“How To Live” – 07-14-13 – Proper 10 – Cycle C

Listen to the sermon here:

Scriptures: Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Psalm 25:1-10; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37

The Ten Commandments: nuisance? out-of-date? dictatorial? not applicable today? might be helpful in some instances? might be helpful for other people? the total guide for our lives? the basis for our United States laws for the nation, in states, in cities?

Where would you place the Ten Commandments in these various choices? What are The Ten Commandments to you?

Perhaps we should state the Ten Commandments in brief form.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make unto yourself any graven image.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not kill.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.

In a humorous vein, here are the same rules in more common language.
1. Just one God
2. Put nothing before God
3. Watch your mouth
4. Get yourself to Sunday meeting
5. Honor your ma and pa
6. No killing
7. No fooling around with another person’s spouse
8. Don’t take what is not yours
9. No telling tales or gossip
10. Don’t be hankering for your buddy’s stuff

If you are currently trying to follow these rules for living, which one is your biggest downfall? At various times in my life, several of these dictums have been thorns in my side. But at the present time, I would say that my biggest disobedience is “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” Oh, for sure, Sunday morning finds me in a church service. Never was that part a problem for me. But, I don’t rest my labours completely during that time because I have always had some responsibility in the services which found me present. Was I in a gracious mood during those services? Now, yes; in the past, no. Afternoon arrives. I sometimes get a long nap, then I start the week’s work. Is this a harmless activity? Am I hurting someone else? I could be. So could you be hurting someone if you don’t relax on the Sabbath. First, if we have a spouse and/or children, they need our loving attention. They need more than chasing after rainbows to the beating of a clock as in sports or swim meets. Relax is the key word for one day a week. We need to give more than food or transportation on the Sabbath. We need to give ourselves: our time, our enjoyment, our respect, our love.

Am I forgetting to encourage you to start the day with worship? No, I am just saving that nugget of living life to the fullest. Now it is time to bring it into the sunlight for our observation. Thinking about worshiping our God is good. Watching and hearing that other people are going to worship on Sunday mornings is good. But, why should we settle for good when best is available. Of course, “best” usually costs more, don’t we know?

Yes, if we want the best from worship we need to be in it. We need to sacrifice our lazy Sunday morning and take our “relaxing time” to a congregation in which worship of our one true God is happening with our senses – reading, listening, watching, speaking, singing, thinking. Sometimes we smell the flowers or the candles. We touch by shaking hands or hugging. We touch when we hold the bread and the cup. We touch when we hold the Bible and the words seem to be embossed on the page because they are so powerful- sometimes at the exact time that we need those particular words in our life situation. Sometimes we can palpably feel God’s presence with us – sometimes our heart jumps within us, sometimes we are moved to tears, sometimes we cannot help clapping, or we shiver, or if we are not careful we forget that we are in company and we may say something like “Ah” aloud. We leave that worship feeling as a new person.

Which commandment is your biggest challenge? How about “Just one God”? You may be saying, I don’t worship any other god as in a different religion. But we all have other gods. We pay to much attention and too much money for clothing. Maybe your second god is spending too much time watching movies – especially movies that do not lead us to a closer relationship with God. Maybe your other god is saving all year to go on vacation without giving any money to help your neighbor.

But then, who is your neighbor? Aha! Jesus told the perfect story to answer that question. First, Jesus used some Old Testament words to wrap all of The Ten Commandments into two. He took God’s words in Deuteronomy 6:5 and in Leviticus 19:18, combined them into:

You have only one Lord and God. You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You shall love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

The story that followed is called “The Good Samaritan.” Jesus tells it to a lawyer who came to Jesus asking how to be sure about having eternal life. This lawyer already knew about loving God with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love a neighbor as much as he loves himself. But the lawyer asked a trick question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus launched into the story. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho, and was severely injured by robbers. He lay at the side the road. At least three people came close. One was a priest whom we would think would feel obligated to stop. But he had his reasons. A Levite passed this hurting, dying man. A Levite, being from the tribe of Levi, is close to being a priest. He had his reasons for not stopping. Then, a Samaritan came to the man and did not keep going. He stopped. He nursed the man as best he could. Then he took him to an inn, accompanied by money, which we assume was sufficient for the request that the innkeeper provide necessary care for this man.

This story is quite good because the man finally received help. The big question is, “What would we have done?” Would we have kept moving as did the priest and the Levite? Do you know who Samaritans are? They were considered to be ethnically impure. When the Assyrians conquered that area in 722 B.C. many of these people were deported and foreigners were brought in. Not only was there mixed blood now, but the Samaritan worship was centered on Mount Gerizim instead of being centered in Jerusalem. The area of Samaria sat between the area of Galilee and the area of Judea in the time of Jesus. Samaritans were outcasts. Travelers often took a longer route rather than travel through Samaria.

To us, this is a significant part of the story. The outcast was the one who helped. How many times have we considered someone to be beneath us socially or intellectually but in God’s own way, in His sense of humor, we find that somewhere along the line, that particular person helps us or becomes well-known for doing a great, unselfish deed or even is honored for being accomplished, maybe for discovering some great cure or other humanitarian feat? Well, here it is. The Samaritan proved that it is not the blood, it is not the skin that matters. It is not the education; nor is it the social or the economic level. It is the heart and mind and soul and strength that matter with our Lord God as the focus and the source.

This is a lesson for us but Jesus had a bigger point. “Who is my neighbor?” This injured man was the neighbor of the priest and the neighbor of the Levite and our neighbor because he needed help. How many times have we passed someone who needed help and we did not have time or we did not want to become unclean both outwardly and inwardly? How many times did we give the change in our pocket instead of a check that would be more substantial? How many times did I pass a Salvation Army kettle person because I only carried a credit card?

Let’s look at The Ten Commandments again through the eyes of “Who is my neighbor?” with the answer being “Who needs my help?” My neighbor needs me to leave his or her spouse alone. My neighbor needs me to be cautious and kind when I speak about her or him. My neighbor needs for me not to want or take his or her possessions. My parents need me to respect and honor and love even if I question the worthiness of such. Each of us, being our own neighbor, needs to withdraw for relaxation, for calmness, for enjoyment. Can God be our neighbor? Well, God needs for us to face only Him, to have no other gods such as golf instead of worship; such as fishing instead of worship; such as a nice lazy breakfast with newspaper or television or even family instead of worship. God needs our respect so that we would not even think of using unkind words for God or using God’s name when we are upset and not because we want to draw close. Why should we do this? Why does God need the love of our whole heart and soul and mind and strength? Because God is our Creator and Sustainer! And because these commandments work!

Why don’t we have this great experiment? Why don’t we do a world-wide campaign like we do for non-smoking or for a cure for cancer? It would be a “Who Is My Neighbor?” campaign. Think of the possibilities? Everyone having enough food. Everyone having enough water and medical care. Everyone living in peace. Goodness, we may even see Jesus coming again while we are still alive! The world would be ready!

Let us find our neighbors and extend that mercy. Start close like in our own house if we are blest to live in a house. Then move in larger circles. Then larger. Wait! How many neighbors can we handle? Probably endless with God’s help and our working together, but let us not forget “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Amen