Week of Lent 2: John 12:37-43
A reading from John.
37 Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" 39 And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them." 41 Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. 42Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.
Word of God, word of life. Thanks be to God.
Sermon Wednesday Lent Two
This year during Lent, our theme is the “Shema” from Deuteronomy 4. Last week, I talked about the beginning verse - “Hear, O Israel.”
This week’s verse is - You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart.
When I was in elementary school it seem like the proof that you had learned something was the ability to recite it aloud. We recited our spelling words aloud in spelling bees and we recited our Bible verses for the Sunday school teacher each week. We children had two different ways of talking about the things we learned.
The first way was to say we had memorized our Bible verses. For me, memorizing meant reading it over in the car on the way to church. I was pretty good at memorizing that way. I could read it over a few times and keep it in my head for the few minutes we had of reciting the verses at the beginning of class. The teacher would go around the table and each child would say the same verse.
I was usually fearful that I might be chosen to go first, so I did the memory work in the car. There were kids who banked on not being first or second to recite, because being third or fourth gave you the opportunity to hear other kids say the verse and do a "repeat after me" version.
This memorizing technique worked for weekly spelling tests, too. Many of us are familiar with the process of cramming for a test. Get as much of the information into your short term memory as you can for the Friday quiz, and immediately forget it.
Immediately forgetting what you memorized was the problem with the technique. Heaven forbid the Sunday school teacher ask me to say last week's verse. By the end of the day Sunday, I probably couldn't say that morning's verse. And forget about the final exam in school if all you did was quickly memorize for the weekly quizzes.
The other way we talked about learning when I was in elementary school, was what we called "knowing it by heart". Knowing something by heart meant you really, really knew it. You knew it so well that you would always know it and never forget it. Our Sunday school teachers wanted us to know our verses by heart.
Often there was a child in class who would volunteer to recite first because she or he would say, "I know this one by heart". The rest of us were always grateful.
When I worked in long term care facilities with people who had memory problems, we knew that the things they learned as small children were most deeply learned and stayed with them the longest. For example, I could say to them and to you, "Jesus loves me, this I know....." and you would respond, "for the Bible tells me so". How old were you when you learned that? Two, three, four, maybe? You know it by heart.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart.
Loving the LORD with all your heart isn't just saying something over a few times so you can recite it once for a quiz when you get to the pearly gates. You can't count on being able to repeat what the two or three people ahead of you in line have just said.
There isn't a formula or a verse that you can say once and call it good. Loving the LORD your God with all your heart requires a life long commitment. It must be learned so well that it stays with you forever.
We also use the word heart to mean the center of anything, even inanimate objects, or ideas. When we say, "let's get to the heart of the matter," we all know what that means. We know we are talking about the most important, most central part of whatever idea we are discussing.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart.
Loving the LORD your God is "getting to the heart of the matter". It is the central most important thing we do as believers in Jesus Christ.
Loving God is not a romantic notion. God doesn't want a valentine or a box of candy or even a diamond ring. God wants to be the center of your entire life forever.
Loving God with all your heart isn't something you can do alongside everything else. You can't be incidentally a Christian, like you are incidentally a member of the Girl Scouts or the Rotary.
I know there are many demands on your life. There are many groups asking for your time and money which are worthy causes. There are many things competing for your time and attention no matter how old you are. We all have to make choices. We have to decide what our priorities are.
Tonight's lesson gives us a measuring stick to help with those choices. Does your choice show that you love human glory, or glory that comes from God? It is often a complicated measuring stick. It requires prayer and thought and discussion with other Christians. Fortunately, God gives us all these gifts to use, when we have a decision to make.
When we love the LORD our God with all our heart, God's love is the center of our lives. This does not mean we just show up for worship and call it good for the week. That is like memorizing the verse so you can recite it for the teacher after someone else says it. If you can't say it later in the afternoon or the next week, you haven't learned it by heart.
We spend most of our lives outside the walls of this church building. Our choices outside of these walls show that we have taken the message of the good news of Jesus to heart. Our choices show others that we care more about God's glory than human glory.
We will fall short of the goal often enough. Only God is perfect. By our own efforts, we cannot love God at all, much less with our whole heart.
We can only love the LORD our God with our whole heart, because God first loves us. God loves us so much that Jesus came to suffer and to die for us. This week, how will you go out into the world and live your life so that you give God the Glory? Amen.