Trinity Sunday June 7, 2020
246, 251, 243, 244
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Dearly Beloved Fellow Believers,
The Gospel is the message of God’s love for lost sinners. It is the most marvelous thing to read in the Gospel of John that “God so loved the world…” That God should love the world at all is amazing, since the world is fallen and utterly corrupted by sin. Yet God not only loves His creatures, fallen though they are, but loves us enough to rescue us from sin and death at the cost of the passion and death of His own eternal beloved Son. It is this love that is the theme of the Bible; it is the source of our joy and hope as Christians, and it is the focus of our work as a Christian congregation.
Today’s text teaches that God, who loves us, also wants us to love Him. God who loves also wants to be loved in return. This is why He created man with the capacity to love. He didn’t want only a set of robots with computers in them, which would carry out His commands with responses that He programmed into them. The Lord made some things like that: the sun, the moon, and the stars have their appointed places and movements, their orbits and cycles that they unfailingly follow. But in man God wanted something more: a creature that would not only serve Him and obey Him, but one that would love Him and serve Him out of love.
Now with the fall into sin, man also lost the capacity to love God. But that has been restored to us by the work of Christ and by the gift and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He has created in us a new nature that loves Him and willingly serves Him. As reborn creatures with new life we can respond to His desire for our love that is expressed in today’s text. Our theme for today is: “LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD.”
We have in our text a restatement of the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods.” Here Moses not only restates this but elaborates on it when he says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” For this is what it means to have no other gods, that God should be loved above all things. This is why Jesus called this the greatest of all the commandments. (Matthew 22:37, 38) This is why Luther in his Small Catechism explained the First Commandment in this way: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” The First Commandment is a summary of the whole law of God, for if we truly loved God with all our heart, soul, and might, we would do everything else that He commands, we would live according to His will.
The basis for this commandment to love the LORD above all things is the unity of God, which is stated here as a preface to the commandment. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” There is only one God. There are many others who claim to be gods. There are many worshipers of others gods and temples in which other gods are worshiped. But those other gods are nothing. They are the work of human hands; they are the product of human minds. The same is true, of course, of all the things that take the place of God in the hearts of people today: money, power, pleasure; these too are rivals of God for human hearts. But they aren’t real gods. Perhaps we should say that they aren’t really God. They have no power to save, no blessing to bestow, and no life to give to those who serve them.
So, since there is only one God, He alone has the right to our highest love. No one else, nothing else has a rightful claim to the highest place in our heart. We love other people: our spouse, our children, our parents, our dearest friends; all of them have a place in our heart. And this is good and right, for it is God’s will that we love them. But none of them should ever claim the highest place, nor dare we ever give them that place. Also we appreciate the good things we have: our homes, our cars, our personal possessions, our jobs by which we earn daily bread for ourselves and our families. But we ought never to give those things the first place in our heart and life. Our God is to be loved above all things. We ought to love Him with the heart: our innermost being, the seat of our emotions. We ought to love Him with the soul, our whole personality. We ought to love Him with our might: our whole life, everything we do.
Because God should have the highest place in our heart and life, this is something that we need to impress upon our children and grandchildren. And the Lord here shows us how this should be done.
First, He commands that His Word should be in our hearts. If you yourself are truly devoted to the Lord, if His Word is in your heart, then this will be evident in what you say and how you live. And your children, your grandchildren, and others who know you, will see it.
Second, the Lord’s Word should be something we actively teach our children. Taking them to church and Sunday School is essential, for it is there that they will hear His word and learn of His love. It is there that they will learn reverence for God, that He is to be worshiped and praised.
But this is only the beginning. If we hope that our children and their children after them will believe in Christ and live as Christians, then we need to instill the Word in them with instruction that is an integral part of our daily life. As the Lord here commands through Moses, “You…shall talk of them (His commandments, His words) when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Speak of the Lord’s Word as a part of your daily routine. When you sit down to eat, give thanks to God for your daily bread. When good things happen in your home, praise God and give Him glory for them. When trouble, sorrow, and hardship come, show that God is the place to go for help. When parents correct and discipline, show that God’s Word is the standard for what is right and wrong and that their standards and values as parents aren’t arbitrary. Parents and elders should teach children to honor them, not because they are bigger and stronger, or even just because they are older and wiser, but because God Himself wants them to be honored; they should respect and obey their elders because they are His representatives. And show them by what you say and how you live that God’s Word is in your heart, that it is bound as a sign on your hands and on your foreheads. In this way God’s Word will be written on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
At this point we must add that the commandment to love God above all things is one that we haven’t kept and don’t have the strength to keep perfectly. We have to confess that we have often placed ourselves, other people, and things higher than God. When we are taught something from the Word of God and resist it because it conflicts with our own cherished ideas, then we are placing ourselves higher than God. When we go ahead and do things we know are displeasing to God in order to avoid offending our family, our friends, our boss, we are placing other people higher than God. When we let leisure activities, or even work, crowd out worship and Bible study in our lives, we are placing things above God.
We can take no comfort from our own performance under this most basic commandment. Our comfort is alone in Christ who was born under the law and kept the law for us. He alone among men loved the Father with all His heart, soul, and might. He has made up for all our failing to love God as we should. Jesus has also taken upon Himself all our disobedience, all our lack of love, all our idolatries, and suffered the wrath of God for them. Through faith in Him we are forgiven them all.
And because of what God has done for us, redeeming us, forgiving us, giving us new life by the Holy Spirit, we do love Him. And we want to love Him above all things. He has come to us in the Word and sacraments, so now we know Him and see that He above all things is worthy of our devotion, both ours and our children’s. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.