All Mine

24/05/2012  Wesley Study Centre Methodist Preaching service

Worship Leader: Andrew Emison, Preacher: Tracey Hume

Scripture: Mark 12:28-35

The first image (above) began as we worshipped. The prayers particularly shaped this image and the scriptures added to it.  But then Tracey preached and I realised that the image I was getting was quite different and so strong was the opening image that I very quickly sketched out a new image on the next page and very quickly began to chalk it in. I was praying about the colours as I went along and soon the image became holy ground for me and in the midst of the chalking I was worshipping God and being totally overwhelmed by the sense of God’s presence.

The image below is the final image:

Spend some time reflecting on this image in the light of the scriptures, especially from verse 31 – ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ and you will begin to understand.

Then perhaps you might like to Read Tracey’s sermon.

This was Tracey’s first preach and I think I am not out of order in saying that all who heard her were thankful, blessed, and  moved by her sermon. Below is Tracey’s script reproduced with her permission for you to be blessed too.

—–

“Love Your Neighbour as Yourself”

As we have heard, today is Aldersgate day when we remember Wesley’s heart strangely warmed, today is my my first ever preach so I am experiencing my stomach feeling strangely nauseous!

Our family have a little tradition at 5:15 most weekdays. As a family we sit down with our tea and watch the programme Pointless. I am sure most of you are busy working on assignments or in chapel at such a time and so don’t catch it. The aim of the programme is for the contestants to find a right answer which 100 people have not thought of, a pointless answer. An example question might be, films starring Brad Pitt. Well, I am pretty sure that if you asked 100 people for  verses in the bible they could remember in 100 seconds, Love Your Neighbour would be fairly near the top. It certainly would not be a pointless answer. It’s one of those passages that we have grown up with, is really familiar, even to people who are not church-goers.

The passage comes just after Jesus speaking of the religious leaders rejecting him. The leaders then send Pharisees to try and trap Jesus with their questions about taxes and Caesar. The Sadducees then approach Jesus and pose a question about widows. At the beginning of the reading we have just heard one of the teachers of religious law had been standing listening to the debate. He recognised Jesus’ gift for answering questions so he asks which is the greatest commandment. Jesus, in his usual style answers incredibly wisely and says there are two. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. {This part would sound familiar as it appears in Deuteronomy 6.} The second is equally important. Love your neighbour as yourself.’ {This would also be familiar as it is in Leviticus chapter 19} Jesus’ answer meant that no-one else dared ask a question.

As I haven’t got long and I have a reputation for talking alot, I am going to focus on the two commandments in verses 30 and 31 of this passage, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ In ten minutes I certainly couldn’t do justice to the whole passage. And I am going to reflect on it topsy turvy because I will start with verse 31 then go onto verse 30.

The problem with this passage is that everyone can remember the first bit of that key verse 31  but forget or gloss over the second part, “as yourself”. I don’t know about you but I would be much happier if the verse did end at Love your neighbour. That bit I can do. The second part I do not find very easy at all. Loving myself has always been a huge challenge, as a child I did not get those messages of love and affirmation from my parents when my sense of self was developing. So I have always struggled with this passage.

You couldn’t help but notice that all around you are mirrors. I hate mirrors, they never show me what I want to see, a 5’ 8”” slim blonde. I have often avoided mirrors to avoid the disappointment. It was interesting to watch you lot when you arrived. Some of you were comfortable picking up the mirrors and checking yourself out with an agreeable nod about what you saw. Others sat somewhere where they could avoid seeing their reflection. How many of you look in the mirror in the morning and say to yourself “I am made in the image of God and I am fabulous!” But we are. Somehow though, that journey from the head to the heart feels like a long and impossible journey. I am sure Mark Miller got absolutely fed up the other week when he was taking the Ember list photos, people saying how much they hated having their photo taken because they look horrible in pictures. We can so easily see the beauty, internal and external, in others but refuse to see it in ourselves. By doing so are we telling God He has messed up?

Loving ourselves is not just about what we look like of course. Being able to appreciate who we are is another thing. How many of us compare ourselves to those around us and wish we were a bit more like them and bit less like ourselves? Or how many of us try and pretend to be someone else because we fear that people would not like us if they really knew what we were like? I have spent more years than I care to count struggling with who I am because who I was, was never good enough for those around me when I was younger. If the people who love you don’t tell you that you are fine just the way you are then it is very difficult to then accept that God loves you just the way he created you to be.

So why are we told to love ourselves? Surely we can love our neighbour without loving ourselves. I have found this passage a real personal challenge. I have been quite happy doing what I can when I can for people I have come into contact with, helping, giving lifts, cooking for them etc but I have done so from a place of not loving myself. But in recent months I have been reading two types of books, one type has been about mission for the Pioneer module and in preparation for my new appointment, and the other type has been books on seeing myself as God does. Today we remember John Wesley’s epiphany moment about his salvation being about the grace of God. This reading has led to my own small epiphany moment when I have begun to take on board that my value is not in what others think of me but in what God thinks about me and how important that realisation is in the mission I undertake. I have a long way to go to feel secure in that, but on the way I am. I guess it was similar for Wesley, there was nothing knew in what he heard, the passage from Romans was familiar, but sometimes it hits you in a new way which turns everything on its’ head.

The reading has led me to ask “How can we expect to see Christ reflected in our neighbour if we cannot accept or believe that he is reflected to them in us?” Loving ourselves is, in part, about acknowledging that we are created in God’s image as we hear in Genesis. This is not an egoistic love like we might see on The Apprentice when the candidates tell us they are the best thing since sliced bread at the expense of putting those around them down. That is not a love which reflects God.

You can tell I have just spent 2 years in theological college because I am about to quote Jurgen Moltmann! He says that ‘True love of self has nothing to do with egoism.. God loves us and for that reason we should love ourselves.’  To God I am unique, a loveable treasure, the apple of his eye. In the words of L’Oreal, “Because I’m worth it.” Moltmann goes on to ask ‘How can someone who doesn’t love himself love his neighbour? How can someone who can’t bear herself tolerate her neighbour?’ Tough words. Maybe sometimes when we try to love our neighbour without loving ourselves we are saying one thing and our body language is saying another.

If part of mission is sharing the love of God then loving your neighbour must reflect that knowledge and acceptance for yourself. If we don’t love ourselves how can we demonstrate the unconditional love of God to our neighbour? It’s like we only have half the story. If we cannot forgive ourselves and others in response to Christ’s unconditional love through the cross, then how can we tell our neighbour that they too are forgiven? I have by no means got this all wrapped up. Knowing something and feeling it are often 2 different things and it takes time for one to become the other.

When Paul Wheelhouse and I were on our Deep Listening placement in North Road, Love your neighbour was a bit of a strap-line for us. We felt that the church was being called to rediscover what it meant to love your neighbour. But loving your neighbour is more than a few goodwill actions. Loving your neighbour is, in part, about being Christ to others that they might see the reflections of Christ in who we are and what we do. I have placed a mirror in front of the cross here to remind us of that. When someone has an inner confidence and passion about something it shines through, you know they are doing more than saying something with words, they ooze it. By loving ourselves and seeing ourselves as God does we communicate more than words ever can.

In verse 30, the first commandment Jesus mentions is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ For me the most striking thing about this, which I have never considered before is the “with all your mind” bit. I have always assumed that had something to do with thinking about God alot. But when I have 2 voices going on in my head, one saying I am fine just as I am, and the other telling me I am not good enough, why would anyone love me anyway? Am I loving God with all my mind or just half of it? If I can’t do that then am I able to love the Lord my God with all my heart? Am I able to love the Lord my God with all my strength if a lot of my strength and energy is used up by worrying what people think?

In just a couple of chapters time, Jesus was going to be a living illustration of this total submission and love in his own death. The temple-goers of the day were used to sacrifices and burnt offerings as a way of dedicating themselves to God and earning forgiveness, Jesus is telling them that it is love which is the greatest commandment not laws and rituals. Love of God, neighbour and self. Focussing on a continual sense of not being good enough and seeking acceptance and affirmation is maybe a little like looking for the rituals which would make the temple-goers feel better.

I have to admit that these two commandments had been ones which have been so familiar that they have often gone in one ear and out the other because I thought I knew them. But spending time reflecting on them I realise that I haven’t taken on board fully what they mean. If these are the two most important commandments then I maybe need to spend a little more time getting to grips with them and trying to obey them with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

So I want to challenge you this evening to spend some time reflecting on these 2 commandments, maybe when you have all your assignments in! To reflect firstly on whether there are things in your life or your past which are making it difficult to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength? Maybe there are things we hold onto because if we don’t we feel like we have lost control. Are there things which you need to ask God to help you admit and move on from?

Secondly to reflect on the second commandment to Love our neighbour as ourselves? If the neighbour you were serving could read your true thoughts about yourself, what would they be hearing about your God? Are you one of those people who is trying desperately to love your neighbour but inside cannot love yourself?

For those of us going into new parishes and circuits, what difference might these two commandments have on our ministry if we were to reflect and meditate on them regularly?

My prayer is that if, like me, you have listened to this passage time and time again and parts of it have gone in one ear and out the other, that you might allow God to challenge you afresh with those words which you need to re-engage with in order that you might be free to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself.’

Amen.

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