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Posts Tagged ‘sermon for Ordinary 31B’

'IMG_1419' photo (c) 2010, Steve Rainwater - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Here is a sermon on Mark 12:28-34, the gospel text for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Year B (Proper 26 B, Ordinary 31B).  It includes an illustration from the movie Toy Story 2, showing how Woody the cowboy chose the way of love over the way of self-preservation.

The Heart of Life

A Sermon on Deuteronomy 6: 4-9; Romans 12: 1-2, 9-21; and Mark 12:28-34

It was almost a sport.  The legal experts of Jesus’ day hardly enjoyed anything more than debating the interpretation and application of God’s law.  For most of those who tried to draw Jesus into debate, it turned into a blood sport, for they were interested in getting the best of him.  Indeed, they ultimately wanted to knock him out.  “Let’s see how he handles this one,” first one group and then another would say as they attempted to trip Jesus up.  In chapter 12 of Mark, for instance, the Pharisees tried to trap him with a question about whether or not it was lawful for God’s people to pay taxes to the Roman emperor.  Jesus’ answer?  Pay to the emperor the things that belong to the emperor, and pay to God the things that belong to God.  They were amazed.  Chalk one up for Jesus.

Then some Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, hoped to make Jesus stumble with a question about the law of levirate marriage.  This law said that if a man died and left a wife but no children, his brother must marry the widow. Then they could have children that would be considered the dead man’s children.  Now if there were seven brothers, proposed the Sadducees, and this happened again and again down through all seven brothers with no resulting children, whose wife would the woman be in the resurrection?  Jesus replied that there is no marriage in heaven.  He then cited one of the Sadducees own favorite scriptures to show that there is a resurrection.  Chalk another one up for Jesus!

One scribe, a legal specialist, listened to all this debating with great interest.  In contrast to most, this one was rather sympathetic with Jesus.  He especially enjoyed it when Jesus got the best of the Sadducees.  There was no love lost between scribes and Sadducees.  Now this scribe zeroed in on the heart of the matter.  Which commandment is the most important, he wanted to know.  To live a faithful life, what was the most important thing?  An answer to this question would show what Jesus was really about.

We don’t know for sure what this scribe’s motive was.  He didn’t seem hostile.  Maybe he was genuinely interested in Jesus’ response.  Maybe he posed the question just for fun.

But the question of what’s most important is not just for fun when you have big decisions to make, when you’re asking questions like: What are my life’s goals going to be?  What job or career should I pursue? Who and when should I marry?

The question of what’s most important is not just for fun when you’re at midlife and reassessing the track you are on.  It’s not even a question you ask for fun at the end of life when you look back.  With all seriousness you ponder whether you have done what is most important, and are you doing what’s most important now.  The question of what’s most important is critical wherever you are on the journey of life.

That question was raised in a touching way in the movie Toy Story 2.  Woody, a toy cowboy belonging to a little boy named Andy was kidnapped by a greedy toy collector.  Woody had just rescued another toy from being sold at Andy’s mom’s yard sale, and before Woody could get back in the house, this man pounced on him.  When Andy’s mom refused to sell Woody, the man stole him.

The thief’s goal was to collect a complete set of all the toys and memorabilia from an old TV series called Woody’s Roundup.  Woody, of course, had been the star character.  Now that he had Woody, the man planned to sell his collection at a fantastic profit to a toy museum in Japan.

A toy doctor refurbished Woody and made him look brand new.  The other toys from the TV show attempted to convince him that it would be a wonderful thing to be together in the toy museum.  They would look good forever and live forever—no more wear and tear from children’s play.  No more disappointment when the children grew up and forgot you.

When Buzz Lightyear and several of Andy’s other toys arrived to rescue Woody, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go home with them.  Buzz and the others exclaimed, “You’re a toy!  You are supposed to be loved and enjoyed by children.  Sure you’ll be handled roughly and wear out.  Sure Andy is going to grow up.  But he loves you.”

Now what was most important?  Looking good, safe forever in a museum case?  Or serving a child who loved him?

Which commandment is most important of all? (more…)

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