In this week’s lectionary epistle text, Paul echoes Jesus when he says that the commandments can be summed up in the phrase “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He also notes that “love does no wrong to a neighbor” -- and therefore is a fulfillment of the law. But for Paul, love is much more than an ill-defined emotion... it’s exemplified by our actions. And as team member Beth Herrinton-Hodge points out in this installment of The Immediate Word, we’ve seen the very definition of love in action in many of the responses to the historic flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
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Oscar Wilde penned a powerful story about behaviors and definitions and justice called The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian was a handsome young man, a model of physical beauty and moral virtue. People complimented him on his good graces. Parents pointed to him as an example to their youth. One artist even painted an exquisite portrait of him.
"Have you seen it?" whispered the Barbie doll to her next door neighbour.
The next Barbie doll in line was instantly alert. There were five different Barbie dolls, who lived jumbled together in the toy cupboard but who were so jealous of each other that they rarely spoke. "Seen what?" asked the second Barbie doll, blue eyes darting all round the room.
"The Princess," replied the first Barbie with glee. "Caitlin's done her hair and it looks terrible!"
These verses from Mark's gospel are a call to commitment, a call to sacrifice, and a call to give up everything of earthly value in life. To say these are difficult verses is truly an understatement. It is pretty clear that the disciples are not at all ready for what Jesus is saying. They are not ready for Jesus to die and they certainly are not ready to die themselves.