One of the scribes came near and heard the Saducees disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "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.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,'--this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34
We spent Saturday morning out on the water in Sitka Harbor. It was a whale watching cruise and we were not disappointed. We saw more than a dozen humpbacks. Their size and power is amazing. I was struck by how interdependent we are with these creatures, how their migration renews the life in these waters as it does the other places they travel. Their life cycle can be completely undone by our carelessness although they would never think oi throw off ours. We heard from several folks who work regularly to free whales who have gotten caught in man's snare of one sort or another. We never hear of whales making traps for us.
The testing of Jesus reached a fever pitch. They really wanted to make him stumble and seem the buffoon and pushed him to reveal his knowledge of law and tradition. Jesus, on the other hand, was not worried about the questions but about the way folks treated one another. To draw near to God is to care for others with the same love and care we take for ourselves and our families. If we are willing to give our all for others, than we can glimpse the reign of God by loving beyond all bounds. We are invited to remember that sacrificial love is God's greatest gift, offered for all and designed for all.
Today, as we sail out from safe harbors may we remember all those who have no safe harbor to return to. May we know them to be our neighbor and reach out in sacrificial love. May we be willing to be the hands and eyes for those who are blinded by weeping, the heart and soul for those who can try no more. May we draw near to God as God's love draws us up and strengthens us to care for others, neighbors all.
Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.