Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling picture
October 25, 2020

Reformation Sunday, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

Matthew 22:34-46

Pretend like talking with the sound off.

Ha!  Were you scrambling to check the sound on your device?  Or did you say, ever so gently, “You’re on mute.”  If you’ve come to live a good portion of your life on Zoom, you’ve said it, or had to stop and find the unmute button.  No matter how long we’ve been doing Zoom, it happens to us.  Some of us are still learning that we can unmute and bring our voice to the room.  Some of us are still learning the community ethic of muting ourselves while someone else is talking so that everyone doesn’t have to hear or experience the chaos that’s coming from our next room; or the dog barking at the doorbell, or worst of all, the flush of a toilet.

It may be the bumper sticker for 2020:  You’re on mute.

It’s such a summary the year: This ongoing feeling that we thought we knew how to live our life, only to discover that now there’s one more step, one more trick to learn, one more practice that has to be developed so that we can do our lives.  And we have to learn it over and over again.

You see it in the reaction of the person who is talking on mute.  When they realize, they often look embarrassed, or irritated, or confused as they click on the little microphone—almost always a flash across the face that says, “I’m really tired of having to be reminded of the basics.”  We say to everyone else, “Sorry, I keep forgetting.”

Jesus reminds us today of the basics.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  The whole summary of the law unmuted, sounded out loud for all to hear.

Yet, when I was reading it this time, I heard the whole summary.  Love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.  With ALL your heart.  With ALL your soul.  With ALL your mind.  Love God with everything:  our emotions, our depth, our bodies, our brains.  Pastor Javen said it so beautifully last week:  Live with God at the center of everything.  I was inspired by that last week.

But somewhere along the line, I had another meeting, and someone said, “You’re on mute.”  And I was overwhelmed by everything that’s being asked of us right now.  Loving the neighbor feels really hard. There are 545 children whose parents cannot be found at the border. There is growing hunger; police brutality; growing CoVID infections.  It’s so much easier to simply complain in outrage about the neighbor. Love them?  And then on top of all that, the most important command suggests that we need to get busy loving God better, or more fully, or more actively; more faithfully.

I saw an article in the Star Tribune last Sunday about awe walking, cultivating a sense of awe as you walk through the neighborhood.  “Consciously watching for small wonders in the world around you during an otherwise ordinary walk could amplify the mental health benefits of the stroll, said a new psychological study of what the study’s authors call “awe walks.”[1]

I’ll have to admit that I started skimming because I wasn’t sure I was ready for one more piece of advice on how to unmute my spiritual life.  I got to the predictable end of the article where, of course, we learn that awe walkers become happier and less upset.  But here’s what muted my cynicism: “More startling, the researchers noted a variance in the groups’ selfies. Over the course of the eight weeks, the size of awe walkers’ countenances shrank in relation to the scenery around them. Their faces grew smaller, the world larger. Nothing similar occurred in the photos from the control group.”

The more they experience the WOW of the world around them, the bigger that world became.  It made me think that the key to loving the neighbor or loving God begins not in making lists of all the ways we can be better people or can change the world.  Perhaps loving God begins with the experience of being loved by God.

Being loved by God.  The key to all the law and the prophets is that God loves.  The only way to bring our full selves to God is to allow God to love our full selves.  This is Luther’s fundamental insight.  By grace we are saved.

I don’t know what you need to mute in order to unmute the divine, but none of us will make it through these days, or change the world, unless we find the ways to take in the deepest truth of all:  God loves us, all of us.

For those on the edge, or so anxious about November 3rd; those who have been working harder than ever; or tripping along the edge of an addiction; or in despair that things won’t get better because winter is coming; for those of you pressed under the weight of oppression, pulled over by brutality; for those so lonely that you can hardly stand it:  God’s love for you is the deepest truth of all life.

Justice will come.  Life will return.  Love will win.

I was reminded by Franciscan Cynthia Bourgeault this week that the only way we can see the world truly is with the eyes of the heart.[2]  It’s from the place of love that the frame widens, and we see ourselves in relationship to divine love and the love that flows through all things.  It’s also the place where we find our strength for the living of these days, and for transforming the world.  If justice is what love looks like in public, then it becomes clear that God’s love will lead us to the neighbor.

Our Sunday School meets every Sunday by Zoom.  I can’t even imagine what’s going on with the mute button in that crowd.  They end each meeting by doing this:  show gesture of making heart.

Show picture of kids in Sunday School.

It seems like the right place to end, and to begin.




[2] From Richard Rohr’s Daily Devotion, October 21, 2020.  Excerpted from Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace (2020), online on-demand course. Full details available from Spirituality & Practice at