Sermon. October 25, 2020
Rev. John Steitz
In Star Trek, the television series there is a concept called “The Prime Directive.” In the fictional TV series this had to do with non-interference with civilizations they might encounter. The prime directive of physicians and nurses is “to do no harm.”
What is the prime directive given to Jesus’ disciples? The Great Commandment in Matthew 22 points us to our prime directive. We are to love God with our whole being, all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The Great Commandment is essentially a summary of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. The first four of these focus on our relationship with God. The last six focus on our relationship with each other.
Rather than a set of prohibitions, the Great Commandment is oriented toward the positive. What are to do and be instead of a “do not” or “shall not” list.
During the Last Supper, Jesus centers the Jesus Community, the church that will emerge, with the Love Commandment. Disciples are to love one another as Jesus loved them. It is through this love that others will know that they are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:34).
The prime directive of Jesus’ disciples is to Love. Love God fully and completely with our whole selves. Love our neighbors. Love ourselves. Love one another within the Beloved Community of Jesus.
It is through the prime directive of Love that others will know that we are Jesus’ disciples. It is through the prime directive of Love that we know ourselves as Jesus’ disciples. Who we are, what we do, how we do it, and what we are becoming as God calls us into the future.
The first prime directive of Love is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We can summarize this in one word: Worship. Worshiping God is the first prime directive of Jesus’ disciples.
This worship might happen in a small prayer circle, at home watching a worship video, or in person with others in congregations of all sizes.
God gives us many gifts through which we are able to worship God. In our congregation we are given the gift of music. There are people in our congregation with extraordinary musical gifts. These gifts are shared that we might worship God with depth and beauty.
In our congregation we are given the gift of prayer. We have people who gather every weekday to pray. The UCC minister Jane Vennard in her wonderful book, A Praying Congregation looks at the gift of prayer:
“Prayer is all about our relationship with a God who loves us…God calls all of us, just as we are, into relationship…God wants us to bring all of who we are into this relationship…When we bring all of who we are into our relationship with God, we open ourselves to be loved unconditionally…Anything that we do that honors, strengthens, or deepens our relationship with God can be a form of prayer.”
When we live with intention, loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, we can make everything we do a prayer. The prime directive to love God with our whole being centers us.
We gather to worship God each week as an anchor or touchstone to keep bringing us back to intention and the prime directive to Love. When we love God with all of who we are we find ourselves giving thanks and praise to God in everyday moments throughout the week. The prime directive to Love shapes our daily lives and we find ourselves worshiping God in prayer at all different times and in many situations.
As we pray, as we worship God, who we are and what we are becoming is shaped by the prime directive to Love. We live our everyday lives as Jesus’ disciples.
The second prime directive of Love is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Just as the first prime directive of Love is summed up in the word worship, the second prime directive can be summed up in the word Justice.
Working for justice is an act of love. The prime directive to love our neighbors calls us to challenge harms, embrace diversity, and be radically inclusive.
The Indigenous Australian, Lilla Watson, speaking at the 1985 United Nations Decade for Women Conference shared these words:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound with mine, then let us work together.”
(Watson understands these words as expressing a collective process. She prefers the words be credited as “Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s.”)
What Watson and the activists group of Indigenous people point to is how the prime directive of loving our neighbors is a collaborative process. Loving our neighbors is done in ways that disrupt domination and build solidarity.
In Jesus’ time there were in the Roman Empire wealthy patrons who supplied “bread and circuses” for the masses. The food and entertainment cemented a domination system patron / client relationship.
The patron was in control. The bread provided for the masses real physical needs. The circuses provided for their emotional needs. This gave the patron great power over their clients among the masses.
Jesus is calling us to a different way. We do not love our neighbors by setting up dominant patron / dependent client relationships. This is what the Indigenous activists articulated by Lilla Watson point toward.
We don’t live into the prime directive of loving our neighbors by offering them help. We love our neighbor be recognizing that our liberation is bound to and interwoven with our neighbors. We love our neighbors by working as partners toward our mutual liberation.
We have many neighbors and there is much to do. An overwhelming amount to do. We live into the prime directive of love by loving ourselves.
This is not about being selfish. It is about self-care. We take care of ourselves so that we do not burn out, fall into compassion fatigue, or become jaded in the process.
Like the prime directive of loving God with our whole being, loving our neighbor as ourselves forms who we are and who we are becoming. We recognize, as the Quakers put it, that there is that of God in every one of us. We love our neighbors as ourselves seeking to build the Beloved Community through mutual liberation.
We engage in acts of love that challenge systems and structures that harm people and planet. We engage in acts of love that inspire hope, bring people together, and co-create a just and peaceable community.
Let us be disciples of Jesus who live into the prime directive to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind in worship and prayer; and who love our neighbors as ourselves with mutual respect and regard toward becoming the Beloved Community together. Amen.