Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried

Scripture Passage: Mark 12:28-34

Sermon Transcript

Now, where where are we?

OK, I’m going back. One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another and saying that he answered them, well, ask him which commandment is first of all? Jesus answered; The first is Hero Israel, the Lord Our God, the lord is one you shall love the Lord, your god with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength. The second is this You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Then the scribes said to him, You’re right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one and beside him. There is no other and to love him with all of your heart and with all of your understanding, with all of your strength and a loved one’s neighbor is oneself. This is much more important than the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, You’re not far from the Kingdom of God. After that, no one dared to ask him any question.

Friends, this is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.


I love the fall. I loved the fall weather. I loved the fall leaves. And most of all, I love fall football. It is glorious. Up until the fall, my television is stuck on channel 312. The Hallmark Channel. You know, where they get together, and at the end, no matter what’s going on, they have complexity, they get together, they kiss and it snows. Even in the middle of summer, it snows.

And Tamara keeps it on 312, and I walk in and there’s all that mushy stuff going on. Just, oh man. If they’d only throw in an occasional explosion, I might watch it. Some gunfire might be worth it. But the fall comes and there’s football, and then you turn it on at 11:00 in the morning. And if you really care about the PAC 12, you can watch it to way past midnight. I don’t care about the PAC 12. But I discovered I can do a whole lot at halftime. I painted the fascia at the upper part of the House yesterday. Halftime. I painted the wheelchair ramp at halftime. I went in and seeded a bald area in the backyard the dogs have created Overseeded it. Got my fall seed rate all at half time. It is glorious what you can do at half time during a football game, if you’re at home.

I love the fall and I don’t listen to Gary Danielson. When my TV is on CBS, the mute button automatically gets pushed because I have a dog that howls at Gary Danielson. Haven’t figured it out. Dog didn’t like Danielson. But with all the commentary about football and all the talking heads about football and all the telestrator drawing plays on football, football is a simple game. There are two sticks. And the two sticks are held together by a chain that is ten yards long. That’s football. You start at the beginning at your back stick and you want to move the ball to that stick, that’s ten yards away. If you do it, you get four more downs. If you don’t do it, you have to punt and the other team gets their opportunity to move the ball between the sticks. That’s it, football. Two sticks. Ten yards apart.

That’s how simple the game is. The Scribe comes to Jesus. Not to debate him, not to trap him. But to discuss the law with him. Teacher, what’s the greatest, what’s the first commandment? Now, perhaps you know about the Ten Commandments, what you may not know is the Jewish community added 613 Commandments to those Ten Commandments. They’re all commentary on the Ten Commandments. There were 365 prohibitions. Thou shalt not. There were 248 positives. Thou shalt. So, their law has gotten very complex. They further divided the positives and the negatives in the heavy commandments, and light commandments. The heavy commandments were around deity making idols and the Sabbath, particularly. the lighter commandments, and those were property commandments. Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness. Thou shalt not covet. You know, those are those were commentaries that became lighter commandments. So, they’ve got this law. Then they got commentary on the law. Then they got, If you keep these heavy commandments, OK, if you don’t keep these lighter commandments eh, bring us Turtle Dove and sacrifice it. That’s why Jesus says in the sermon on the Mount, therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these one, he’s talking about the lighter commandments.

If you break one of the least of these, you will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. And whoever keeps them all will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. So, the Jewish law had gotten very complex, and the scribe wants to know what’s number one.

I want to know what’s most important because that’s what I want to keep. Jesus gives him the Shama, which is basically the Apostles creed for Judaism. The Lord your God, he’s one you shall love the Lord, your god with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. You shall love God completely and in totality, and you will love your neighbor. You should love your neighbor as yourself and the scribe said, Lord, that’s good. You’re right. I believe that. And then Jesus saw that he answered wisely and said to him, you are not far from the Kingdom of God.

You are not far from the Kingdom of God. You’re almost there. How do we interpret how do we hear those words, you’re not far from the Kingdom of God? There are two ways: you can hear them as words of judgment.

He’s warning the scribe. Look, you’re doing all these religious things, you’re, you know, the right answers. You may be living the right answers, but you’re not there yet. You’re almost there, but you’re not quite there yet. When I was in Bossier City, a new pastor came to one of the churches down the street on Airline Drive, and that preacher got up in his first Sunday in that church and told all those members of his church that they were going to hell because they were not saved. That he knew the last preacher and the last preacher couldn’t preach worth a darn and probably didn’t preach the full gospel of Jesus, and that they needed to come to

that altar that morning and give their heart to Jesus Christ. And he was going to baptize them all over again. And over the course of the next four to six weeks, he re-baptized nearly 600 people because he convinced them. He judged them, and told him, you’re not doing right. He did the Jonathan Edwards sinners in the hands of an angry God. He held them over hail like a weenie. Burn, baby burn. And sometimes I admit, as a Methodist pastor, I wish Methodist had more hell so I could goad you and guilt you into doing something. Doesn’t sound very Methodist, does it? But that’s what John Wesley did. In eight in 1741, Wesley preached a sermon at St Mary’s at Oxford entitled Almost Christian, and here’s what he said about an almost Christian listen that Wesley described an almost Christian: a person that does good.

A person that leads a disciplined life, spiritual, disciplined life, a person that practices the means of grace. A person that leads in and practices family prayer. A person that is sincere. Do good, disciplined life, means of grace, family prayer, sincerity.

That’s an almost Christian? Come on, John. What are you talking about? And then Wesley says an altogether Christian is a person that loves God. That loves their neighbor. That believes that through the grace of Jesus Christ, they have become a child of God. Man, Wesley preached this sermon and they ran him out of Oxford. Wesley kept preaching the sermon and a couple just like it, and they ran him out of the Church of England, functionally. Because Wesley did what Jesus just did. You’re close. You’re almost there. Take the next step.

Or, You can look at Jesus’s words as words of encouragement. You’re almost there. You’re doing a good job. You kept the law, but you need to know there’s something above the law. Above the law. It’s above the sacrificial system of Judaism. It’s above everything you’ve been taught. It’s called the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God has king. And the Kingdom of God involves righteous relationships and being rightly related to God and being rightly related to your brother or sister.

I want to believe that Jesus was encouraging them. Jesus was nudging him, he wasn’t judging him. He was nudging him into taking a deeper walk, into going deeper into open his heart, opening his heart and his life, up to what God would have him do and be.

In the Book of the Revelation. John starts, the revelation by writing to the seven churches in Asia Minor, and those are churches that were undergoing various forms of persecution and hardship. They were churches living through hard times. And they were encouraged to keep the faith, encouraged to continue to walk with God.

They were churches that were almost there. They were churches a little bit like we are. Almost there.

The people who love numbers are about love this section. The churches in North America. North America. That’s Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, the Assemblies of God, the Church of God, the non-denominational churches, North America, all of them, are at 30 to 60% of the pre-COVID attendance. 30 to 60% of their pre-COVID attendance. Trinity’s right at 60% of pre-COVID. That counts, that includes the folks that are here this morning, includes the folks that are worshiping with us digitally.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: 30 to 60%, pre-COVID attendance going on in churches. Of that, 71% of the baby boomers are back. 71%. Baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. I am one. And this is the first time Baby Boomers have ever done anything good. 71% are back. Yeah! You know why we’re back? We’re getting close. We’re all studying for final exam. We want Jesus to see us there because judgment is coming. Did you know of the top 100 churches attendance wise in North America, the great majority of them are pastored by men and women over 70? Yee ha. I’ll never get to retire anyway. 71% of the boomers are back.

Here’s where the numbers get scary. Only 41% of Gen Zs are back, and only 42% of the millennials are back. Tells us something very interesting. It tells us that we boomers are back, but our children and our grandchildren have not come back.

What do we do? Aw brother, Doug, I got the answer to that we just need to do what we’ve always done, but we need to do it harder. And you need to do it better. Mm. OK, we’ll see. Here’s what I want to say about this statistical anomaly we’re in, and it’s more than a statistical anomaly. We see it. We see it going on. We’re watching it. I want to say to the families that are here, God bless you. You’re on the front end of the curve. You are an encouragement to the rest of us. You give us hope. You give us hope that one day it is going to finally turn around and the masses are going to come back. God bless you.

We need to practice generosity in our stewardship, and that’s what later this morning is about. Number two, you will receive within the next ten days a survey. The leadership of your church is conducting a survey to find out how we can serve you, but also how we can make some of these decisions. We have to make about expanding our capacity to serve and to serve not only you as members, but to serve in our community. And in 2022, I promise you, we’re going to try some things just to see how they work. Are you comfortable with that? We are going to try some things. We have got to get out of ourselves. We are so stuck in ourselves. It’s about us. It’s about our needs, our wants, our programs, our ideas, everything. We need to have a vision that is cast and puts us outside the walls of the church outside ourselves to reach the hurting and the hopeless out in our world. And I love what God’s doing at Trinity because for the last six, eight weeks, people have been coming in the office and it’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. They keep saying, Brother Doug, I think God’s light something on my heart. God wants me doing this, or God wants me doing that. I think God’s leading me in this direction, and I’ll tell you what I say to all those people. Go right ahead. I’ll pray with you, I’ll support you, I’ll help you a resource you any way I can. God is about to do something here at Trinity. And you can almost time it and tell that something is going on. That’s about to pull us out of ourselves. Pull us into a deeper faith walk with Jesus Christ. That’s going to get us out into the world, touching lives and transforming lives for our Lord and savior.

We’re almost there.

So how do we take the next steps? We practice love generosity. Love generosity. You remember what Paul said 13 Chapter first Corinthians. Actually using it as at a time rather than a wedding. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not boastful or envious or arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Paul said, and now faith, hope and love by these three. But the greatest of these is love.

So, we’re going to pray that God would make us a more loving people. That we would love him more, than we would love him deeper and richer, and we would learn to love each other in a more profound way, and we would love learn to love our world in a transformative way.

Trinity, we’re almost there. We’re almost there. Let’s take those next steps. And follow God out in today’s world. And see what wonderful blessings. He has for us. Would you stand and pray with me?

God, I thank you for these people, for their love, for their service. For all their overcoming and enduring. And I pray that as members together of the body of Christ, you would increase our love. You would increase our love for you and you would increase our love for one another. Oh God, we’re almost there. Push us, push us, Lord to the finish line. In Jesus name, amen.