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The Messiah who brings love of God and neighbour together

In the Gospel for today we have the two great commandments

* love God

* love your neighbour

Followed by a question about the Messiah

How are they related?

Jesus is saying to the Pharisees is that the Messiah, whoever he is, is Lord even over the most honoured and powerful human rulers: he is more than another king in succession to the great kings of the past. We call him king or king and lord of lords. What has this to do with loving God and loving your neighbour?

It is most important that we understand how the commandments are related to the nature of the one who is here teaching about them.

The Old Covenant and the New

There is nothing new in what he says about the commandments. That summing up of the old covenant law was common amongst the Jews, and could be found in the ancient scriptures:

Of course we remember well that Jesus took up the question of who is our neighbour and told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27-37), thus broadening the principle beyond our own people - and this is related to who he is - the Lord of all people.

What makes the difference is Jesus himself.

He came announcing the Kingdom of God is which these things would be brought about through the work of the Messiah.

We need especially to understand this in relation to the involvement of the Church in the community services: one of the great commitments of the Uniting Church as a branch of the church universal, and of course in our own service to others.

Service and Mission

Community service is part of the mission of the Church. How we understand it can be seen in the mission of Jesus himself. He came into Galilee proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. His actions in driving out evil spirits and in healing the sick were part of the proclamation.

Jesus is much more than the great example. He is the Messiah. In the beginning of Mark's Gospel when Jesus was beginning his mission in Capernaum, it is the man with the evil spirit who cries out, "I know who you are, the holy one of God". (Mark 1:14-27):

It was there in a similar context (Mark 2:9) that Jesus said, "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and take your mat and walk'?"

It was here that he was marked out as one who taught with authority. The performance and the proclamation are one and he who acts is part of the message. Human service is rendered in his overcoming of the powers of evil. Those who acknowledged that are the first to recognise who he is.

The signs of the Kingdom show how the law of love is fulfilled

When John the Baptist wanted to know whether Jesus was the one who was to come or whether they were to expect some other, the message He sent back clearly linked the signs of the coming of the Kingdom with His being the one who was to come. (Matthew 11:4-6):

There is a direct parallel here with the commission that he gave to the 12 and to the 70 (Luke 10:1-9, "Cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'", v.9) when he sent them out on mission - heal the sick, cast out demons, proclaim the good news (Mark 3:14-19, Matt. 10:5-23 for the sending of the twelve, with their commission, Matthew 10:7-8):

When the seventy reported back, again the same images appear. (Luke 10:17-20):

And in the early chapters of the Book of Acts, the apostles demonstrate again how victory over the enemies of humankind are associated with the proclamation of the good news about the coming of the Messiah.

We take part through the gifts of the Spirit - not just our own moral effect in obeying commands of the Lord - His disciples are empowered.

The gifts of the Spirit, are gifts for ministry, some to be apostles, some prophets, some teachers, some pastors and teachers, etc. (Ephesians 4, I Corinthians 12, etc.). The witness of the apostles to these gifts flowing from the victory of the Messiah over sin and death. When He was raised on high he gave gifts out of his bountiful treasure: a bounty won in the conquest which had cost him his life. (Ephesians 4:7-14)

The fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23 - `the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, and self-control') are the results of a transformation of the world of particular cultures in the lives of particular people through the exercise of the gifts and the power of God. They are gifts that come from the grace of God, not simply moral choices or the outworking of human potential, but the undeserved realisation in human life of that victory that Christ won, and of that peace and unity for which he prayed. The point is that the goals and values of human service in terms of human understanding and welfare are intimately related not only to the man Jesus, but to his being the Christ of God. He is the one with the power to pour out such fruitful gifts.

Thus we see in the good news about coming of the Kingdom, in Christ's own mission and in his commission to the apostles, both witness to the work of God in Christ and the service of humanity in His name. Jesus of Nazareth is the cosmic Christ. He is the one through whom God achieves his purpose in creation:

- that everything in heaven and on earth should be brought into a unity in Christ

- that we might all realise our potential as children of God

- and live to celebrate with him the Kingdom at the end of time.

When we go on a mission, we participate in a cosmic drama. (Colossians 1:15-20 ect.)

Our acts of love are a step along the road to fulfulment of the law of love in the Kingdom of the Lord who enables us to share in his work.

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