Rye Congregational Church
Celebrating God’s Love “In the Heart of Rye Since 1726”
Biblical • Traditional • Independent
Sunday Services at 10 a.m.
Welcome to Rye Congregational Church
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked Him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask Him any more questions. ~ Mark 12:28-34
There are some questions asked from one generation to another, provoking thought and discussion and never seeming to find a satisfying answer. Peter, Paul, and Mary (the ones on the radio, not the ones in the Bible) asked some of these questions for a whole generation of young people torn by racism and war. In their rendition of a song written by Bob Dylan, the enigmatic conclusion “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind; the answer is blowin’ in the wind”, after years of thinking about it, I have taken to mean that though the answers may be all around us, they are still just beyond our grasp somehow. “So close, so close, and yet so far,” (Frankie Valli), like the “elusive butterfly of love” being chased around in another song of that era by Bob Lind.
Maybe that seems like way too much thinking about popular songs on the radio. I blame the educational system. “These songs are written and sung by the minstrels of our age”, we were told by our 8th grade “English literature teacher” at McKelvie Middle School in Bedford, New Hampshire. We “analyzed” the songs on the radio. It was a fun class, but my parents wondered if we were wasting our time and the taxpayers’ dollars in the process. I wondered myself, but they had to do something with us. Our 8th grade class was the most misbehaved in the history of the school, if not the world; incorrigible, in fact, and music hath charms to soothe the savage beast, so the saying goes. Maybe they thought it was worth a try with a room full of savage beasts. In any case, books did not work for us – we had proven that.
Anyway, we are still looking for answers to persistent questions about human failure and suffering. Perhaps thinking about the questions is important because it signals a dissatisfaction with the status quo and motivates us to try to improve things. And despite all our problems, I think we have made much progress in the course of my time on earth and I give significant credit to those among us with the courage to voice questions that made us think, and pray. Maybe they also deserve some credit for the fact that, with a couple of exceptions, our 8th grade class is not now in jail.
So it was in Jesus’ day. They were asking questions about the meaning of life and how best to serve the God who made us and calls us to Himself: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” People had been asking it for a long time. It was a way of calling them to a study of the Scriptures, to an encounter with God through the inspired Word. And it worked. Rabbis asked it of their congregants, parents of their teenage children. The discussions that followed were illuminating. They revealed what a person was thinking and how seriously they took the obligation to seek and serve God. No one really expected to find an answer that would put the question to rest. Until Jesus …
It was the way He said it as well as the way He went beyond it to offer up the second most important commandment and further assert that the entirety of God’s expectation of us could be summed up by the two (Matthew 22:40). No one had ever imagined such a thing was possible. As they would come to say of Him often, “No man ever spoke like this man.” (John 7:46)
With God’s help, I hope to see more and more of it each year, further and further beyond my reach to include the whole human family whom God loves. I long for the day when we will all feel a part of one loving family. In the truest sense, we are one family. As our world grows a little bigger, I know we’ll have more to be thankful for, more to love, more of everything that is good.
They say getting there is half the fun. This time, it was all the fun because when they finally found an answer that the human soul found truly satisfying, they had no more questions for Him. I find that curious. Is there nothing more they wanted to learn? or were they so overwhelmed by the majesty of the mind and heart of Jesus that they were at a loss for words? What will it be like for us someday when we see His face? Will we have questions? Will the troubles of this life press themselves into eternity and require an account? Will God be put on trial for all the things that bother us now? Or will we, like Job of old who suffered so much and demanded answers from God, simply be satisfied on that day with the sight of Him, when the past will be past, and the present filled to overflowing. “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise what I said and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3-5)
Questions have their place – a very important place. They call us forward and upward. They challenge our complacency. They call us to live more fully. But they can also be discouraging at times. As we ask questions in our own time, may we also take comfort in knowing that there is an answer – an answer to everything; an answer so wonderful that it can make us forget the questions, and so satisfying that we no longer care about them. Hard to imagine, but worth doing so.
The Answer is Jesus Himself. As important as all the questions may be, contemplating the Answer proves more joyful in the end, “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be – world without end. Amen.”
In His love,
The Preacher in the Rye
P.S. Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying