Sermon – 06-03-18 – Salem Oley – Proper 4 – Cycle B
Sermon Title – “It Started This Way”
Is it right to disobey laws which seem wrong? Once upon a time there were laws; otherwise known as commands. You know – “Don’t eat the fruit of that enticing tree in the middle of the garden!” or “Don’t kill your brother!” Then there were “Don’t have other gods before me!” and “Do not work on the Sabbath” as in “Don’t pick grain on the Sabbath!” and “Don’t heal on the Sabbath!”
The Ten Commandments surely were needed for God’s people way back then! Being human, God’s people needed structure for their behavior especially for their horrendously difficult walk to the Promised Land. Were the people able to obey them without exception? What happened when the people disobeyed? God punished! God punished because God knew that those laws – the ten commandments – were the secret to an orderly society – be it a trek through the wilderness with no food or water or be it an elite society where royal weddings and tea parties hold our attention and time without focus on our one jealous God.
Maybe you are not a royal wedding fan or a tea party fan. Maybe you spend your money and time on car races or horse races or golf or fishing or travel. Which commandment applies here? Are these activities okay in our lives? Is God smiling or is God frowning? Do we plan these activities around Sunday worship? Do we welcome God as companion on these excursions, these activities?
Do we need The Ten Commandments in our lives? Do we need all the extra laws which have been added over the years? Did you ever catch yourself saying, “There ought to be a law.” Sometimes laws are made for a current need but they become obsolete and even ridiculous. Every once in a while, I hear or read of silly laws which made sense when they were enacted but now need to be revised or eliminated.
The Ten Commandments do not fall into this category. They are still relevant, maybe increasingly so. Which one does not apply in our current world whether we stay in a country setting or the hectic urban world? What happens when we find ourselves transgressing from using The Ten Commandments as our basic guide?
Maybe there are no calamitous results sent by God upon our heads and lives! But is this what God has planned for our focus? God is our maker. We are the focus of God’s love. Are our lives glowing affirmation of this love? Do we permit this love to permeate our thick skin? Do we acknowledge the advisability of these commandments, especially the one about working on the Sabbath? If we don’t obey, if we don’t keep the Sabbath as our personal day with our Savior, how are we cheating ourselves?
A sorting guide between a good law and a not-good law is “does it make us better people, does it help us to honor God and does it make society better?” This question takes us to Jesus and his problem with the Pharisees. Jesus was breaking the laws which had been established by humans as the years moved on from The Ten Commandments as given by God to Moses. Maybe the leaders of the faith had nothing better to do. Maybe the leaders were bitter toward someone or something or maybe the leaders felt the “more structure the better.”
But, here comes Jesus, the son of the Father, claiming two basic rules from the Old Hebrew scriptures: Deuteronomy 6:5 which says, “You have only one Lord and God. You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” and Leviticus 19:18 which says, “You shall love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.”
Jesus is ministering on the basis of what pleases God and shows love of people. Jesus evades the picky laws that have been established by the Israelite leaders. Jesus does not seem to feel that he is breaking the commandment that commands us to keep the Sabbath Day holy. He is showing love for people; he is showing people that God is love. This angers the religious leaders who “religiously” kept and guarded the laws. They thought they were doing the right thing. They felt that each of their laws was ordained by God. They thought that Jesus was destroying their God-ordained religion.
They took their case all the way to the cross. They missed the point. They missed the Messiah who was in their midst. How often do we miss the point? Is continuing our daily work on a Sunday missing the point? Is missing weekly worship of God to experience relaxation and fun missing the point?
Exodus 81:10 says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”
2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us.”
This is the point! God has great blessings for us. One blessing is that he has given us the structure of basic rules by which our lives will be good. But God wants to give us so much more than rules. God is wanting to fill us with the love which transforms us if we receive it. If we receive it in our souls – our “clay jar” souls. It is a treasure beyond calculation and comprehension.
Let us open our mouths wide, let us receive the treasure into our bodies, souls, and minds, our hearts. From Psalm 81, let us “Sing with joy to God our strength and raise a loud shout to the God of Jacob.” From 2 Corinthians 4, “God commanded light to shine in the dark. Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ.”
Let us not keep the light within. It will be smothered. Let us spew our light into the darkness of our evil-filled world. May we do everything possible to brighten the corner where we are. May transformation from darkness to light happen as we watch; like the circular ripples in water; people living with gladness instead of sadness and despair. Let the lighting of the world begin!