Tag Archives: Diana Butler Bass

Love your neighbour—seriously?

Leviticus 19.1–2, 12–18
Matthew 5.38–48

Christianity is always political. But not in the ways we imagine—for the Beatitudes are its constitution, and love is its only law.
Diana Butler Bass


I’m going to say something a congregation rarely hears from me. Are you ready? It’s this: ‘Let us listen to what the Book of Leviticus has to say to us today.’ That doesn’t happen often.

Leviticus is slap-bang in the middle of the so-called ‘Books of Moses’, the books that form the basis of Jewish law. It is number three of the five books of the law. It follows Genesis and Exodus, and is in turn followed by Numbers and Deuteronomy. Most of Leviticus deals with rules about the priesthood and also about daily life—for example, what you can and cannot eat or wear, and what are proper—and improper—sexual relations.

It reads oddly to us; what can you expect? It was written a long time ago. It’s a ragbag. Different topics are jumbled together, nestling cheek by jowl.

The passage we read tonight ends with ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.

That’s a very high theme; but it is immediately followed by laws about not breeding different animals together, not wearing clothes of mixed fabric, and then rules about what happens when a man has sexual relations with a female slave.

Leviticus is a mixed bag.

But when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he says (Matthew 22.37–40)

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ [and] ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

Then he says, ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Remember the Golden Rule that fulfils the law and the prophets?

Jesus is quoting from two books of the law. ‘You shall love the Lord your God…’ comes from Deuteronomy 6.5. ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ is from our passage today. Leviticus 19.18.

From among all the laws in Leviticus about not wearing polyester-cotton shirts and not eating bacon or prawns and when you’re ritually clean or unclean, Jesus zeroes in on this one. We should look at it more closely. Jesus did.

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Easter Day (Year A, 24 April 2011)

Trust the resurrection

Colossians 3.1-4
Matthew 28.1-10

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and a Jew, who was interned in the Dachau concentration camp during the Second World War. In his most famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he tells about some of his fellow prisoners at the end of the war. They had been held captive so long that when they were released,

they walked out into the sunlight, blinked nervously and then silently walked back into the familiar darkness of the prisons, to which they had been accustomed for such a long time.

Sometimes, it seems the light is just too bright.

Listen to this claim that Diana Butler Bass will make in her next book:

The point isn’t that you believe in the resurrection. Any fool can believe in a resurrection from the dead. The point is that you trust in the resurrection. And that’s much, much harder to do.

I understand her words in this way: Sometimes, the sun/Sonlight is so bright that we may accept the ‘fact’ of the resurrection, but we don’t trust in the resurrection. In other words, we don’t trust that God doesn’t let death have the last word. God has determined that life comes out of death. The future is open. The last word is life.

That’s hard to believe sometimes. In Matthew’s story of Jesus, everything has finished. There’s no hope left. Jesus had been tried in a kangaroo court, flooded, mocked and made to carry his cross as far as he could. Then nails fastened him to the cross and he was hoisted in the air and left to die. Slowly. Painfully.

He called out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and breathed his last.

Death had had the last word—or so it seemed. How could anyone possibly trust in a resurrection? The disciples didn’t. They were beaten men.

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