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Friday, July 27, 2007

First Things First

Things have been slow at the monastery, slow as in trying to conserve energy when the blazing sun tries its hardest to steal any and all water above, below, outside, and inside our body and soul. Bro. Sedwick has banned all plastic water bottles, so I use my old Western canteen, its striped blanket covering now faded, and the water now always with an aluminum tang to it. All progress on the labyrinth has halted, for most of us have traded day for night, now I awake at midnight to begin my day, reading by lantern light until bugs and moths drive me away. So far none of the swamp coolers have broken down. Bro. Juniper returned from Barstow with a store of vegetables, and in the bed of the pickup was a mound of black lava rocks. He said he collected the volcanic rocks near the Amboy Crater and plans to use them to line the outer circle of the labyrinth. After some quick calculations in the sand, Bro. Clarence estimates we will need eleven more loads to complete the circumference. With the price of gasoline, Bro. Sedwick advised Bro. Juniper to rethink his plan.
Right now by lantern light I'm pondering the first and greatest commandment.

Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."

Deuteronomy 10:12 "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?"

Matthew22:35-40: "Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Mark 12:28-31: "And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."

Luke 10:25-28 "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."

So how does one "love" God? The New Testament Greek word for "love" in Matthew22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31, and Luke 10:25-28 is a translation of the Greek verb "agapao." Now agapao is an action in that the subject has genuine affection towards an object. So now it all comes down to, what is it that we have genuine affection toward, first and foremost? That something that we put first in our lives, that we agapao? In English "love" can be anything from "I love my cat" "I love mocha almond fudge ice cream" "I love Bugs Bunny cartoons" to "I love God." Without modifiers, love is certainly nebulous. So sticking with the demanding Greek agapao, can we answer what is first and foremost in our lives? Is it ourselves? Others? Material things? Pleasure? Power? Or a thousand other things? And all these somethings can be important in different ways, in fact a bit of all of them is what makes us human. I find mocha almond fudge ice cream isn't bad at all! But that isn't the question. The question is what comes first. What is it that we direct our genuine feelings and emotions and fondness towards? First and foremost? And Jesus adds, what should come second.

2 comments:

Larry said...

I'm praying for you and your brothers to find shade, a breeze, and a cold drink today!

Bro. Bartleby said...

Bless you!