Our worship today is focusing on the United Church of Christ’s 3 Great Loves… let me share a message from John C. Dorhauer—General Minister and President of UCC
The United Church of Christ has a vision of a just world for all. In this world all are welcomed, everyone is loved and justice is inherent.
The 3 Great Loves is the denomination’s opportunity to express how our Love of Neighbor, Love of Children, and Love of Creation work together to address the inequities in our current world.
Over the course of the next two years, through the lens of
the 3 Great Loves, the United Church of Christ will tell the story of how we are impacting and transforming the world, united in common purpose and mission.
this is a denomination-wide undertaking.
One by one we will focus on each of the 3 Great Loves in service to our communities.
Our expression of love, is and will be our living testimony.

What would it look like for an entire denomination to commit to a shared mission? How much impact could an entire denomination have if it worked as one on a mission that mattered?

We’re about to find out.
Beginning this past fall, and for the next two years until General Synod 2019, the faith communities of the United Church of Christ are called on to engage in the Three Great Loves mission campaign.

In response to our Purpose statement – a call to love our neighbor as ourselves; and to our Vision statement – to build a just world for all: we are asking our congregations to seek ways to live out a commitment in mission to the love of children, the love of neighbor, and the love of creation.

How do our churches embody its love for children?

How do we incarnate the love of Jesus in seeking to love our neighbor?

How do our churches uphold the mandate to steward the Earth by demonstrating a love for creation?—
We are given the opportunity in the coming months to share how we are already do this as well as to seek new ways to live this mission out.

Together, we can change the world.

United in God’s spirit and inspired by God’s grace, we can love all, welcome all, and seek justice for all: for the children, for our neighbors, and for creation.

We can, we will, we must make a difference.

Let our love light the way to a better world, a more just world – for the children, for our neighbors, for creation.

If you are here in worship today, it is not by chance… we are going to dream together today… be inspired together by each other today…Amen

During worship we shared CARING CONVERSATIONS: caring conversations are more than Passing the Peace+, they provide an opportunity so that people might get to know each other better. Those present were asked to turn to someone sitting nearby or someone a little father away who you don’t know so well….and each of was asked to answer 1 or 2 of the following questions.
What is the meaning or story behind your name?
What is one of your favorite ways to relax?
If you could be doing anything else right now you would be …
Where did you see God this week?

SCRIPTURE READING:
“Greetings, sisters and brothers, we are reading several passages that emphasize the actions that demonstrate love of neighbor, while hearing the constant reminder from the Book of Galatians that the greatest law is loving neighbor as yourself.”
“For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
1 Corinthians 10:24, 31-33
“For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Colossians 3: 12-17
“For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Hebrews 13:1-3
“For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10: 25-37 CEB
A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”
He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”[a]
Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Good Samaritan

Often we emphasize WHO the Samaritan was— the person who, in Jesus’ time, was a member of a despised group of people and therefore the least expected to do the right thing.
Jesus is also giving us (and the legal expert or lawyer to whom he speaks) a guidepost for what to do when we encounter our neighbor when she or he is in distress.

The legal expert seemed to want to determine what was the least he had to do to be right with God or inherit eternal life… what could he get by with, what are the lowest limits of what I must do…. missing the spirit of God’s abundance
Aren’t we there sometimes… wanting to know what we need to do to get by…?
Jesus answers that this is the wrong question. The wrong focus.
So let’s talk… not rhetorical questions… let’s exchange some thoughts on our neighbors and the story … what followed was an exchange of thoughts and ideas on the questions I posed and my input

Who were the people who passed the man who was robbed and beaten?
The priest… who did he represent? the religious leadership, could be a minister today or the church moderator or chair of deacons
The Levite— was a lay associate of the priest, committee member or someone who sits in the pews, all of you.

Who was the Samaritan? a foreigner, an outsider, a pariah, a person living here illegally or who doesn’t speak English.

Who do you identify with in the story? Stand if you are able…
The legal expert, the priest, the Levite, the one beaten and left for dead… then shown mercy… the Samaritan…Jesus

What does Jesus say to the lawyer when he is questioning him?
he asks a question

Why do you think that Jesus chose the particular law in his response? Shema— summation of the commandments, the rules or obligations of faith— Shema, 1st word of the prayer HEAR
Shema Israel, Adonai, elohanu

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 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.

What does that law mean to you and how you act every day?
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Not about judging… but about loving..

When the lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Why do you think Jesus responds with a story?
the listener answers their own question in listening to the story

What does the Samaritan do to help the man?

Can you recall ever doing these things to help a stranger? Someone you know?

What might you have done to help the man you encountered?

Can you think of a time when you were like the priest or the Levite? Or when you were like the Samaritan?

This weekend we are observing MLK Jr Day…
A year before he was assassinated MLK gave a powerful speech at Riverside Church in New York City.
Excerpt from Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence by the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society….
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

Jesus’ main point was that a neighbor could be anyone you would help or who would help you. He is stressing the principal that acts of love are the final requirement of the law. Amen