Have you heard of Fun.? I don’t mean what you do when you laugh and have a good time, but instead mean the popular band whose name is Fun. Many might be familiar with their radio his, “We Are Young,” which seems to be one of the anthems of early summer 2012. Their new album is titled Some Nights, and the title song from the album has me thinking this morning. The refrain to that song has a haunting, if catchy, line that ends each repetition: “what do I stand for? what do I stand for? Some night, I don’t know anymore…”
The reason it’s in my head this morning is because of today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel in which a Scribe approaches Jesus and asks him what the greatest Law is. In essence, he’s asking Jesus “what do you stand for?” And Jesus has a ready response. He’s a good Jew and so he knows what he stands for because every morning he would repeat this prayer/creed of Judaism. It is called the shema and it is what Jesus says in response to this man: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the Lord alone” or, as it is more often translated, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One.” It is a summary of the monotheistic faith, that which distinguishes the people of Israel from other tribes and that which summarizes so much more about what the Jewish people believe.
In naming the Lord (adonai), the shema implicitly recounts the history of God’s revealing God’s Self as the one who is and will be there for the chosen people. It recounts a personal God who is concerned about and cares for all people and creation. It recounts the promises of what’s to come.
Jesus answers the question of what he stands for with the shema and then takes it a step further. He summarizes what is often considered the second part of the Decalogue: the care for neighbor. How exactly does one love the Lord our God? By loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.
This sounds like an easy thing to do, until of course we remember who our neighbor is. Jesus’s parable of the “Good Samaritan” in Luke’s Gospel names the neighbor as the unexpected one, the stranger and enemy of the people. It’s the least likely to be considered neighbor, it is the person we would otherwise choose to not love.
What we stand for is what Jesus stands for: loving God by loving all those people we encounter, the ones who are easy to love and the ones who are not so easy to love.
Like the band Fun, we might go to bed some nights not knowing what we stand for anymore, but let us wake up the next morning like Jesus, prepared to respond to such an inquiry with the Hebrew shema ready at our lips, knowing what we stand for and what it means in terms of our actions and lives. Then, just then, maybe we too will be like the Scribe in the Gospel and Jesus can say to us as well: “you are not far from the Kingdom of God.”