Month: September 2015
This Love is Made to be Spoken
On Mitzvahs and Trusting
While a mitzvah usually refers to a kind or charitable act, it actually means “commandment.” The mitzvot (pl.) are commandments given by God to the Hebrews for them to obey in everyday life. It says a great deal about those commandments that today’s colloquial understanding of the word refers to being kind and helpful to others in often unexpected ways.
Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Barukh sheim k’vod malkhuto l’olam va’ed.
V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekha b’khol l’v’kha uv’khol naf’sh’kha uv’khol m’odekha
V’hayu had’varim ha’eileh asher anokhi m’tzav’kha hayom al l’vavekha..
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart.
(Please excuse the gender specific and dominion language, kept for context.)
This excerpt of the Sh’ma comes from the First (Old) Testament, Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It is the opening of a central prayer of Judaism and often the first prayer a Jewish child will learn. Most likely, it is one of the first prayers learned by Jesus. And, it foreshadows the answer to the question that Jesus was asked later about which of the commandments were most important. His reply, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”’ Matt 22:37-39
This is a mitzvah that is as simple as it is devastating when ignored or diluted. Ignorance and devastation that are two sides of the same coin that is minted without love. It is the coin that Jesus likely referred to when he asked them whose likeness appeared on the money that was used to pay for the poll-tax. When those testing him answered, “Caesar’s,” Jesus replied: “Then render to Caesar the things at are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” Matt 22:19-21.
Ignorance and destruction to Caesar; Love to God. Classic Jesus!
It is why we come back time and again in the face of those who cause us harm because of their ignorance and fear. It is why we “turn the other cheek” away from the sting of being vilified or rejected and respond with love. It is why we cannot judge others, because to do so would break down the prayer, the love, the mitzvot, and any hope to the end of aggression, violence and marginalization for the many of us who have to fight for the very air we breathe.
It is why any interpretation of the Bible that forgets this love is wrong. It is why any practice based on the Bible that sees “unwelcoming of the other” as faithfulness is advancing ignorance and devastation and is a twisted, dangerous and violent disease. A disease that plagues our full welcoming of one another; a deep soul-sickness that can only be overcome by love.
Without the unconditional practice of the simple mitzvah to love, we accept less than God has made us to be; we relinquish and relegate our hope to a the myth that “time will tell…” It is not time that tells but our hearts and the actions they produce.
Simple. So, why are we so quiet? What is it that bows to the ignorance and says, “It is ok not to agree with the full inclusion of all our sisters an brothers,” when in practice that translates to: “It is ok for you to embrace a brand of love that harms others.”
Mitzvot and love are easier to talk about than to open their imbedded powers in service. While secular communities embrace and practice such teachings in some instances, the responsibility for this ministry lies primarily is in our communities of faith. And, if you listen for the denominational or institutional religious voice that speaks the loudest in letting all our sisters and brothers know they are fully welcome in a church, temple or mosque – there is not much to hear.
And, ironically, the voice that is most heard is from the religion that still holds to dogma which refuses to ordain women or folks who are LGBTQ, still refusing Communion to divorced couples, and more. Still, there is such thirst for healing that even the smallest of rhetorical changes are greeted with exuberant attention. This is not surprising considering how much we need to heal and welcome each other just as we have always been, sisters and brothers in this mystery of creation rooted in love.
So, I do. I hold leadership and each one of us in faith communities accountable for what has happened as well as how we will change things from today forward. I do. I believe that until faith communities like the PC(USA) and others speak loudly with love with exuberance about the welcoming that is growing in our denominations; until we speak with love that is not diminished or understated for fear of rejection – until then folks are right to confuse to whom we render what – and whether or not we really have changed, at all.
During the early years of the AIDS crisis, there were actually two diseases plaguing us, each one deadly and both compounding the ignorance that caused our devastating loss of sisters and brothers: AIDS and AfrAIDS (the fear of getting AIDS). We were all afraid in those years, understandably so. And we looked for the voice then, woefully absent in ways that could have made a great difference. Think of the Office of the President of the United States of America from 1980 – 1988 and a president who never once said the word “AIDS” from his bully pulpit and what his voice might have done. “Silence = Death” was an accusation, a cry, and a lament.
Think of a candidate for President of the United States who nods in agreement when someone says, “We have a problem and the problem is Muslims.”
Think of candidates who see the Supreme Court as “rogue” because of their decision on marriage equality.
It is all part of the same brewing ignorance and devastation…
This absence of our voice of Love, now as before, brings back the horror of the onslaught of AIDS and the growing acceptance of extreme positions as equally valid.
Let’s ask ourselves and the institutions, faith and other communities of which we are apart the question: “What is it about God’s love for us and one another that holds us so captive to silence? What are we afraid of? What holds us back?”
Nothing as important as what we are called to do, I say…