We learn in this text that this chosen people has a special mission: to teach each other and their children about what God expects and about how God wants them to act, to be a light unto the nations (Isaiah 11:1). The people have one basic thing to do: to love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their strength (6:7). This basic affirmation is what will guide them into being the kind of community God wants them to be.
There is a strong intergenerational component at work here: there are commands, decrees, and laws to obey, rules to follow, if you will, to share with the children what God wants; and each Sabbath when the people gather to worship, they will recite these words, remembering who they are and what they are to be about – generation after generation.
In Hebrew, this passage is called the Shema, and it means literally to listen up or to hear. It is a prayer that constitutes Israel as a community, and it sets them apart, obeying God and honoring God and one another. Put another way, the Shema aims to keep the eyes of the people – us – fixed on God, which then moves us to live out our love for God and others in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us.
In Jesus’ day, he would have shared these words as a kind of creed, or an affirmation of faith. In fact, when Jesus talks how the law and the prophets are summed up in this commandment, he is very much in keeping with what Moses was communicating: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 23:22-24)– and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 18:11). That is to be the posture of a follower of Jesus. It is why it is the greatest commandment.
We might ask what this has to do with pickleball, and that is a good question: the connection has to do with community, and with the kind of community God wants us to be. Here, we learn what is important. That’s a connection worth pondering, and it is a lesson we want to share as we move into the future.
Pastor Andy Kinsey