Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 26 Oct. 2014, Proper 25
Year A RCL: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90: 1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
What does a circle teach us about life & love?
A circle is simple. It reminds us the essence of what Jesus says today about the commandments. He says KISS the Commandments: Keep it simple, saints.
We have lots of circles here to help us think about the circle of God's love that encircles us. [We have tennis balls, a yarn spinner, musical instruments, bracelets, a bell, & these Russian figures.] What can they teach us? What secrets do you think they hold?
Since we are all children of God, I ask those younger than college age to come & explore these circular things for all of us children of God here.
Where do the circles start & where do they end? [It is hard to tell.] We never know how connected something is – like relationships that connect us, like God's love that encircles us even when we don't feel it. Jesus says love is the simple truth of the commandments. That simple truth can keep us balanced.
What about this carved wooden figure? He holds 2 circles: He balances the law & the prophets in God's love. He stays balanced with love of God & love of self & neighbor. Let's see how balanced is he. [See video.]
We never know what amazing things can happen when our lives are balanced in God's circle of love!What about these other circles? What is inside them? [Animal skin, a brass bell, my arm through these bracelets. Whatever stuffs a tennis ball.] What do you find inside the circles of the 2 figures? [Ah! People. More people. Oh, look: even more people!] They show us the deep circle of love within the human family. Maybe these small figures can remind us of Moses & the leaders that follow him. Maybe they remind us of Jesus & his followers – which include us.
Our scriptures seem to go in circles lately, with stories & situations repeating with a few variations: Moses & the people facing challenges & changes, Jesus facing challenges from the leaders, who don't want to change. Our scriptures are like a circle dance that entwines: the lesson from Deuteronomy & the lessons from Thessalonians & Matthew are like interlocking circles.
Deuteronomy says: change of leaders means it's time to give thanks for what was & move on. The Israelites mourn the death of Moses 30 days, the usual time to mourn a parent.1 Moses has been like their parent. They love him.
Like an interlocking circle with Deuteronomy, Paul tells the Thessalonians that he cares very deeply for them & they are dear to him. The Gospel interlocks with the lessons as Jesus tells us to love God with all we've got & to love each other as we love ourselves.....We HAVE to love ourselves. (I wonder if the leaders who challenge Jesus love themselves.)
If we focus on too many how-tos to live in God's love, those details can confuse us like we see in people throughout the Bible. This can squeeze love out of our lives & leave us unbalanced. This wooden man reminds us that what looks like an impossible balance is indeed possible when we keep it simple. We can be balanced with love of God & love of self & neighbor.
This last circle reminds us of what is central to life. Look what encircles this circle. Can you see the words? [Kids, what do they say?] Love. Love. Love. This circle is a Trinity of Love.
The Holy Trinity, whom we proclaim & worship, calls us to live a life of love. The Holy Trinity encircles us with love. We never know how connected something is – like relationships that connect us, like God's love that encircles us even when we don't feel it. Remember: what looks off-balance may hold wonderful surprises of fuller life in God's love.
God creates each of us to life in love & for love. What does God say for us to do? Love. What does Jesus say for us to do? Love. What does the Holy Spirit say for us to do? Love. So let's do it!
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Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 7 Oct. 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
1 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. P. 449.