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JESUS PICKS AND CHOOSES / LOVE IS A GOAL
November 3, 2006
 
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry with the poor and those who suffer because of war or natural disaster, explores an aspect of Episcopal Relief and Development's work. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
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Jesus Picks and Chooses

There is no other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:31


Yes, there are other commandments in scripture. There are lots of them -- hundreds, in fact. But there is one greater than all the rest, Jesus says: Love God and love your neighbor. There is no other commandment greater than these.

The smaller commandments are not the measure of the greater -- it's the other way around. We don't measure loving behavior according to the purity code we find in the book of Leviticus, in which we are ordered not to eat pork or shellfish and in which we are told that love between persons of the same gender is an abomination -- it's the other way round. It's the small commandments we measure against the great law of love, not vice versa.

But isn't this just "picking and choosing" which scripture you will follow? Perhaps it is, but it's a picking and choosing Jesus has done for us -- the words are his. He gives us a broad but very firm yardstick against which to measure all our ethical choices: did I further the love of God and the love of neighbor, or did I not?

In one of her first acts as our new Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori has invited several Primates who have been highly critical of the Episcopal Church to New York for a talk. These bishops have been deeply concerned with what, to Jesus, were the lesser commandments. Bishop Katherine is very eager to talk about the greater one. How can we walk together toward a time when together we will see the lame walk and the blind see, when the hungry will go to sleep at night with full bellies instead of with the ache of starvation?

Many of the Millennium Development Goals will be met or not met in the parts of the world these bishops represent. Enabling the hungry to feed themselves, enabling children to survive into adulthood, enabling them to go to school and learn -- these are not frills to be accomplished after we have purified the church according to the ancient sexual mores of which we read in Leviticus. They don't come second. They come first. Leviticus doesn't measure them; they measure Leviticus.

Because there is no other commandment greater than these.
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Everyone on the Geranium Farm sends Bishop Katherine prayers and blessings as she begins her ministry, and rejoices with her tomorrow, on the occasion of her investiture as our new Presiding Bishop. You can view the proceedings at the National Cathedral tomorrow morning at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/.

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Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 12:28-34
Psalm 119:1-16 or 119:1-8
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Read Matt the Web Dude's moving triubute to his grandmother Dorothy, who entered the larger life this past week, in More or Less Church at http://www.geraniumfarm.org/.


And here is the ERD meditation:

Love Is A Goal

"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.'
Mark 12:29-30

What does it look like, to love one's neighbor as oneself? Is it a warm feeling? Something romantic? Sometimes love is much more concrete. Episcopal Relief and Development has a way to show what love of neighbor might look like, in very concrete terms.

You've heard about the MDGs. I know-- too many initials in your life already? Now, what are they, again?

The MDGs are the Millennium Development Goals, adopted by 191 nations, including the United States, and embraced by the Episcopal Church in two general conventions. There are eight of them, and here they are:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
Cut in half the number of people surviving on $1 a day.
2. Achieve universal primary education for children.
Ensure that boys and girls everywhere are able to complete a full
course of primary school.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
Eliminate discrimination against women in education and wages.
4. Reduce child mortality.
Reduce by two-thirds the number of children who die before the
age of 5.
5. Improve maternal health.
Reduce by 75% the number of women who die because
of pregnancy or in childbirth.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Stop the spread of these diseases and see a decline in the death
rate.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
Cut in half the number of people without access to safe drinking
water. Reverse the loss of natural resources by practicing
sustainable development.
8. Create a global partnership for development.
Improve levels of development assistance, provide access to
markets, offer solutions for indebted countries.


The MDGs can show us what love looks like. They provides a yardstick against which Episcopal Relief and Development measures the good we do. What does love of neighbor look like? We'll look like we love children of poverty as ourselves when 75% fewer of them die before age 5 than do today. When more of them get to go to school. When fewer of them die of malaria, and more of them have clean water to drink.

We often think of love as a lovely, warm feeling. But love is also an activity, and love is also a goal. Love isn't just cuddling: love has legs, and love is on the move.

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To learn more about ERD, or to make a donation, visit http://www.er-d.org or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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