A few evenings ago. I was lying in my bed looking at my phone and I came across an interesting short video in which a hotel worker with one flick of her wrists and quick swoop was able to put a sheet on a bed perfectly. I was amazed. She made it look so easy. The next morning, I got up, got ready for the day and, as I headed out of my bedroom, I looked at my unmade bed. You know what I did? No not a flick and swoosh of my sheets like in the video, no, I left my bed unmade as I do almost every day.
Now this might irritate some of you who are faithful bed-makers. “Come on Pastor Free, stop being so lazy!” Next you’ll tell us that your wife makes the bed for you.” Usually she does. Others of you though might think that I’m the smart one because some studies have shown that a bed that is made in the morning actually is a haven for dust mites who love the humid dead-skin filled cocoon that you just left for them.
In 2014, a US Admiral named William McRaven waded into the discussion of bed-making when he gave a commencement address to the graduates at the University of Texas. He said this, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
This morning in God’s Word we come across another commencement address of sorts. Moses, God’s leader to the Israelites, was on his way out. For 40 years he had watched over God’s people. He had witnessed their unshakable faith but also their embarrassing rebellion. He himself had not always been a faithful leader and so he and his generation of Israelites would not be permitted to enter the land God had promised. So, now here Moses was knowing that soon his life would end but before he went he wanted to encourage this new generation of Israelites by giving them a simple task – like making that bed – that would lead to their prosperity and God’s blessing. In our verses, we come to that speech near its end.
And it’s here near the end that we find that simple task, and it can be summed up with one word: love. Now Moses doesn’t actually use the word love in his speech, instead, he frames it up for the Israelites and for us in this way. He says in verses 9 and 10 that God wants to bless us. He wants to make us prosper. He wants to take delight in us – and he will! “IF”, Moses says, “if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in the Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Now we shoot ahead to the New Testament and to our Gospel lesson for today and we discover that what is written in the Book of the Law was summarized by Jesus in this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ Love. There it is. Simple, right? Yet, as Jesus explained how keeping the law could be boiled down to love for God, he added this, and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then we hear that familiar story of the good Samaritan, a foreigner who stopped to help a man half dead on the road.
We don’t have those words before us, but recall the details that Jesus gave. That Samaritan and the man dying on the road were, by societies’ standard, enemies. Yet, the Samaritan stopped to help. And the care he gave? Oil and wine on the wounds. Bandages. He threw him on his own donkey. He cared for him at an inn and the payed someone else to do the same with the promise of reimbursement. What a love for someone who maybe would have never done the same. Suddenly this simple message and task of love, isn’t so simple.
I can’t help but to think about that unmade bed that I leave at home each morning. A seemingly simple task that so often I struggle to complete. Now, maybe you don’t have a problem making your bed each morning, but how well do you make that bed? Can you flick and swoosh the sheets on there like it’s nothing? Are your hospital corners perfect? There is a lot more to that simple task of bed making than meets the eye. Shift back then to that simple task of love.
It’s not as easy as it seems. None of this is easy. It’s not easy because look at what our God demands “turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” There is a problem with that demand, we can’t do it. We can’t love God in the way that he wants us to. It is not possible. Our sin renders us incapable of doing what God has the right to demand. So, what’s left? Do we try to impress him by doing a little good to our neighbor? Do we do fewer self-centered acts that he despises? Even then, nothing we do can erase the sin that we have already committed. we are not perfect – far from it!
I wonder then if those Israelites were squirming as they heard these words from Moses. Were they not all descendants of now-dead Israelites who were blocked from entering the promised land? These people didn’t have a great track record with the whole turning to God with all heart and soul thing. Yet, there is Moses, a sinner just like us, telling those Israelites, more sinners just like us, that that simple task of love, loving God and loving others, is “not too difficult for them or beyond their reach.” It wasn’t something they needed to ascend into heaven to grab and attain for themselves. It wasn’t something that they would need to find for themselves in a foreign land across the sea. No, it had already been given to them. God in his word had brought it near to them and put it in their mouths. That they could speak it and obey it.
He did the work. He loved us first, but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t with a flick and a swoosh that he covered us with a sheet of righteousness. It was not easy to save us. Not even for God. He descended from heaven to grab and save us. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth he prayed with loud cries and tears. He suffered. He was tempted. He stood in the ocean of sin, resisted its currents but felt its full force. He loved his enemies, he prayed for those who persecuted him. He loved the world. And, in a word, it hurt. Certainly physically, but more than that it hurt because he knew how many would turn aside from him and his love, yet he pressed on and gave us his life. In this way, the impossible, our own salvation, he made possible, and for us, now easy – love found a way.
And that love has found its way to you. It is near you. It is in you. Your mouth speaks it, your heart trusts and obeys it. Jesus is your Savior from every sin, and it is his love for you that sparks a love in you for him and for neighbor. And now it is all easy. Now it is all possible. With Christ in us we can love God and neighbor.
And what of our love for neighbor? What does that look like? It certainly can include what we saw in our gospel lesson, physically caring for and providing for someone else, even someone we may consider an enemy. But love, a love that is like that of Christ, will often mean something more. It’s looking at that person next to you be it in this room, be it living next door to you, or be it standing in the line at a store, and it’s knowing that that person, whomever it is, has the same need that you do. That person is a sinner in dire need of a Savior. And I am the one who gets to share him. I’m the one who gets to speak of his love for them. That right there is the best love, the love of your Savior, their Savior.
Take that love with you every single day. Know that it belongs to you. Know that with it you can turn to God heart and soul. And that means this, you will live. This is the bed that God has made just for you each day. It’s pulled tight, its hospital corners are perfect, it requires nothing from you. God made it for you not with a flick and a swoosh, but with a shout, “It is finished” and a love that never fails. He took your place on that cold stone bed of death so that at the end of this long day called life you will find the bed he prepared for you in heaven. A bed where you will lay your head to rest for all eternity.
That’s freeing, isn’t it, to know your bed is made, your eternity is secure? See that certainty every time you look at your bed be it made or messy in the morning – In Christ, all your sin is forgiven. What a way to start each day. That makes this, life, all so easy. It sets you up to now accomplish great things, to love God, heart and soul, to love others, body and soul. To share that Savior with your neighbor, to let them know that God, in love, has made a bed just for them too. A simple task, an eternal result. Amen.