The book of Deuteronomy sounds a constant theme: If you follow the law of the Lord good things will happen to you! This Sunday’s reading provides us another telling of that deuteronomistic maxim. However, in this version of the maxim the author is intent to say that God not only blesses those who follow the law but God also makes the law plain to us and accessible! According to Deuteronomy 30 the Law is not something that God has placed in the heavens or across an ocean but something that God has placed very near (indeed even inside of us) so that we have ready access to it. The close proximity of the law makes the law easier to make part of our lives and is a grace gift to those who would follow it.
Psalm 25 offers a proper response to the Hebrew Bible Lection, and lifts up the importance of the law, in its following phrases…”Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long…Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”
Paul in writing to the church in Colossae, a city in Asia Minor, begins his letter by expressing his gratitude in hearing of the Colosssians’ faith. He then moves to describe the hope he has for them. Paul writes encouragingly hoping that the Colossians would be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” He we see the tender affection that Paul has for the churches, and we see Paul’s understanding of Deuteronomy’s key message about the value of having the “will of God” (i.e. the Law) close and near.
Our gospel lection contains Luke’s telling of the Lawyer who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” The lawyer then quotes the Shema from Deuteronomy (“You shall love the Lord your God…”) and the command to love your neighbor from Leviticus. Jesus is pleased with this answer, but the lawyer is not satisfied. He turns and asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor.” It is here in Luke’s gospel that Jesus gives the parable of the good Samaritan. As you likely know Samaritans and Jews did not get along during Jesus’ day, so the
idea that the Samaritan could be a good neighbor to the man that fell into the hands of the robbers was a pill difficult to swallow by those that heard the parable. Regardless the lawyer concedes the goodness of the Samaritan’s deeds. Jesus then admonishes the laywer to be like the Samaritan (“Go and do likewise…”) Again in our gospel lection, as in our previous letions, we see the importance of the law, but we also see that the law requires certain interpretation (“Who is my neighbor…”) and that by reflecting and interpreting the law we come to know a God who is merciful and just.
Celebration of Worship
As you prepare your hearts, minds, prayers, and hymns for Sunday consider what it means to have the law so close and near to you. Do you have a positive view of the law or a negative view? How does the law help us understand who our neighbor is? How does the life of Jesus, the greatest self revelation of God, inform our interpretation of the law?