UPSIDE DOWN & LOVING LARGE (Part 5) The Distracted Life Matthew 22 34-40 Pastor Carey May 21, 2017

Questions, questions, questions.  When we were young, we couldn’t ask enough questions.  As we grew older we learned which questions were more important to ask.  Later in life we learned who to ask questions – and who NOT to ask questions.  Without questions we don’t learn, discover or change our world.  But in asking a question we admit our vulnerability – that there just might be something we don’t know.  Most every teacher will tell us that there is no such thing as a “dumb” question. And that is true.  Yet, would we agree that some questions are more important than others?  What was the most important question you asked – or were asked?  May I have this job?  Can I take out a loan? May I attend your university or college? Would you like to have dinner together?  Will you marry me? Can you help me? Will you forgive me?  What is your “most important question” that you’ve ever asked?  Today’s scripture is the answer to, what I think is THE greatest question ever asked of Jesus: what is the greatest commandment in the Bible? (By the way, what would be your “most important question” you’d like to ask Jesus?)

Because of Easter, everything changes – it literally turns everything upside down – the way we live, the way we love, the way we relate to God, others and even ourselves.  Easter opens our hearts to be, to act and to live more loving.  So for the six weeks between Easter and Pentecost we’re discovering, or rediscovering how to live alive – as a true Easter disciple of Jesus!  Let’s discover again how Easter helps to overcome our distracted lives.

Religion has the tendency to distract us. Not intentionally, but over time it can. First we try and stay close to the heart of our faith and make rules to keep us focused.  Then we begin to stumble and make more rules about the rules and before we know it, we’ve got more rules about the rules than we do about our faith.  We think we know what we believe and what we’re called to do as a disciple, but then doubt enters into our hearts and souls. It can be so distracting that we lose focus and we lose heart about who we are called to be.

My favorite church story is about a man who had all the kids come down front for a special children’s message one Sunday morning. He started talking about a little brown animal that climbs trees and has a big bushy tail and asked the children if they knew what it was.  A little boy raised his hand and said, “I know the answer is supposed to be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!” And in our distracted faith life we stick with the clichés and pat answers that do nothing to deepen or expand our faith and we feel empty, lost or, even worse, disillusioned. Maybe this was part of the Pharisee lifestyle of Jesus’ day.

The “super” question asked that day was less about gaining wisdom and more about trying to trick or stump Jesus.  Yet the Lord’s answer still changes everything – it is an Easter answer! It is so profound it is simple and so simple, it is profound: Love God fully and love others fully!  Don’t hold back love with everything you have, your mind (thinking), your heart (emotions), your strength (actions) and the most important, your soul (your faith center, the real you).

In a world that runs on money, power, greed, sex and entertainment, no wonder we’re distracted, we were made to run on love, not the other stuff. And along comes Easter and reminds us of the truth of life: love.

Love caused God to create so that there were move to love and share love with.  Love banished new sinners from the tree of life so the fallen creatures could one day be restored and not live eternally separated from God and his love.  Love brought the savior of the world to earth to save us from our sins.  Love was willing to be crucified for crimes and sins that he never committed.  Love was sacrificed so new life and new relationships could begin again.

Three days later, love arose…victorious!  No grave can ever keep love down!  Love ascended to the right hand of God and sent to us a comforter, a teacher, a guide and a constant companion in us so that every day we can move beyond the distracted life and truly live into the original plan of living in love with God and with one another every day!  And, because we cannot do this on our own, love is always with us to help us love God and love neighbor fully – every day!

Steve was taking a difficult Logic class and his teacher was known for exacting and demanding exams. The day before the exam, the professor said that each student could bring in a single 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper with as much information as they could put on it for help during the test. On exam day, everyone came with their paper.  Some had lines so tiny that one had to wonder how they could read it. But Steve walked in with a single blank sheet and his friend who was a senior who had an ‘A’ in logic. Steve bent down and placed that single, blank sheet of paper on the floor next to his desk. His expert friend stood on the paper.

The professor asked what he was doing and Steve replied, “You said we could bring in whatever we could fit on a single piece of paper for help on the test, well, this is my help and he can fit on the paper!” He had followed the instructions to the letter and was the only student in that class to score an ‘A’ since he had his expert friend standing alongside him. The Holy Spirit is like that friend, standing alongside us, supporting us, and guiding us and helping us to love the Lord with everything, unrestricted, unashamed and unlimited.  The Holy Spirit helps us to love others – especially as we recognize how much God loves them too.

One final question: will you overcome the distracted life by ordering your life around the greatest command of loving large?

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