With All That I Have

I have done my last wedding for the season. It was a beautiful fall day on the beach in Corolla, and I was blessed to marry a “sister of the cloth” to a very nice man. She is a retired United Methodist pastor from the Michigan conference, and their small family came to stand with them as they exchanged vows.

It is uncommon anymore for people to want to write their own vows. Nowadays, folks seem to be content with the traditional ones, or perhaps don’t want the stress and worry of writing something and having to remember it on a day that is already fraught with anxiety. Indeed, it is easier on the nerves to rely on the pastor for the ”repeat after me” vows. But this couple wrote their own vows and they were stunningly beautiful.

As we progressed to the exchange of the wedding rings, we got to a “repeat after me” moment. I have a tender fondness for the ring vows in the United Methodist wedding service. Truth be told, there is one phrase that makes me tear up every time:

I give you this ring
as a sign of my vow,
and with all that I am,
and all that I have,
I honor you;
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.

There is something very poignant in the words “With all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you”. To make that commitment is a bold and audacious thing. It tells the other person that you promise that nothing will ever be withheld from them. It affirms that there is no part of your personhood that will be shared with anyone else. It says that you are “all in,” and they can count on you for the rest of their life. It is a precious commitment.

In our passage from Mark today, notice how a poor widow demonstrated to Jesus that she was “all in”:

Mark 12 (The Message)

38-40 He continued teaching. “Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they’ll pay for it in the end.”

41-44 Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”

Are you all in for Jesus? Are you willing to say to him that with all that you are, and all that you have, you will honor him? Have you committed your time, your talent, your resources, your giving, and your future to the furthering of his kingdom?

Jesus calls us to a covenant relationship that will outlast even our earthly ones. Are you all in? He is.

Nothing Withheld by Michelle Robertson

Listen!

I have always loved the Olympic Games. It is fun to watch all the the media attention that is given to the athletes prior to the first competition. While listening to the promos and background stories one day, I discovered an acronym that threw me off for a minute. I may be the last person in the world to know what it meant. When Simone Biles was described as the “goat” of women’s gymnastics, I was a little offended on her behalf. How could that commentator have possibly compared this incomparable athelete to a barnyard animal? The next day I saw it in print, and I realized that it was spelled G.O.A.T. And of course you already know what I had to learn from Google: G.O.A.T. stands for “greatest of all time.” I guess we didn’t recognize G.O.A.T.s in the marching band when I was growing up. At least not that kind of goat.

Jesus was once asked about which of the commandments was the G.O.A.T. In the twelfth chapter of Mark, he encounters a legal expert who is hoping to trip him up with a trick question. The people around them are leaning in to hear which of the Ten Commandments Jesus will pick. But watch what Jesus does:

Mark 12 (Common English Bible)

28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Jesus responds by quoting the ”Shema” from the book of Deuteronomy. The word ”shema” means to listen. There is a special meaning in this: not only does he give them the traditional faith prayer of his people, which commands them to listen, but he is also instructing the people around him to listen as he clarifies the greatest commandment. Here is the full text of the Shema:

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. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 New Revised Standard Version).

Jesus instructs them to listen up! First and foremost, love God with all your heart, and soul, and strength.

Then he continues:

 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Jews familiar with Scripture would hear the echo of Leviticus:

 Leviticus 19:18; “Forget about the wrong things people do to you. Don’t try to get even. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (ERV)

Jesus’ response is a beautiful rendering of the Ten Commandments in two statements. The first statement blends the first through the fourth commandments, which address our relationship with God. The second statement combines the fifth through the tenth commandments, which instruct us on how to act toward one another.

Even the legal expert was impressed!

32 The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

In the end, loving God with all that you have and loving your neighbor with all that you are pretty much covers everything. These commandments truly are the G.O.A.T. and we are called to live by them every day.

What can you do today to share your love of God with someone? Where is God calling you to reach out to a neighbor in love and service?

Wherever God leads you, go and do it. Then you can be a goat, too.

Dolphin Tales by Michelle Robertson