This coming Sunday, many churches will celebrate All Saints’ Day, the only celebration in the Church’s calendar that can automatically be celebrated on its appointed day and the following Sunday, so our regularly scheduled readings will be preempted by a different set of readings. However, in the wake of the Etz Hayim Synagogue shooting, we need to hear what Jesus says this week.
In the reading from Mark’s Gospel, a scribe comes to Jesus and asks which commandment is greatest. Jesus gives the only answer that he, a first-century Galilean Jew, could have. He said, “Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This is the Sh’ma and it is the oldest affirmation of faith in the Jewish community, and truly, in the Christian community. At the core of our faith is the fact that all Gentile Christians are grafted into the people of Israel through our own covenant. The covenant that God made with the Jewish people has never been broken, abrogated, superseded, or revoked. We are the ones who have been added to the covenant through our rabbi, our Lord, Jesus the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.
Jesus then says that the second commandment is that “We love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” And who is our neighbor? Luke’s Gospel gives an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, but here it is left open. We have to imagine our neighbor, but I guess that we know the answer to the question, Who is my neighbor? My neighbor is the person who lives next door. My neighbor is the drug addict who lives a couple of houses down. My neighbor is the person who always makes the first pot of coffee at work. My neighbor with the kid who always whines through the church service. My neighbor is eleven people murdered in their synagogue. My neighbor is you. I am your neighbor. Our neighbors break us open to see God.
I was asked this week, “How do we love God when we can’t see God? How do we love our neighbor when they do such horrible things?” I don’t have a good answer. I only have the answer that has worked for me: Trust. I trust that God holds us all in the palms of those almighty hands. I trust that God rejoices when we rejoice and cries when we cry. I trust that in the midst of human brokenness, God provides the glue to hold us all together. And daily, to remind ourselves to trust as we say:
Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength; and we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. There is no commandment greater than these.