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St. James' Glastonbury
Episcopal Church

Weekly Message from Rev. Matt Handi

Message from

The Rev. Matt Handi

April 17, 2024

Our Epistle this week is from 1 John.

While we tend to read the New Revised Standard Version of the bible each week, I wasn’t able to find exactly how many words there are in that translation of the bible. However, I did find out that there are 783,137 words in the King James Bible.

Separately, it is thought that there are 613 laws (also known as the Mitzvot) given by God to Israel in the Hebrew bible. From those laws, we are given 10 commandments. Within those commandments we find 3 sections, the relationship between God and humanity, the relationships between people, and the governance of one’s private actions, (do not covet and do not bear false witness.) And from the distillation of those three sections, we read two overarching themes: love God and love your neighbor.

From those thousands of words and from those hundreds of laws, we can break everything down into their finer parts: faith and love. We show our love for God through our faith in God; we show our love for each other by exhibiting hope in each other.

Sounds simple, no? Just love each other and love God. Have faith in each other and faith in God. Even our readings this week from John’s first letter reflect that simplicity, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

That’s it. Just, let’s love and let’s do so in the public square in deeds and not just words. “And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

Easy, because “(b)eloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.”

John writes to his congregation and, by extension, us with continued exhortations more like the ones above. Believe in God and God’s son, Jesus Christ. Love one another. We need only to follow God’s commandments to show that we believe, that we abide in God and God dwells in us.

Now, as noted above there are many laws found in those 783,137 words. Some of those laws apply to Temple worship and Temple priests. Others though, apply to all of us and by following them, we show we do indeed know and follow God. Yet are you familiar with each of those laws? Each and every law? Do you welcome the stranger? Have you ever blasphemed? Do you keep the sabbath holy?

To some questions, you will say yes. To others, you might say no. In a broader sense, most of us keep to the Ten Commandments and still, to the broadest sense, we love God and we love each other. Still, I do think God is in the details and in the details of those so many laws are this: remove those things that will distract you from loving God and each other; celebrate those things that help us to love each other.

We can also acknowledge that it is sometimes difficult to act as God would have us act and we can acknowledge too that it is sometimes difficult to love others, especially those who are difficult to love.

Still, we can abide in each other as God abides in us. If we reduce God’s laws to just two commandments, we are not in fact making them any easier to follow because the Christian life is not supposed to be simple.

Faith can be hard, it can be hard to love and hard to believe, but that we are commanded to love each other and God is simple. And so, we can live our lives aspiring to fulfilling God’s law while at the same time amending our ways and asking for forgiveness when we come up short.

John writes clearly and simply about this, but do not mistake his tone for the difficulty in performing the work we are called to do.

It is hard work.

It is good work.

It is God’s work.