(Posted October 30, 2015)
“Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you 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.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' ”
I’m sure you’ve seen them – the small elongated little boxes on the doorposts and thresholds of some houses. Set on a slight angle, they bear a single Hebrew letter on the outside. Every observant Jewish household has one of these, which is touched each time someone crosses the threshold. It’s a Mezuzah.
This Sunday is, in many ways, a threshold of sorts. It’s the day we return to Standard Time (yes – you “gain” an hour by setting your clocks BACK an hour on Saturday night). It’s also the first day of a new month – one that is the lead-in to the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Ironically, it’s also a Sunday whose Gospel reading connects us so beautifully to our Jewish cousins who place mezuzahs at their door. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus himself identifies which commandment is first of all. The first, he says, is Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
It is this prayer, on a tiny scroll with another prayer, which is housed inside every Mezuzah. It’s not placed on the threshold as a “good luck piece,” like some people think, nor does it have anything to do with the blood of the Passover lamb. Rather it is there to remind us, that, in our going out and in our coming in, we are to remember each and every day that God alone is in charge, and that God has both blessed us and given us a responsibility. People may come and go. Seasons may change. But God is eternally One, and worthy of our prayers. God is in charge.
This Sunday is also, in First Church tradition, All Saints Sunday. This is a Sunday in which we honor those members of our congregation who have died, as well as friends and family we have lost over the last year. Within this particular year, two of our members have passed away. However we do want to honor all those who you have lost someone whose absence you feel. On Sunday morning, you’ll be encouraged to bring up their names in our prayers of joys and concerns. As we honor those we miss, who are like the broken clay jars in which our treasure was once stored, let us also remember what a blessing they still remain.
The artist Barbara Bloom reminds us that “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.” Let our prayers and memory be that gold that makes the pieces whole once again. See you Sunday. – Pastor Pat