Mark 12:28-34 (NRSV)
Verse 28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Verse 29Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; Verse 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' Verse 31The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Verse 32Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; Verse 33and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,' -this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." Verse 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question.
In R.E.M. ‘s 1983 song “Talk About the Passion,” Michael Stipe sings, “Empty prayer, empty mouths, talk about the passion.” These lyrics challenge us to wonder: are our prayers empty if they do not lead to concrete acts that help make the world better for our neighbors? Can we stand back and just talk about the passion when there are empty mouths around us in need of sustenance? Pastors often say that love is more than a feeling; love involves action. In this gospel reading even the argumentative scribe recognizes that loving one’s neighbor as oneself is more important than any self-serving offering or sacrifice we might make. While our salvation in Christ is not dependent upon our capacity to love, the kingdom (or kin-dom) of God is not far off when we extend the love that has first been freely given to us.
Source of all goodness, may we never grow weary of loving one another. Grow in us a deeper yearning for the kind of world where your kingdom is come and your will is done. Amen.