18 DEC 2016Image Not Found.
Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:37-40 CEB
This Sunday’s message focuses on Joseph’s struggle when he discovers that Mary is with child. Joseph knew that he was not the father of that child. Therefore, it was apparent to Joseph that Mary had been unfaithful. Could Joseph be faithful to the Law and to God if he marries Mary who he believes has committed adultery? Could Joseph lovingly put Mary through the public humiliation and hardships that would accompany his divorce of her? Joseph was caught in the struggle between loving God and loving others. If Joseph had focused on one of these commandments to the exclusion of the other commandment, his decision would have been easy. Because Joseph understood that he was not given the luxury of picking and choosing the commandments of God that he would embrace or ignore, he had to struggle with both commandments. There was no easy answer to his dilemma. It is during his struggle that God’s message comes to Joseph. That message shows Joseph how he can remain faithful to God’s Law and still do the loving thing for Mary.
I think that there are many people within the United Methodist Church and within our nation who are caught in the same struggle as Joseph. We are living amid a great divide. That divide is not just seen in our political dialogues, it is also seen in our religious dialogues. It seems to me that at the center of this divide is a struggle with which part of the Great Commandment we keep. There is one group of people who are demanding that we be faithful to the Bible or our Constitution and they think that their critics are unfaithful or unpatriotic because they seem to be ignoring our foundational values. While another group of people demand that we lovingly respond to the needs of our neighbors and they think that their critics are uneducated or just mean spirited because of their insistence on thinking that any foundational values are static. How can what was written centuries ago address issues that are new to our day? How can anyone not be compassionate with the suffering of our neighbors? Jesus tells us in the parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbors are those people without voice or standing. Is there no other way to discuss the issues that confront us? Must our dilemmas seek an easy answer so we no longer engage the struggle? Must our dilemmas seek to devalue our critics so we do not have to consider their perspective? Has the struggle amid our divide forced us to dehumanize or seek to conquer those with whom we disagree?
I invite you to join us for worship as we engage in Joseph’s struggle to see if perhaps God’s answer to Joseph might also serve as a guide for us as we face the struggles within our nation, our church and perhaps even our family. Amid our struggles, we may discover like Joseph that “God is with us.” I hope to see you Sunday!