There is something about the Fall that always gets me excited. The new weather, the new drinks at Starbucks, the new TV shows and movies. In Phoenix we really only have two seasons – nice, and blazing hot. But still, it seems that seasons guide our lives and our culture – the flow of our everyday. The ‘start of school season’ means that life speeds up again. Just like the ‘end of school season’ means vacations, and travel, and pool parties.
And we’re entering into a new season at McDowell. You can feel the change in the air. You can sense that God is doing something incredible here. Some familiar faces. The inability to carry on a conversation in the lobby because it’s packed with people connecting and catching up and talking about life. And I love it.
For me it’s an especially important season, because it’s now that we kick off all of our new groups and classes. Our schedules begin to align so that we can actually come together to do life more than on Sunday mornings.
When it comes to “community life,” I believe there are two sides to the coin – to know and be known. To know God through cultivating a growing relationship with Christ, studying scripture, learning faith-applied life skills and healthy habits. To be known by intentionally building relationships with God and others, and being actively involved in a community that cares about our story. And both pieces are essential in developing into followers of Jesus that reach the world for Jesus – or as I like to say, disciples making disciples.
I love when Jesus is approached with questions in the Bible. It seems like every time he has a way of flipping the question on its head and opening a new reality that takes us a lifetime to understand. And there is one story in Mark 12 that always gets me, because it sounds like a question I would ask: “Of all the commandments, which one is the most important?”
It’s kind of a silly question. And yet it’s a great question. If I could do only one thing, focus all of my energies and faculties in one direction, what would that be?
And Jesus responds brilliantly. He quotes the shema from Deuteronomy, the Jewish prayer recited daily and probably the most well-known verse to the people in the room:
“The most important one is this, ‘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 mind and with all your strength.”
And then he keeps going.
“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12v29-31)
Now, we could sit here for days talking about the significance of Jesus’ response. But I want to focus one thing this week, and then we can chat about another significant piece next week.
You probably didn’t notice (unless you have the shema memorized), but when Jesus quotes the prayer he added something. He added, “and with all your mind.” Scholars have debated about what happened here. Did Jesus misquote it, did he add it for emphasis, or did he add it for clarity?
I will unapologetically tell you that I don’t think the Lord misquoted the Bible! So he either added this for clarity or for emphasis. And regardless of what you think, it’s important we pay attention. Jesus wanted us to hear that our minds are a part of knowing and loving God.
And that’s what we believe at McDowell. We see that learning and studying and developing our minds is a huge part of following Jesus. When it comes to Community Life, we believe that the church should be a place equipping people to engage our minds in learning about Jesus, studying scripture, learning practical life skills and habits that develop our character, and what it means to really love God and love others.
This is why we offer opportunities every semester, such as Next Steps, Bible Studies, and seminars, to help spurn some conversation around what it means to love God with all our minds – and how that helps unlock all the other aspects of faith and following Jesus.
I am so excited about the Next Steps classes and Bible Studies we’re offering this Fall. And we want to continue to offer great ways for you to know God and know how he’s shaping you. I encourage you to think about what Jesus is putting on your heart in this season. Is it simply to get into his Word through a Bible study? Is it getting your finances in order through Financial Peace University? Maybe it’s questions you have about Science + Faith. Is it your relationships – learning from Cloud and Townsend about Safe People? Is it how to handle conflict in your life and in our world in Anatomy of Peace?
Whatever it is, we hope that we can be a place for you to grow and experience authentic transformation.