Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the laws and the prophets. Gosh, what a statement, what a confining, intersectional and uncomfortable statement! Love is a difficult word. Many people will give long winded mathematical equations about when we should or shouldn't use the word in our relationships. For some, love is earned not given. For others, love is given not earned. Love speaks to the most intimate parts of who we are, the most vulnerable side of us, and yet it is often lost in the hallmark version we ascribe to in society. Love has been modified by jewellers and chocolatiers into a season, a sentiment, a product. Love is, therefore, a mess, because at its core is a very human need and experience. We yearn to love and be loved, which asks a lot of us because of the vulnerability it causes within us to even utter the word love. It is in this vulnerability that Jesus calls us this morning ever deeper into the intersection of love, an intersection of surprising new life.
Those who doubt Jesus’ identity are here again trying to catch him out in a lie with their questions. These wise people knew that they had an airtight question to expose this fraud, and by having him admit it publicly they could finally catch and silence this upstart preacher from causing anymore disruption to their lives. And this is a great disruption because Jesus has come into our life and changed courses, refocused our attention away from the empire and the world order we know, and into a whole new world order of this kingdom. This is dangerous territory because we know the punishment for disobedience to Rome, we die. But deeper down inside this is also a kernel of control. Authorities in Jesus’ time knew how to use policies and titles to control people, to keep the peace. So this language of Love that Jesus is drawing on is the antithesis of Rome and the landscape of people's everyday lives because life was about expectations, cause and effect, control, and micromanagement. There was no room for love, because love was not enforceable, it was only a disruption to be managed.
Jesus in this section of Matthew is presenting us with the less comfortable image of himself in how he's responding to these challenges. Despite the challenge of the questions, and his violent response, he is not suggesting that the answer to discord is violence. Indeed, he is showing us a whole other way to understand love because he isn't outside the way of love in any of his actions. Jesus is fully embodying his identity here in the way of love which is a movement towards the kingdom of God that sees the assumptions about our way of life upended. In this upending then is also a deeper question about the nature of love, of Christian love, and how that embraces our ways of thinking in the world. Is love, then, a saccharin, frilly, commodified, throw away word? Or is love a powerful creedal statement of our orientation in this world? This morning, Jesus shows us its creedal and because of that we will never be the same again.
To love our God and Love one another on the face of it seems easy, and indeed as Christians we’ve got the loving our God down pat. We show up to worship, we pay our tithe, we support the bake sale. Our kids live godly lives, and we are the envy of every other family on our block for how well our family acts out its faith. What they don't see is the high tech security cameras all around the house, because they mistrust their immigrant neighbours. Or the large collection of guns and assault weapons they have because they’re afraid some random person will try to break in and kill them. What they don't see is how they walk past homeless people, petition the city to move the halfway house away from them because its affecting their property values, or how they openly pray against minorities and a return to empire over them. And before you think I’ve made this up, these people exist all over North america- even in our city. Yes, you and I love our God with everything we are, but sometimes we struggle the most in loving our neighbour. It is this struggle that Jesus points us towards today in the intersection of love, which is the cross, an intersection he will die on in just a few chapters after this morning's gospel.
The intersection of love is the cross, because in its arms Jesus holds together you and I in community (the horizontal arms) to bind and reconcile us to God (the vertical). In its arms hung love incarnate, a love so fierce and powerful that it came to upend our lives, challenge our assumptions and equip us to do the same in his name. This love, this violent love, was more than just someone making a scene. It was someone standing for what is right, arguing with the purpose and intention of freeing gods children from their slavery to sin and explotation. It was someone willing to stand before us and tell us to try harder on this way of love. Jesus never suggested following him would be easy, but he did say that following him would free us from the shackles that hold us back in life, a freedom he willingly died at the intersection of love- the cross- to ensure we experienced. An experience that is again open to us today.
Over this last month we have heard and seen together the transformational nature of love in our Homeless Action Month. We have been challenged by the faces of poverty within us- those places where we feel unready or unsure. One thing dominated our exploration, which was the voice of Jesus calling us into this work of love together. Love that asks us as the weather continues cool and needs for homeless shelters and housing rise- how will we act for love? Will you stand at a microphone and risky getting uncomfortable so that our friends have a safe space to live? Will you show up to city hearings on modular house and safe injection sights to challenge the stigma of homelessness? Will you move from observer to doer, from comfort into love, for the sake of the other? The work of love is a 365 day experience, and it begins anew today.
But fear not, you are totally equipped for this work. From our love of God flows the tools and abilities necessary to love our neighbour, and we share a wonderful laboratory of faith here in this parish to practice that every week. Every Sunday we refill our reservoirs of Love for God, with the spiritual food of the altar, so that we can go out into the world and love our neighbour as we love ourselves. And sometimes that love will be hallmark and sometimes it will be contentious and uncomfortable, but what is united in them is the reason and purpose we do this work. We do this because we are all made in the image of God, without exception, and in that image there is no room for fear or exclusion. Love always wins, even at the intersection of Love- the body of Christ nailed to the cross uniting heaven and earth- Love won over death. The darkness of our world cannot extinguish the light of love, a light we are called to carry into the world today in the work we are doing for the Kingdom of God. Christ is reaching down to you today, from the arms of the reconciling intercession of Love- the cross- to follow him into our world to transform its dysfunctional systems into abundance for all. We are equipped for this work, how will you embrace this transformational love this week?