My family and I have just returned from a great vacation in Hawaii. We spent time on Oahu and Maui. We enjoyed doing many tourist things, from sightseeing to climbing Diamond Head. It nearly killed me, but I made it all the way to the top.
My most enjoyable thing to do was to look for seashells for my granddaughter on the beach in Maui.
On one of those mornings a couple my age approached me and asked what I was looking for. I showed them some of the shells which I had found, and a delightful dialogue followed. John and Nancy were from Canada. I could tell because of the “A’s” strung throughout their conversation. John jokingly explained later why Canadians use the “a” in their speech. He said it’s in the word Canada…C---A---n---A---d---A. Interesting.
We talked about our lives, our faith, and our churches. I was delighted to receive an email from John by the time I returned home which said he had looked up our church website, and listened to a sermon I had preached in a seminary that I once taught at in the Bay Area. He said, “We have just finished listening to your sermon on ALL. Thanks and God bless you for helping us to recommit to the Lord and his work that is so necessary in this fallen world.”
The little word all is used hundreds of times throughout the Bible, but the one that impacts me the most is in the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-5,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
The Hebrew word Shema means, “hear” a pedagogical term Moses used to teach monotheism, one God. Israel’s God is the Lord, Yahweh. There is no other God but Israel’s God, Elohim. He is the eternal, almighty, self-sufficient creator God. This is the God that delivered Israel out of their bondage in the Exodus and sustained them on their journey to the Promised Land. Therefore, Moses prompts them to love their God for what he had done for them. They are to love the Lord their God with all their heart, that is, without any half-heartedness or division of heart by walking in a way that is reverent and worthy of God. They are to love God with all their soul, that is, with all their being, their entire consciousness. The heart and soul are connected in this statement because it is not enough to say I love God, because love for God must be demonstrated by one’s lifestyle, with one’s entire being. Moses adds that they are to also love the Lord with all their strength, with vigor, energy, and force of life.
In the New Testament, Jesus said the entire Old Testament rested on the foundation of loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:34-40). I wonder how much more excellent Patterson would be if we all loved God with all of our heart all of our soul and all of our strength, and others as ourselves?
By Pastor Ken Moren, Family Christian Center. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.