Monday, March 26, 2018
Reading: Mark 12:28-34
"I cry to you, I have no time!"
Evariste Galois was the father of modern algebra; born in France in 1811, he died five months short of his 21st birthday.
Galois was misunderstood by his peers, and once made a threatening speech against the king. He was challenged to a duel--some think by shady police officers--and couldn't get himself out of facing off. So the night before the duel, we stayed up writing a cover letter to explain the 100 pages of notes that would establish algebra as we know it.
In the margins, he wrote multiple times, "I have no time!"^
At the duel the next morning he was shot, and died two days later.
When we consider that Galois blazed the trail for algebra basically as a teenager, and had to write an explanation in the hours leading up to his certain demise, our algebra homework might almost seem more urgent, inspired, and tragic.
I feel the same way about many gospel stories, and especially the love commandments.
A good chunk of the Bible stories we read on Sunday mornings from the gospels are taken partially out of context. In most cases, the entire second half of the gospels take place after Jesus has predicted his death and set off for Jerusalem. The last third or so takes place in the last five days of Jesus' life, between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
Mark recalls that on the Tuesday of what we call Holy Week, the different factions who feared Jesus attempted to trip up Jesus with questions about taxes and the afterlife. After those failures, a teacher of the law (apparently genuinely curious) asks Jesus what law is the most important. It's crucial to know that the Pharisees counted over 600 laws as part of the Hebrew tradition.
And here's Jesus, just two days away from being betrayed and abandoned and just three days from denial and death, needing to explain what law is most important? We could understand if Jesus dismissed the question with, "I cry to you, I have no time!"
But instead, Jesus recites the great Hebrew words of the Shema, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. And then adding another Hebrew principle from Leviticus, Jesus says, Love your neighbor as yourself.
We may not be quite like Evariste Galois, staring down death and desperately scribbling notes at the last hour to seal our fame. And we certainly are not like Jesus, facing a crucifixion before our resurrection on Easter and having to summarize the law with death knocking on our door.
But we can sympathize with the declaration: "I cry to you, I have no time!"
We can relate to the idea that our modern schedules and pressures make us feel desperate and unable to stand with poise and faith. But Jesus cuts through the obtuse calculus of the law and tells us that the one variable we can control and increase is love for God and neighbor. If we leave that variable out of the equation of life, then following the other laws is pointless.
There is time to do this one thing, to love God and as a corollary, to love neighbor.
If God made time to send Divine Love to us even through we rejected that love, then we can make time to love neighbors, ourselves, and our God.
God, we cry to you that it feels like we have no time to make way for you and others. And yet you sweep away other concerns and reveal to us that loving our neighbors and you is why we are here. Keep us true to your love, even when our hearts are filed with fear. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.
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