I was recently invited to be on an interfaith panel for a high school in Wisconsin along with a Muslim and a Rabbi. The question given to me was to explain the Christian faith.
But here’s the thing: I had one minute to do this. I set my timer took a big breath and said: “There is only one God for those that follow Jesus. That one source God- who is Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit is love. We are holy because God is holy. And what does divine holiness look like?
Jesus Says it looks like love God love Neighbor.
All the rest of bible is just commentary. Love God. Love Neighbor.
That’s the bedrock from which all Christians operate. If we aren’t loving God and neighbor, then we aren’t following Jesus. “
Blessedly, we have more than a minute together... and I can say more.
The real question behind love God love neighbor is what does that love look like?
This is where the commentary comes in.
This love of God & Neighbor is a promise we make and strive to keep.
Ponder if you will the 10 commandments or as Syndie Sorensen will tell you in Godly Play, we call them the 10 best ways to live. All point to what this love of God & Neighbor looks like when enacted. Covenants are everywhere in our faith: from the rainbow after the flood, to each & every sacrament we celebrate.
I wonder: have you ever stopped to recognize that? Each of our sacraments holds either an implied or explicitly stated covenant. From the vows taken in marriage and ordination, to baptism, there are promises made. Even the Rite of Reconciliation has an implied promise- a covenant that love is transformative and forgives. We don’t have to carry burdens from our actions or the actions of others that hurts us. Resentment, guilt, shame, and pain can all be forgiven and transformed. Eucharist too makes a covenant with us in the love of God & Neighbor. Eucharist promises us that we will become what we see and receive: Jesus. We will become Jesus as members of this body. That’s the covenant, the promise the vow made to us: it’s how love God love neighbor works. Promises are made and we do our best to keep those vows. Why- because vows are sacred.
Love God Love Neighbor looks like us being faithful to covenants—the commentary if you will on what Love God Love Neighbor looks like.
These covenants we keep in love of God and Neighbor are not about setting arbitrary rules to hamper somebody’s fun or to enact domination: they are about creating intimacy, joy and a space to be vulnerable in our relationships with each other.
The Marriage Vow of fidelity for example is not about limiting fun spouses can have. Rather it is about offering a kind of intimacy and safety that only comes with the fidelity of couple-hood. This boundary and promise is made so that spouses can be Christ to each other in their faithfulness and create a sense of trust and safety. Boundaries and covenants are about creating something new, a kind of love that can know vulnerability, hardship, and questions.
Being free to question is not a free for all. We still practice love God love neighbor and the all the commentaries that guide us on how to do those best practices that lead to love: Covenants. Boundaries. Vows. Promises. And here’s the thing: when we live in and with our promises, we have greater safety to ask deeper questions. It is only when we are truly safe, that holy curiosity will dance in us and provide deep questions that lead us into living the answers.
This is why the Vestry has a working covenant, this is why our Youth Groups have not forged their own covenants together now. This is why, every year as your Rector, I will publish and encourage all of us to live within the 10 best practices of Christian Communication. Love God Love Neighbor. .
I remember the first time I introduced those 10 best practices in a former parish: one person came to me rather upset and said, “What kind of a church do you think we are that you have say this? We are really nice people here!”
My response was to say, “I believe we are a church compromised of people that come from different ways of being. As such, we need to invite all of us on a journey how we will be with one another.
And yup you guessed it—we’re going to get it wrong. Mess it up. Not get it right. The good news is that we can be accountable and when we know better, we will do better.
Loving God is all about asking what do we want to depend upon? Because what we choose to rely on will shape our whole life and being. This is why the Psalms are constantly railing on about idols and false gods because those shape us too. False gods and idolatry are still real. Out of fear or pain or in lusting for control, we can co-create our reliance on those things that can become like gods to us: literalism, technology, our own egos, narcissism, and alcohol can all become idols—to name just a few. Let us just name that those idols are dumb—They are not alive and cannot bring forth life.
All too often we make things of our life into gods and we make God a thing we use. The good news is while we mess up, we can never ultimately blow it: God constantly calls us back to faithfulness.
The work is to point back to love and believe with all our heart mind and being that love is the only true and real energy and source of our universe. That love, the divine creative source we call God that tipped over the first domino of creation that cascaded into the next and into the next is more powerful than anything else we can imagine. Even death subjugates to love.
And lest we lose our way and begin to fall into dualistic thinking—that is thinking that divides us in two that’s the root of diabolic and diablos—being split in two, divided, lest we lose our way and think: Devil and God we need both or they are equal somehow. No! That is not what what we profess as followers of Jesus. Go back and look at the Creed: we profess love. Not love and hate or good and bad. Evil is not the opposite of love. Love has no opposite. Love simply is and does and generates eternally. That’s why love is God and God is one.
Evil on the other hand is un-real, disincarnate, unsustainable and non- generative. Evil creates the diabolical, creates division. Evil can’t exist in any one person or in of itself. Evil only exists in systems. God exists in and of itself and only God can do that.
Only love can do that. That’s why God is God.
There is only one source for those that follow this story of Abraham that leads to Jesus. That one source is love. We are holy because God is holy. And what does divine holiness look like?
Love God Love Neighbor.