with all that I have

Third Sunday after Pentecost
Christchurch Cathedral, Grafton
30 June 2019

 

[ video ]

 

Through this past month of Sundays we have been reflecting on the inner dynamics of our lives as Christian people.

  • What are our core values?
  • What is our mission in a nutshell?
  • What are the elements of faith which are non-negotiable and draw us into the future where God awaits?

 

During this series we have been focusing on some key phrases from the familiar words of the great commandment:

Shema Yisrael; Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God the Lord is one and you shall love the Lord our God with all your heart, and with all your soul, [with all your mind,] and with all your strength.

 

On the first Sunday this month we reflected on the significance of loving God with all our heart. We saw that this means moving beyond any sense of compliance with external requirements, as we acknowledge our relationship with God as fundamental to our identity and our purpose. This stuff matters to us. We care about spiritual work.

The following week, we reflected on the significance of soul: who we are in our innermost selves as creatures in whom the spirit of God is present and active. We saw that loving God with all our hearts is to make God the most important priority, but we also saw that to love God with our soul is to recognise that a relationship with God lies at the very heart of who we are as living creatures. Spirit people. Living souls.

When Jesus was quoting the words of the Shema Yisrael to the lawyer who asked his advice, he took the liberty of adding one additional element. We tend not to notice this because we are so familiar with the version from the Gospels.

The original version in Deuteronomy 6 refers to heart, soul and strength, and in today’s sermon we will be reflecting shortly on the significance of that final term. However, it is both interesting and significant that Jesus is remembered as telling his questioner that it is also absolutely essential that we love God with our minds.

There is no place for intellectual laziness within the spiritual life. We do not mistake information for wisdom, nor do we value answers over questions. But we are called as people of faith to use our brains and to love God with our minds.

When Camellia helped us to explore this idea a couple of weeks ago, we were observing Trinity Sunday. The concept of God as Trinity is an excellent symbol of the need to move beyond simplicity and naivety, towards a more nuanced and sophisticated faith. Loving God with our minds!

 

Loving God with our strength

So this week we turn to the last of the four phrases: loving God with our strength or, as we used to say the old translation, with our might.

This is an interesting concept.

Loving God with our heart invites us to think about the priorities in our life. Loving God with our soul invites us to reflect on our innermost identity and spirit people. But loving God with our strength—or our might—takes us to a very different place.

The Hebrew word in Deuteronomy 6 is מאוד, which is really an adjective rather than a noun. Indeed, I have מאוד on the outside of a coffee cup that I purchased from a coffee chain in Israel several years ago: מאוד. In the context it means exceptional.

In the context of Deuteronomy 6 as also in the context of Mark chapter 12, where the Greek word is ισχυςis used, the focus is on everything we have.

Nothing is excluded.

Nothing is exempt.

Nothing is held back.

Every resource and every asset and every ounce of energy which we have at our disposal is brought to the task of loving and serving God.

So, instead of saying love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength we should perhaps translate it as follows: love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with everything that you have.

Wow!

That is a truly radical call to discipleship:

Remember the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler: “sell your goods, give everything to the poor then come follow me.”

Remember the comments of Jesus when he saw a widow putting her last two small coins into the collection box at the Temple. Her gift was more precious than the bags of coins being offered by wealthy people, because she gave everything that she had.

This is not asking for 10%.

This is not negotiating any other intermediate benchmark for splitting our assets between God and ourselves.

This is a demand that everything we have—the whole lot—be given over to God’s purposes!

This is the wisdom of St Francis of Assisi.

This is the wisdom of Saul of Tarsus.

This is the wisdom of Jesus.

The call of God on our lives invites us to see everything we have—every asset over which we have control—as entrusted to us by God for the sake of mission.

So how do we manage this radical demand when it comes to distributing our assets, and particularly the discretionary funds which are available to us after we have filled our primary obligation of providing for our family and ourselves?

 

The way I deal with it is like this.

If the amount of money which I allocate each week has no impact on my capacity to do whatever I want to do, then I have not given enough.

Let me say that again as it sets a different kind of benchmark.

If the amount of money which I allocate each week has no impact on my capacity to do whatever I want to do, then I have not given enough.

There must be an element of sacrifice.

No pain no gain.

 

On the other hand, if I find that there are some things I would like to have done but can no longer afford to do because I allocated a significant chunk of my disposable cash to God’s work, then I have a sense that I am beginning to love God with all my strength, with all that I have.

 

So I will never tell you how much money you should put into the offering plate or how much money you should contribute to this charity or that charity.

For some people, 10% is way too high because what is then left is simply too small amount on which to live. On the other hand, for some people 10% is way too low, because their 90% is still so large a sum that there has been no sacrifice at all when they surrender even 10% of their disposable assets.

Again, remember the widow’s and the two small copper coins.

There is a challenge, a sting at the end of the tail, as we hear the words of the great commandment.

Yes, we will make God the most important thing in our lives; loving God with our heart.

Yes, we will live out of the recognition that our innermost selves express the presence of God deep within us; as we love God with our soul.

Yes, we commit to have minds that are always open to new truth; loving God with our minds.

And yes, we will love God with everything that we have even when that means that some of the things we would have liked to do we can no longer afford to do, because we are choosing to love God with all that we have, with our strength and with our might.

That’s a tough call, but it is the call Jesus makes.

And wouldn’t be great if the Cathedral had a reputation around town for our generosity. Those people (us) make such an impact because they are so generous with their time and their money. They give it all they have!

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. The opinions expressed in my publications, including my blog posts, are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Diocese of Grafton nor Christ Church​ Cathedral in Grafton.
This entry was posted in Grafton Cathedral, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to with all that I have

  1. Ekkel says:

    That brings it close to home! Especially this week when all my seven kids are in Amsterdam. How would I react when even one of them would not return…?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.