All Saints Day, observed
Mark 12: 28-34
I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. - Romans 1:16
There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. - Romans 2: 9 – 11
I don’t know if any among our current crop of violent American thugs thinks he’s behaving as a good Christian, but if they do, here I am to disagree. Lovingly. With the Spirit Who was in Jesus Christ as my helper.
People, please get a few things straight, in case anybody tries to lead you astray.
First, even if you become convinced that somebody is purely evil and holds all the wrong opinions, THOU SHALT NOT KILL is still in effect.
Second, if you obey Jesus and the Apostles, far from trying to harm anyone who you believe to be wrong or evil or an enemy, you will Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you....
Third, remember that Jesus of Nazareth and all of his disciples and the Apostle Paul (who wrote more of the New Testament than any other author) ALL LIVED THEIR ENTIRE LIVES AS JEWS.
Above, I quoted from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. If you read the entire letter, it is a very strong and careful argument, explaining why and how God wants gentiles and Jews to live together in peace and harmony. The argument of the letter comes to its climax in chapter 11, where Paul tells (us) gentiles, the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that He may be merciful to all. – Romans 11:29 – 31
In other words, “Gentiles! The Jews are still God’s beloved people! As you wish to be!”
I don’t think that any of you, dear readers, are especially likely to start shooting people or sending them pipe bombs, but I do feel that I must offer a pastoral word, in case you find yourself wondering how to handle any difficult people:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. - Romans 12:18
Also, allow me to repeat here what I told the congregation on Sunday morning: our local Jewish synagogue is Congregation Beth El in Harrisonburg (did you notice the name? It means exactly the same as our church name: it’s Hebrew— the Jewish language used in the Bible— for “House of God”). The Jews of Beth El are good neighbors to us gentiles, offering us hospitality, walking shoulder-to-shoulder with local Christians and Muslims in doing the work of righteousness. Any time you get a chance to show them some love, for God’s sake, show it.
† † †
In our worship, in the coming three weeks, we will conclude this church-year’s journey with the Gospel according to Mark. You may have noticed: we read almost everything in Mark chapters 5 – 10. In Mark chapter 11, Jesus arrives at Jerusalem, so there we find the story of his triumphal entry, humbly riding on a little donkey; then comes the episode where Jesus chases the money-changers and animal-sellers out of the Temple— Scriptures that we have already heard, this year. Our remaining lessons from Mark’s gospel will consist of Jesus’ teachings that are found in chapters 12 and 13: things he said while teaching in Jerusalem during the last week of his earthly life.
And then all too soon, we will begin our preparations for Christmas.
But for now, we hear Jesus say to one of his fellow-Jews who opposed him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
What did this Jew say, that Jesus so praised and encouraged ?
“‘He is one, and besides Him there is no other’;
‘to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding,
and with all the strength,’
‘to love one's neighbor as oneself,’
— this is much more important
than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
- Mark 12:32-33