One of the classes I took a few years ago was Hebrew and it was one of my favorites; not because I learned a little of the language but because my teacher taught a lot of Hebrew theology. One lesson which has stuck with me is about the Sh’ma – which was the basis of this Sunday’s teaching from Mark 12. You can listen to Pastor John’s message on Crosswalk’s teachings page. In English, Sh’ma is translated as “listen” or “hear”. When it is used at the beginning like this, it was something the Hebrews (and later, the Jewish people) understood as language used by the prophets. The translation to the English “listen/hear” cannot accurately portray what they were saying because it is not just a simple “listen to this…” like we would say about an interesting news article. It was more of a “what I am about to say is really important and you need to not only pay attention, but to DO what I am about to tell you.” It is essentially a commandment which requires a response. In Mark 12, Jesus did not simply tell the scribes to “love the Lord, your God…” He was intentional in telling them “Hear, O Israel…” – He was making sure they understood how important what He was telling them was.
Why am I writing about all of this? Because I am very excited about this past week. Last week I had the opportunity to ask for prayer through our weekly e-mail and I know you prayed. One prayer was to make some friends outside of church. By Friday, I had run into the wife of a friend I had not spoken to in years and been messaged by another old friend who wanted to have lunch with me. Neither one of them attend church. Sure this is just a start, but wow, God put two opportunities before me of exactly what I asked for prayer for. All I can say is thank you for your prayers and thank you God for giving me those opportunities. The other prayer request was for our leadership as we went on a retreat for two days. The retreat was amazing and I have no doubt that the Spirit is moving here at Crosswalk and His presence was felt at the retreat. I am pumped up, not only because of what God gave us but because I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were being prayed over by you. When I prayed before bed Friday night and reflected upon the day, I literally got goose bumps from the knowledge that so many people were praying for our time together and it showed. You didn’t just read my e-mail last week; you saw the request, and did it.
One of the things I love about praying for each other is that people do it because they want to. It is not simply obedience to God. We pray for each other out of caring. This is important; loving God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength; and loving each other as ourselves are not things we do out of obedience. If that were the case, the English translators would have used “Obey, O Israel…” instead of “hear” but they didn’t. Jewish scholars say that there is no Hebrew word for the verb “to obey.” Sh’ma is close but not quite. Why not? Because obedience can be done regardless of how we feel about it – you can “grudgingly obey.” But you can’t force someone to love someone else, you can’t make people care about other people. It is a choice. We have to want to love and care about God and each other that much. The closest obedience comes is to say “willing obedience”– motivation matters.
I also wrote about the power of community, praying for each other, and how it was modeled throughout Acts. At 2nd service on Sunday, God brought us three men; Byron, Braxton and Antonio, who were involved in a very serious accident last week and Pastor John led all of us in prayer over them. He didn’t do this because he was trying to make a statement; he did it because as a church community we love these young men. There are still two other men involved in that accident who are still in the hospital, please continue to pray for their recovery. In our lives, this is what Jesus is asking us to do: to hear (or read) what He has done and then demonstrate it through action. Not because He says to but because we want to; because we love God and we love each other.
Trying to listen,