A few years ago, a radio station ran a contest. Disc jockeys invited their listeners to tune in their clock radios. "Just for fun," they said, "when you wake up to the sound of FM-106, call and tell us the first words you spoke when you rolled out of bed. If you're the third caller, you'll win $106."
It didn't take long for the contest to grow in enthusiasm. The first morning, a buoyant disc jockey said, "Caller number three, what did you say when you rolled out of bed this morning?" A groggy voice said, "Do I smell coffee burning?" Another day, a sleepy clerical worker said, "Oh no, I'm late for work." Somebody else said her first words were, "Honey, did I put out the dog last night?" A muffled curse was immediately heard in the background, and then a man was heard to say, "No, you didn't." It was a funny contest and drew a considerable audience.
One morning, however, the third caller said something unusual. The station phone rang. "Good morning, this is FM-106. You're on the air. What did you say when you rolled out of bed this morning?"
A voice with a Bronx accent replied, "You want to know my first words in the morning?"
The bubbly DJ said, "Yes, sir! Tell us what you said."
The Bronx voice responded, "Shema, Israel ... Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." There was a moment of embarrassed silence. Then the radio announcer said, "Sorry, wrong number," and cut to a commercial.
Try to remember. What did you say when you rolled out of bed today? Chances are, those words set the tone for the rest of the day. For the pious Jew the first words of each morning are always the same, and they were the words spoken that morning on FM-106. They were first spoken by Moses, who said, "Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Teach them to your children and talk about them when you lie down and when you rise" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
In the passage we heard a few minutes ago, some scribe asked Jesus, "Which commandment comes first?" It was probably intended as a trick question. If Jesus picked only one of the 613 commandments, he left himself open for a barrage of criticism from those who favored another commandment. In the Gospel of Mark, there are over a dozen occasions when the scribes oppose Jesus. They mock him, dispute him, and conspire against him. Certainly they will pounce on whatever answer he offers. Yet the scribe immediately backs off when Jesus answers, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart."
It is no wonder. The primary obligation for every good Jew has always been to love God with the heart, with the center of all passion and trust. That is the primary purpose of human life. When we were baptized in the name of the Jewish Jesus and adopted into the promises of Israel, we were given the same script to follow. These words name our primary allegiance and bind us to our greatest responsibility: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart."
Today I want to spend some time unpacking what it means for us to love God. We know something about loving our neighbors. We have developed the notion of loving ourselves into a fine art. But loving God comes first, as our greatest obligation and our primary goal. What does it mean to...
1. Love God with all your heart?
2. Love God with all your soul?
3. Love God with all your mind?
4. Love God with all your strength?
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