Church of England Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham Ordsall and Retford Saint Michael

Homily for Sunday 25th October 2020

Homily 25th October 2020

Matthew 22:34-46

22:34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,

22:35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

22:36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"

22:37 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.'

22:38 This is the greatest and first commandment.

22:39 And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'

22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

22:41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:

22:42 "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David."

22:43 He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

22:44 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet"'?

22:45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?"

22:46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Our gospel reading today gives us Jesus’ summary of the law , which I guess most of us know well and have heard sermons about many times .

We are to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves .

So we are to love ourselves as well as God and our neighbours.

For some of us , sometimes it is loving ourselves which seems the hardest. I do not mean, of course, that we are to be narcissistic , to have an overblown view of ourselves.

But at the same time we are to love ourselves, to accept that we are created and loved by God .

Lack of self esteem seems a common issue, particularly for those of us who struggle with anxiety and depression. Perhaps we feel that we have failed in some way, not achieved our potential, not done as well in life as our school or college friends. Not achieved what our parents hoped for.

And actually perhaps sometimes our theology does not help our self esteem. How do we maintain an appropriately healthy self esteem if at the same time we are telling ourselves, or being told, that we are sinful, or to use the words of one confession, there is no health in us.

And yet we are sinful, we do repeatedly fail.

So how do we sinful failures go about learning to love ourselves?

We need to know that to fail is not the same as being worthless, or ‘ rubbish’. Failure in one form or another is as inevitable in human life as death and taxes. Often we learn more from our failure than from our successes.

The solution to this conundrum for us Christians will perhaps be found not so much in logical argument as in God’s infinite love and mercy. We do fail but regardless of that we are loved.

I guess that one aspect of spiritual maturity is that we learn to hold these two things in tension: we do fail , we are sinful but also we are of infinite value to God.

Tony Campolo used to say he imagined that God kept a picture of him (Tony) in his wallet. Whenever God was talking to someone else he would get the picture out and say something like:

‘Hey look at this! This is my son ! This is Tony ! He’s doing great. I’m so proud of him!’

So if it helps, maybe remember that God is YOUR father and imagine him with YOUR picture in his wallet, showing it to everyone he meets!

It seems to me that knowing who we are , that we are God’s children, that we are valued is like having solid ground to stand on. It gives us a spiritual foundation which allows us to get on with loving God and our neighbours.

If we do not have that security, if we doubt our own value or that God values us, then we are all the time looking in on ourselves, taking our own spiritual temperature :

Am I good enough ?

Does God really love me ?

Is my faith strong enough ?

Does God want me to do X ,Y or Z? will He be cross with me if I fail?

Have I prayed enough ?

Will I get to heaven ?

And the result is that we can end up being so obsessed with ourselves that we have no time or energy to love God and our neighbours as we should .

I believe God wants us to be secure both in knowing he loves us and in loving ourselves.

The psalms use different metaphors to describe the security which God wants to give us;

Psalm 18.2 says :The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Rock

Fortress

Shield

Stronghold

The fact that God is prepared to be for us our Rock, our fortress, our stronghold, is a reflection of His love for us, of the degree to which he values us. And of course the heart of the gospel is that God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and lived and died as a man because He loves us.  Because He loves you .

I guess this homily is about having our foundations right. About accepting ourselves as we are, loving ourselves and knowing we are loved, knowing we fail and knowing God forgives us.

We need to love ourselves in order to be effective in loving God and our neighbours.

Verse 19 of psalm 18 talks about the God delighting in the psalmist :

‘He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.’

If God delighted in the psalmist, I think he delights in you and I as well.

Be gentle with yourselves.

Take care.

Paul