WEEK SIX: RESPONSE
Psalm 116:12 (NRSV)
What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?
Matthew 22: 37-40 (NRSV)
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 neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In this our last week of Lent before Holy Week, we will contemplate our responses to God’s goodness. There is no way we could ever repay Jesus for all he has done for us; this would be impossible, and it is not the goal. But we are compelled to respond to him in love; we respond out of gratitude and obedience, but also for the joy that our response brings. Jesus has lived, loved and continues to lead us. He has healed, helped and gives us hope. He has forgiven, freed and offers his friendship. He has surrendered, suffered and assures our salvation. How could we not willingly and wholeheartedly respond to his calling?
Our first response of gratitude is to heed his two great commandments: love God, and love our neighbor. We actually love God BY loving our neighbor (1 John 4:20-21). This seems easy enough. I am generally a loving person. After all, I strive to be kind, gracious and nice to others. These commandments should be simple to follow- they are just common courtesy!
But I might be a lazy loving person. My love for others is more passive than active, more easily ‘said’ than ‘done.’ My love seems to be more about refraining from harm rather than actively undoing harm. I try to love by not being unkind, not intentionally hurting others, not judging or gossiping, not lying, not being envious, not criticizing… and so on. My not-doing becomes NOT doing! I think Jesus commands us to be more active with our love, don’t you?
Amid these terrible, tragic shootings that plague us, we hear the phrase, “thoughts and prayers are not enough.” This speaks profoundly to us for all of life’s hardships. Prayer is important, necessary and DOES make a difference. Prayers said on our behalf are genuine, helpful, powerful gifts of grace. But if we just pray, are we doing enough? In our loving response to God, how might we more actively love our neighbor, beyond our thoughts and prayers? How might we make God’s love more visible and relevant to others?
We pray for someone who is grieving, AND we send that person a note to tell them so.
We pray for justice and equality, AND we write our representatives, vote, and speak for those who are oppressed.
We pray for those who are ill AND we cook a pot of soup for their families.
We pray for peace AND we march for it, too.
We pray for the poor AND we donate to social and charitable organizations.
We pray for the needs of our community AND we volunteer to help with those needs.
We pray for the lonely AND we visit the homebound.
We pray for our schools AND we help with a school project.
We pray for those in need AND we share our possessions and funds with them.
We pray for those who are discouraged AND we offer a listening ear.
We pray in gratitude for others AND we let them know how they have blessed us.
We pray for those who are addicted or in trouble AND we serve as mentors.
We pray for those who are devastated by natural disasters AND we donate to worldwide humanitarian networks or serve in mission work.
Yes, we are loving people of faith- but how will others know how God has changed us? We are blessed by God’s love for us all- but how will others experience this same love from God? These visible, loving actions take time, effort, funds, and sacrifice. We may have busy lives but we still can do one kind thing. One act of love from many people can yield great blessings. The world needs more of God as visible love. Our best response to God’s goodness is to live as God’s beloved- and to actively show others that they are God’s beloved, too.
Loving, Ever-present, Caring God,
Today, I pray for …
Show me the AND …
that you are calling me to do.