Matthew 22:36-39
The Rev. Adele K. Langworthy, preaching
October 25, 2020

“God is the air, we are his song.”  I love this metaphor that the quartet just sang.  Have you ever thought of yourself as God’s song?

What style of song would your life be today — Classical, Hip Hop, Calypso, Country, Jazz, Oldies, Metal, Rock, Rhythm & Blues, Folk?

What do your lyrics convey — what story is being told?

What is your rhythm — the way your song is systematically divided into beats — random, regular, alternating, flowing, progressive?

Rhythm makes music, music, but it would be nowhere without a beat which is an unchanging tempo that enables notes to flow.  What is your beat—your unchanging constant in life?

Jesus sets us up with the answer in our scripture passage today.  He gives us the constant beat needed for our lives in relationship to God and each other.  The constant beat is ’love’. So, no matter our life song, rhythm, and story, we are to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as our self.”

When our personal song marches to the beat of love, as Jesus calls us to love, we in turn march to the beat of God—and, oh, what a song that is!

Let’s get to know Jack Martens from the story that was [10 years ago] told about him, a person who marched to the beat of God:

  • He is a minister without a pulpit, but with a music stand. Just ask the over 10,000 students who benefitted from his ministry over the years.
  • He is a band teacher to 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds in the inner city of San Francisco.
  • For 33 years he has braved the challenges of less-than-ideal teaching conditions at Ben Franklin Middle School to courageously live out his faith.
  • Over 50 percent of Martens’ students are from non-traditional homes, the same number are on welfare, and nearly that number come from families where English is not the first language. To that score, add the fact that funding for the arts has been all but cut off in Jack’s school district.
  • Still the 56-year-old, bearded band teacher shepherds his students through the less-than green pastures of life. “I love these kids,” he admits.  “And they love me,” he humbly says.  “In me they can see my love for Jesus Christ.”
  • Although Martens keeps a Bible and other Christian symbols on his desk, it is his interaction with the kids that gives his witness a melody line.
  • He eats lunch with them to help them talk through their problems and stays after school to help with difficult fingerings.
  • Through the mechanics of music he is able to show his students they are capable of something beautiful.
  • Jack is a committed follower of Jesus who views his secular work as a sacred call, marching to the beat of God throughout his days.

Let’s take a little closer look at what it means for us to keep the constant beat of love going in our lives as we maneuver through this ever-changing, ever-challenging world.

To love as God would have us love means we love the Lord with a total love — a heart that beats with desire and passion for God, an emotional core that dares to be vulnerable and ‘real’ with God and thoughts of love and compassion that are directed by God.  When we find ourselves in a place of loving God with a fullness of being, we can then love others, as ourselves more completely.

The story of Matt and David show that love has many forms.  And while any of us might struggle to appreciate how someone is telling us that they love us, God appreciates every form of love that is true to the person.

Matt writes, “Shortly after I moved from Minnesota to Long Island, I met David, a Jewish follower of Jesus who constantly challenged me to view the Bible through Jewish eyes.  David is also a passionate, brilliant, full-blooded New Yorker.  For the first two years of my ministry on Long Island, David would often approach me after a worship service and begin with something like, ‘Hey, nice sermon, I liked that third point a lot, but I think you also missed something crucial in that passage.  Let me tell you how I would see this through Jewish eyes.’  And then he’d launch into his weekly five-minute rebuttal-argument about the finer points of biblical exegesis.  I thought he was trying to pick a fight with me, but I politely listened and thanked him for his ‘insights’.  But after listening to his rebuttals for two years, I couldn’t stand it anymore.  So I finally blurted out, ‘David, what is the deal?  Don’t you get anything out of my sermons?  Doesn’t God tell you something?  Why must you always nitpick about some minor point of theology?’  My face flushed with anger and David stood there frozen in shock.

“Finally, David broke the icy silence.  First, he laughed.  Then he said, ‘Maybe I should explain my cultural background, which is probably different than your ethnic background.  When New York Jews like me argue about Scripture, we’re asking for a dialogue.  When I tell you that I disagree with something you’ve said, I’m expecting you to fire back and say, “O, yeah, well I think that you’re wrong too and let me tell you why.” You see, Jewish people sometimes get close by working through unpleasant feelings, even by arguing if necessary.  Confronting each other is a sign of intimacy in the relationship.  So when I dish it out, I want you to dish it right back.  That’s how trust and intimacy grows in the relationship.’”

Matt came to realize that David was expressing a love and respect for him in a way that was foreign to him.  Unlike Matt, God recognizes our attempts at showing him our love.  At times our expression might be through eloquent words and at other times it might be through words that lack clarity and precision.  Our attempts might be rough around the edges, but God does not care, for God simply wants our heart to beat with his love.  It has been said that the more one loves something, the more one becomes like what he or she loves.  For example, a person who loves surfing may start dressing in surfing clothes, read surfing magazines, talk with surf talk language (you get the picture).  In turn, the more we love God with our whole heart, the more we find ourselves keeping step as we march to the beat of God.

The more we grow in our love of Jesus, the stronger the beat of our heart and the rhythm of our soul point to no other than God.

A twenty-something woman was asked why she was visiting a young elementary-aged girl who lived in a housing project in the heart of a very troubled neighborhood.  She replied, “Why wouldn’t I?”  You see, it never crossed her mind not to be there.  The little girl she tutored lived there, it was her home.  She was taking the girl to the zoo, so why wouldn’t she pick her up?  Why wouldn’t she make sure she got home safely?  She would pick up her friends if they were going to the zoo and drop them off at home at the end of their excursion.

Marching to the Beat of God …

  • brings us to our knees at the feet of our friends
  • makes us friends of our neighbors that are wealthy & poor
  • gives us a heart to serve
  • humbles us to wash others’ feet.
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