Practicing Shema Spirituality

In our first week at Ethos, we discussed a simple ancient Hebrew practice – praying the Shema. “Shema” is a Hebrew word that means “Hear” which is the first word in Moses’ famous speech to the Israelite people in Deut. 6:4-5.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Jesus ammends the Shema in Mark 12 by adding a commandment from Lev. 19. “And love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love God. Love others. That is Shema spirituality. In fact, according to Jesus in Mark 12, it is the core of our Christian faith. Nothing is more important than these two commandments. Love God and love other people.

I wonder how our lives would change if we committed this simple but radical prayer to memory and recited it throughout each day… “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

I wonder how long it take before we started taking notice of our interactions with others and thinking to ourselves “Now that wasn’t loving others.” Or “Thank you Lord for teaching me to love others.” ???

In class, we also looked at Luke 10. It’s the same situation as Mark 12, but with a parable added – the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I want to add two reflections to our discussion last Sunday on this text.

1> Ever notice how “Love of God” can get in the way of loving others? Sometimes we can be so preoccupied with our religion (like the Preist or the Levite) that we pass by those in need without a second thought? But Jesus seems to think that true love of God works itself out in the real world as a deep love for other people.

2> Sometimes we think affiliation with this group or that sect, is all we need to be “in” with God. We think to ourselves, “I am in. They are out.” But Jesus uses the so called “out-crowd” as an example of someone who genuinely loves God and loves others. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we could tell a person by the fruits they produce. Loving God is sort of like inward roots. And loving others is the outward fruits. Religious affiliation with this group or that doesn’t count for much in the economy of God. Anyone is capable of either loving God and loving others or living for their own benefit or for the world.

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