October 23, 2011
TEXT: Matthew 22:34-36/1 Thess. 2:1-13/Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
IN CHRIST JESUS, GOD LOVES YOU WITH HIS WHOLE HEART!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To the church gathered here in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

If we get love wrong, we will get all of Scripture wrong!  Love is hard work!  Thousands of songs and poems describe love in thousands of emotional and erotic ways. Generation after generation of youth believes they know more about love than older generations. The generation of my university years majored in “free love” and that false view is still enslaving people today. But as God reveals love in Scripture, it is hard work. It is active and doing for others. It is putting their interests first according to God’s will even when we don’t feel like it.

Our Old Testament reading ends with the command “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It leads up to this command with actions that illustrate how difficult loving your neighbor can be. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. If you want to love others you can’t deal with them by emotion or by class warfare. This is very hard work. To give preference to the wealthy and the elite when deciding a matter is sin. Likewise, to give preference to the poor because of dislike for those who have more is also sin. True love works hard to clarify the issues and make a judgment accordingly. True love is not tainted with prejudice for or against the poor or the rich.

October 23, 2011
TEXT: Matthew 22:34-36/1 Thess. 2:1-13/Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
IN CHRIST JESUS, GOD LOVES YOU WITH HIS WHOLE HEART!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To the church gathered here in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

If we get love wrong, we will get all of Scripture wrong!  Love is hard work!  Thousands of songs and poems describe love in thousands of emotional and erotic ways. Generation after generation of youth believes they know more about love than older generations. The generation of my university years majored in “free love” and that false view is still enslaving people today. But as God reveals love in Scripture, it is hard work. It is active and doing for others. It is putting their interests first according to God’s will even when we don’t feel like it.

Our Old Testament reading ends with the command “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It leads up to this command with actions that illustrate how difficult loving your neighbor can be. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. If you want to love others you can’t deal with them by emotion or by class warfare. This is very hard work. To give preference to the wealthy and the elite when deciding a matter is sin. Likewise, to give preference to the poor because of dislike for those who have more is also sin. True love works hard to clarify the issues and make a judgment accordingly. True love is not tainted with prejudice for or against the poor or the rich.

You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people. What your tongue tattles and what your Website displays is never to hurt your neighbor – ever - whether it’s true or not. Gossip inflates your pride while it harms the reputation of another. Do the hard work of love. Wipe your website clean of venom! Muzzle your tongue of gossip like Jesus muzzled or silenced the Sadducees. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people.

You shall not hate your brother in your heart but shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. Love doesn’t shut people out with a hateful heart! Nor does it excuse wrongdoing and pretend it isn’t happening. Love calls people to repentance and forgiveness. Because love is hard work, there is real danger of love growing cold in both of these ways.   

Vengeance, getting even! Partiality to the poor, deference to the great!  Shutting someone out!  Ignoring another’s sin in order to get along!  Not a day passes without the overwhelming sin of lack of love in our lives. There is always more love needed than we are able to give. And the sad truth is we often don’t want to do the hard work. Every day we need the release of Christ’s forgiveness.

When the Pharisees heard that (Jesus) had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. It wasn’t easy to silence the Sadducees!  They were high achievers – the social elite - theologically liberal – intellectually gifted. They were full of themselves and their abilities. But just like He muzzled the raging waves on the stormy sea – Jesus muzzled the Sadducees over the resurrection.

Enter the lawyer from among the Pharisees who might have taken a little pleasure in Jesus’ stifling of the Sadducees. Opposed to the Sadducees in almost every way, they were nonetheless of one mind in seeking to test and trap Jesus. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Like media pundits in our day ask loaded questions to make someone look bad, so the lawyer asked a loaded question to trip Jesus up. Let’s see how He handles a question about all 613 of the rabbinical laws. The strict rabbinic view was that all of them were equally great. They had worked out complicated, circumstantial equations of importance. But any answer Jesus gave could easily be used against Him as belittling the other commandments of God.

So Jesus doesn’t choose – He summarizes!  The author of the Torah, the very Word made flesh, gives His answer without hesitation. (H)e said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus cut through their nonsense by expressing the Law in a nutshell. They sought to trap Him in the law and ended up trapped themselves!  His double-love command also traps us sinners who cannot answer God. The very purpose of your life – the reason God has put you where you are today is to love and adore Him without reserve and to cherish your neighbor without holding back. Your neighbor is everyone God places into your life – even when they seem unlovable.

If we get love wrong, we get it all wrong. Agape love is hard work!  Such love keeps God’s name holy! Such love honors God’s commandments perfectly. Such love insists on the truth of God’s Word. Such love does no harm to the neighbor, even unintentionally. Such love sees its own debt of sin as the greatest and forgives accordingly. No law condemns us as thoroughly as Jesus’ double-love command! There are no excuses! There are no loopholes! If you have not and do not love the Lord your God with all that you are and have – and your neighbor as yourself (including that neighbor you don’t want to love as yourself) – then you fail. So do I!  Dear Christian, wake up! Repent! Turn around!

Note that Jesus does not command you to love some distant great being or some generic god. Rather He says You shall love the Lord your God (Yahweh God). That is to say, You shall love the Lord God who first loved you – who has given you His name. In other words your total love of heart and soul and mind is an answering love to the total love of God. You cannot really love others with the love Jesus commands if you do not love Yahweh God, the Lord your God. Social love or emotional love or erotic love or friendship love or brotherly love apart from God’s Word, is not the love Jesus commands here or that Jesus gives.

The hard work of neighborly agape love flows first from love for the Lord God. Only as love for God and the neighbor are kept together is love kept pure. C. S. Lewis wrote “You cannot love a fellow creature fully till you love God…no natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy in themselves. They are holy when God’s hand is on the rein.”  The preparation and priority you make for weekly worship as you have today is therefore the beating heart of your love for others. It is foundational to receiving God’s love and returning it to Him. In like manner it is foundational to loving your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus continued, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” The word for “depend” means “dangles” or “hangs from” as an object hangs on a nail. These two commandments picture two pegs at equal height from which hang the entire Scriptures. Our only hope in face of the unmovable double-love command of God is something greater than the Law and the Prophets hanging from two nails at equal height. Our hope in the face of the love we lack is God’s gift of love in human flesh hanging from two nails at equal height on the cross. There hung God’s love for us sinners – in fact – this is how we know what love is that Christ laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16). God cancelled the record of debt that stood against us by nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). As our text today is the Law in a nutshell, thank God He has revealed to us the Gospel in a nutshell, For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

It is to this loving end that Jesus next asked the Pharisees a question deeper than any question of the Law. What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he?  They said to him, “The son of David.”  He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord…If then David calls him Lord how is he his son?”  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone ask him any more questions.

It wasn’t easy to silence the Sadducees or the Pharisees, but Jesus muzzled both. But He hasn’t silenced you. Rather He has opened your lips to confess His Name! The Pharisees were afraid of Jesus’ question but you are not. You know how David’s Son can be David’s Lord and your Lord. Every week in the Creed you confess the answer to that question saying that He “is very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father”. He who always existed and through whom all things were made came down in human flesh as a descendant of David. That miracle – that holy mystery - is how David’s son is David’s Lord.

He is love and He fulfills the law of love “for you”. He loves you with no loopholes! By God’s love, we mean His “hard work” His perfect obedience and His sacrificial service that has won salvation for the world. Recall again the acts of love in Leviticus 19. Where you have unjustly favored the poor or the rich – Jesus has dealt righteously with all. Where your tongue has spread hurtful gossip Jesus has only spoken the truth in love. Where you have borne a grudge – Jesus sacrificed Himself to save even His accusers. Where you have failed to rebuke your neighbor and call him to repentance – Jesus proclaims His Law and calls all to repentance. Then having perfectly fulfilled the law of love to God and to neighbor – He suffered God’s judgment for the love that your heart and your mind and your soul lack and that I likewise lack. In love He stooped low to the hard labor of suffering the punishment of the damned in hell. In love He died. In love He rose again with victory over the whole unloving mess of our sin and our rebellion!

Your risen Savior still works hard in love for you today. He ascended to the authority of God’s right hand not to rest, but to continue delivering grace and faith and life to you – at the font – at His Table – in His word of absolution. He knows that the root problem is not your imperfect love for God nor your failure to love your neighbor as yourself. Oh, these are huge problems that you can never solve. The post communion collect rightly leads us to pray that this salutary gift will strengthen us in fervent love (that is constant and unfailing love) for one another.

But the seed problem – the root problem goes even deeper. The core problem is our refusal to be loved so much by God. If we get love wrong – we get it all wrong!  Can the Holy Trinity, really love you so much as to forgive all your sins and give you His kingdom?  Oh yes!  His love for you is total!   He put His name on you!  God loves you not because you are lovable but because He is love. Though your feelings come and go, His love for you does not!  You have not yet overestimated the hard work He has done to buy you back!  You have not yet anchored your hope too deeply on the hard work He is doing to keep you as His own!  In His love He began the good work of faith in you!  In His love, He will bring it to completion!

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a