The Hardest Commandment (10/31/21)

Rev. Jessica Palys


What would you say if I asked you what is the greatest amendment to the US Constitution?

I could say, The Greatest Amendment to the Constitution is the 13th Amendment, prohibiting slavery in all its forms, except as punishment for a convicted crime. This is the greatest demonstration made in the constitution that we embrace that all people are truly equal, in fact the first time our country did truly embrace that little poetry from the Declaration of Independence when those words became an official amendment. And, the second part, that Congress shall have the power to enforce this article, empowering federal power over and above states’ rights, to make certain that it holds true. On this amendment hangs the whole of American democracy and all the founding fathers.

I know plenty of people who could - and do - argue that the 2nd Amendment is the greatest amendment, because without the right to defend ourselves we could never truly be certain that we were free. And on *this* amendment hangs all the freedom of the American dream envisioned by the founding fathers.

Or, perhaps you’d think it’s freedom of religion and separation of church and state. I imagine we’d have a lively little discussion on that one…

The point is, all of these would be very animated and compelling conversations. (We used to be able to have these debates in a scholarly spirit of mutual respect and learning, back before we were so polarized into the ‘us vs. them’.) All of these debates would help reveal our own logic and values, and perhaps even reveal something greater about the nature of our American system of government and how intricately and yet eloquently all the parts fit together.

Our scripture reading today has us in a little time warp. For several weeks now we’ve been plodding our way through Mark, hardly missing a verse between Sundays. These lessons have been focused on the disciples’ blindness. But then, the focus changes to the religious authorities - the scribes - and what we’ve skipped are two chapters of entrapment. There were a bunch of trick questions, gotcha questions, questions designed to trap Jesus between heresy to Jewish law or the dangerous punitive ego of Imperial Rome,