My favorite part of Rite I, the traditional language version of the Holy Eucharist in the Book of Common Prayer, is the Summation of the Law: “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
The text for the Summation of the Law is found in this week’s Gospel reading from Matthew. The Pharisees test Jesus by asking which commandment is the greatest, and his response is a paraphrase of the shema, that ancient Jewish prayer recited twice daily from the Book of Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the Lord is one. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Jesus adds a second commandment from Leviticus 19: “…you must love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
According to our Lord, the entirety of scripture, the arch of God’s story with creation, is summed up in two commandments: Love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. These commandments are at the heart of what God is revealing to us in Jesus Christ. Love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self is certainly a simple rule to live by, but it isn’t easy. Thankfully God’s grace and mercy is abundant, and every day we have new opportunities to live more deeply into these two commandments. We have new opportunities to learn what it means to love God with all we have, to love our neighbors, and to love ourselves as God loves us.
The culmination of God’s mission in the world is reconciliation, and reconciliation looks like justice and love. But the hard work of living more deeply into the love of God, the love of neighbor, and the love of self must be learned. We all have opportunities to discover how to deepen our commitments to Christ’s call, but we cannot do it alone. We learn to love God, to love neighbor, and to love self by engaging in our community, in worship and formation, in care for one another, in outreach and social justice in our larger community, and in giving with gratitude of our time, talent, and treasure.
There are numerous opportunities for us to explore God’s mission of reconciliation here at St. Peter’s, such as the Social Justice film night series with conversation, Parish Hall forums on Social Justice and Outreach, and regular offerings of worship and music, with more information in the eNews, the Sunday Leaflet announcements, and Life at St. Peter’s magazine.
As we all seek deeper communion with God, let us discover together what it means to love ourselves and each other, by participating in formation, worship, and outreach opportunities where we will discover the abundant love of God in Christ.
The Reverend Jacob E. Pierce, Associate Rector