Sermon – 03-08-15 – Lent 3 – Cycle B
:”Why Do We Need To Follow The Ten Commandments?
Scripture Passages: Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22
Because they work, that is why we as individuals and as a society and as world citizens need to pay attention to the ten commandments as given to the Israelites by God through Moses.
They work. If we truly learned to follow these laws of wisdom, we would not need courts, or even policemen. It would be a true utopia – a climate of peace and love.
We cannot do this by our own determination because we are humans. We must dig deep and at the same time look to connect with God’s power. Why do I say “look deep.” On the surface these commandments are just so much will power. We fail daily if we are using our own will. Using our open minds and hearts and our covenant made in baptism and in daily confirmation of our baptism, we need to dig to a lower level, under these commandments. We need to find the love which is God and flows from God to reach a subconscious level of loving that transforms us into unselfishness. This love takes over. It flows through our veins, our minds, our hearts, our souls. That is how we shall love God. But we shall not stop with loving God, good as that is. We need to let this love flow sideways to everyone we meet and even everyone who exists in the world.
Do you agree that this is necessary? Do you agree that this is possible? Let’s experiment!
You shall have no other gods above me. Do fancy clothing claim our money that could be used to feed our guests who don’t have a home? Does sleeping late on a Sunday morning claim the time which would nourish our souls? Do we recognize movie stars or sport stars better than we recognize the real heroes in our lives – the ones who are praying for us, the heroes who are coordinating homeless shelters and community meals, urging local, national and world governments to view the research, make decisions, and act accordingly from the slant of love, from the slant of what God would want us to do.
What will happen if we are facing God at the end of our earthly lives and God asks who was our God? Of course, he knows. God wants an accounting. God wants to hear us declare which gods claimed us with a grab as strong as a mighty vise.
How about the graven image admonishment? What about the crosses we hang in our churches, or even wear? Graven image? Pictures of Jesus? Where is the line? Does that mean we should never know the popular image of Jesus? What of the many statues which represent Jesus? I am looking at a the famous picture of Jesus as I type. Would I feel closer to God with or without the image? Could I feel that Jesus is with me if I did not have a picture? I feel God being close to me and it is believed that God does not have a physical being. God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son is Jesus, the Holy Spirit is Comforter and Inspirer. The Father is creator and sustainer. Do we need images? Maybe the good old stand-by is “moderation.” But look again. The NRSV says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”
Okay, I think I found a commandment that is not a problem for me. “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.” But what of my tone of voice when I say, “I don’t understand why God allows this to happen.” Is that honoring God? Is that bowing down before him? Part of watching our language is to be good models for people who are new to the faith, including children and young people. Think about it and tell me what God has put upon your heart about our language in reference to God.
So we move along. We have “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” Ouch! Big time!
“Honor your father and mother.” God connects this commandment to the length of our own lives on earth. Little did we know. We should have paid more attention when we were in 1st grade Sunday School. Respect for everyone on earth sneaks into this commandment, not only parents. I moderately failed this test with my parents. Woe to me!
Then we find: we shall not murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness against our neighbor, covet anything that belongs to our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Surely we can forget someone in Liberia. Think again! Which failures are claiming your souls? Or, have you felt and accepted the forgiveness of God and yourself. Yes, God does not skimp on love and forgiveness alongside these commandments.
We have this set of laws, set into the background of God’s love. These laws, these words, are for our good. From Psalm 19,
“The teaching of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple. The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes. More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb. Who can detect one’s own offenses? Cleanse me from my secret faults. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
Then, in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Paul in his earnest and declaratory manner, affirms that the wisdom of God is supreme, far overriding the wisdom of the world. Paul says, “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
So, as we easily make our own defenses concerning our keeping of the commandments, God knows every tiny word our minds are spewing forth. God also knows what is ultimately good for us, and will nudge us or completely grab us if necessary to save us everlasting displeasure. Think of Jesus overturning the money-making tables in the temple in Jerusalem as recorded in John 2:13-22. God’s will is to gather us as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. God wants to save us. He weeps for us.
Let us memorize these greatest words from God. “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.” These words are so great that scripture includes them in Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:37-39, and Mark 12:29-31.
Our reply is put into song and words in “Thy Word” by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
When I feel afraid, think I’ve lost my way, still you’re there right beside me.
And nothing will I fear as long as you are near. Please be near me to the end.
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
I will not forget your love for me, and yet my heart forever is wandering.
Jesus, be my guide and hold me to your side; and I will love you to the end.
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
Dear God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thank you for your invincible wisdom. Pull us, push us, surround us with the wisdom and holiness of your words.
In the name of Jesus, we declare your words holy and ever-living. Amen.