Not far from wherever you are is a benchmark. You may have never seen it. If you have seen it, you may have paid it little attention. It is a round metal plate, about four inches in diameter, embedded in concrete or rock or in the ground so that it cannot move even a fraction of an inch. Benchmarks are essential to civil engineers as reliable reference points for their surveying instruments. They can go back to the benchmarks again and again to check all their work.
I find it helpful to think of the commandments, ordinances, and precepts of Scripture as the benchmarks of our faith, rather than merely orders from on high. Our Creator has provided them to help us align our lives with God’s divine intentions for our own well being and to help us live abundantly. To ignore them or forget them is to construct an inadequate or incomplete life, just as an engineer or contractor builds poorly when neglecting the benchmark. We can return to the divine benchmarks again and again to check the alignment of our lives.
A Pharisee asked Jesus, “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).
Jesus, is the embodiment of the Great Commandment. Jesus was Love Incarnate, Love-in-the-Flesh. To look at Jesus is to look at the fullest expression of Love Divine. To look like Jesus is to live life to the fullest, as God desires. To trust Jesus is to persistently turn to him and align one’s life to him. All of the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in him. A favorite saying of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, is “If it’s not about love, it’s not about Jesus.”
Turning to Jesus Christ week by week for Word and Sacrament is our communal act of aligning our lives with his life, the benchmark of the Way of Love. It is difficult in this age of COVID and we’ve had to find extraordinary means in these extraordinary times. No matter what life throws at us, we persist in the practice of seeking the grace to be the ordinary and normal way God’s love is expressed in the world around us.
Bishop Curry’s latest book, “Love Is the Way,” was released on Sept. 22, and like his 2018 book, “The Power of Love,” it emphasizes Christian teachings, particularly Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor, as a powerful force for unity and healing in a hurting world. We will be reading the book and having virtual conversations about it during the Season of Advent. Watch for details for signing up.
In the meantime, let us be reminded that our Creator has provided us with a benchmark for abundant living to which we can return week by week, day by day, hour by hour.
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church