families. It is especially helpful for us to share in Communion on this day because of our eschatological understanding of the sacrament. We are sharing in faith with one another in the congregation but also with all those Christians who share in the meal together. Furthermore, we extend that understanding to all those Christians who have passed on to the life eternal. This Holy Mystery, the United Methodist doctrine on Holy Communion states, “We commune not only with the faithful who are physically present but with the saints of the past who join us in the sacrament.” As we share in Christ, we connect one to another. And so this remembrance is a way that we seek to connect with our neighbors as we love them just as we love ourselves.
As I consider my own saints who have gone on before me, both my parents have passed on this year. Since they were not members of my local church, I will be writing their names on cards and leaving them at the altar. Both have epitomized the Christian faith for me each in their own way. I stand taller and see farther because I stand on the shoulders of these giants that have preceded me.
I hope you will consider this week those who have impacted you but no longer walk this earth. May we give thanks to God for their examples. And may we seek to follow as best we can!
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