“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” — Matthew 22:36-40

This last weekend, the congregation I serve, like many of our faith communities, honored our graduating seniors. We thanked them, we celebrated with them and we prayed for them. After the worship service, as I walked through the narthex shaking hands and congratulating them, I had a great sense of peace and contentment. These young people are gifted, they are prepared, and they are ready for wherever their journey takes them next.

At their core, the Owatonna seniors I have encountered this year have compassionate hearts, a commitment to excellence, and a desire to make a difference in the world.

At their core.

That’s the key phrase. And it’s a question we should all be thinking and wondering about for ourselves. What sits at our core?

When Amazon began, it just started as an online bookseller. But it quickly grew way beyond that. They realized that at their core wasn’t a particular set of products. No, at Amazon’s core is an unbelievably effective delivery system. (I can order the exact model gas grill I want, in the color I want, and it can be here in two days? How do they do that?) Once they realized that their core wasn’t a particular set of products, but rather a delivery system, the possibilities of what they could sell became limitless.

What sits at our core?

The Pharisee asked Jesus this same question. “Which law is the greatest?” He asked this trick question, knowing that if Jesus picked a law, that in and of itself would break the law. But Jesus didn’t reply with a law. He replied with what was in his heart; with what was at his core. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. On these two ideas hang everything else.”

Jesus rejects the idea that the laws themselves are our core. At the core of God’s people is love. Love of God and love of each other. It’s that simple. Just love. Let me be clear, it’s not that we abandon the laws…they still exist to protect us…because God loves us. But the law doesn’t live at our core. Love does. Once we realize this, the possibilities of how we can serve, how we can share, and how we can make God’s Kingdom a reality here and now…are endless.

This love, by the way, is not something we achieve or strive for. It is a gift of God.

What sits at our core? What defines us? What gives us our identity?

The love of God.

The Rev. Todd Buegler is the senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna.

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