WOW! Momentous! Life changing! Seismic! quite frankly I am running out of adjectives to describe the events of the past few weeks. The overwhelming decision taken by the British public will continue to occupy many conversations, take up air time and fill column inches for weeks, if not years. Last month there was even talk of Armageddon.
Do you remember as a child being told by your parents, "don’t touch that it’s hot?" "Don’t put your hand near the fire you’ll burn" or "Hold my hand to cross the road?". At the time you didn’t really understand why, it was only looking back that you realised the significance of the instructions, so much so, that now you find yourself telling others the same thing. We may not understand the significance of the vote, but it will change our lives.
At the heart of the Biblical story in the Old Testament there is a phrase very early in the experience of the people of God, it comes in Deuteronomy chapter 6. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Called the Shema, observant Jews consider this prayer to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a (religious commandment). It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.
If we are to pass on anything to our children and the people of our world surely it’s that divisions need healing, communities need building, people need to feel loved, valued and accepted. Jesus, of course, added an additional phrase to the prayer, which among his disciples he called a commandment. "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Luke 10 25-27.
Rev Peter Thomas
Grassington Congregational Church