This Sunday I’ll wrap up our “Five Essentials for Living Well” sermon series in both Sanctuary services with “The Top of the List.” In this series we’ve been looking together at five aspects of living well, or in Jesus’ words: “abundant life.” This Sunday we will look at “Living Well” through the lens of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Matthew 22:35-38.
In the Matthew passage, a legal expert asks Jesus a question to “test” him: “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He is asking what is at the top of the list. I think this question — and Jesus’ answer — is a good conclusion to this series of essentials for living well. Jesus answered, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Jesus is quoting the central affirmation and summary of the law in what the Hebrew Scriptures call the Shema because that is the first word of the affirmation in the Hebrew language. It means “hear” or “listen”:
Israel, listen! Our God is the Lord! Only the Lord! [Or The Lord is our God, the Lord only; or The Lord is our God, the Lord alone; or The Lord our God is one Lord; or The Lord our God, the Lord is one; or The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.]
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on your house’s door frames and on your city’s gates.
Notice that Jesus’ quotation has “mind” instead of “strength.” Both Mark’s and Luke’s version have both “mind” and “strength.” This Sunday we’ll see why — and why this is an important thing to understand.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we think together about what Jesus identified as the “top of the list” when it comes to living well — and what that means for each of us today.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster,