Rev. Dr. Ruth Shaver is the Interim Pastor of The Congregational Church of Mansfield, UCC, and a member of Second Congregational Church, UCC, in Attleboro, both in the Old Colony Association in Massachusetts.
Scripture: Matthew 22:34-46 (NRSV)
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Reflection: Keep Asking Questions
I’m not sure when exactly I hit on this truth: our problem is that we DO love our neighbors as we love ourselves, which is not very well and not very much. My best guess is that this revelation came during CPE as I was figuring out how to be authentic as a person and as a pastor, how to love myself and love my neighbor well while loving God wholly as God loves me. I haven’t mastered any of this, nor do I think I ever will. But I keep trying.
One tool I did learn in CPE to help with the integration of self and faith and neighbor into one God-beloved whole who can love God with my whole self is to keep asking questions. Questioning is hopeful and future-oriented. Questions help us to see options that aren’t obvious to us or to others. Questions help us to put fears in perspective so that we can respond thoughtfully instead of react fearfully in the heat of the moment.
We know what happened after the Pharisees—or a small group of them, anyway—stopped asking questions of Jesus: they entered into an agreement with the Roman government and delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the only person with authority to put Jesus to death as a political threat to peace. The Gospels tell us that Pilate asked questions of Jesus and heard Jesus’ answers. If Pilate truly believed Jesus innocent, his and his alone was the power to exonerate rather than condemn. Jesus’ answers would have led to his freedom if the questions were honestly asked.
This leads me to another hard-won revelation: it isn’t enough to keep asking questions; we must ask honest questions and be willing to hear answers we don’t like. As an intentional interim pastor, one of my tasks is to help churches ask those honest questions about how they love themselves (as a congregation and as individuals) and how they love their neighbors (likewise). This kind of introspection, when done honestly and with willingness to hear answers both uplifting and challenging, helps churches and their members how better to love themselves as they love their neighbors, love their neighbors as they love themselves, and love God wholly. The most important questions we can ask right now involve the ways we as individuals and congregations have perpetuated racial and economic injustices in our communities. Changed behavior that leads toward justice marks growing integration of self, neighbor, and faith in our God who calls us to love as we are loved.
Holy God, who calls us to love you wholly and to love as we are loved, give us the wisdom to keep asking honest questions. Let us find joy in answers that uplift us. More, give us the courage to hear, understand, and act upon revelations that challenge us so that we may grow in our love for ourselves and for our neighbors. Send your Holy Spirit to guide us as we craft our questions. May all our answers and all our questions help us love you with our whole hearts, souls, and minds as taught in the Law and by Jesus, for your glory and the building of your realm on earth. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 218,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
- For John Carboni, former Licensed Minister of Newent Congregational Church in Lisbon, CT, and his family, upon the death of John's wife, Maria Carboni.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the beauty of Autumn and rain that helps ease the drought plaguing the region
Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:
The Dover Church, Dover, MA
Pilgrim Church of Dorchester, Dorchester, MA
St. Mark Congregational Church, Dorchester, MA
First Congregational Church of Derby, Derby, CT
Dennis Union Church, Dennis, MA
Deerfield Community Church, UCC, Deerfield, NH
First Church of Deerfield, Deerfield, MA
First Congregational Church in Deep River, Deep River, CT
Allin Congregational Church, UCC, Dedham, MA
First Congregational Church of Darien, Darien, CT
First Church of Danvers, Congregational dba Disciples, UCC, Danvers, MA
This Week in History:
October 21, 2001 (19 years ago) Apple releases the first iPod, a digital music player capable of storing 1,000 songs. It came with a 5 GB hard drive. Though largely replaced by smart phones, the iPod is still produced (in the 7th generation) and now is available with 256 GB of storage and is capable of playing video, games, and productivity apps as well as music.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”