Saturday, March 3, 2018

Year B, Lent 3, Exodus 20.1-17, As it should be, it will be

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
So, written in stone, and handed to Moses on the mountain, these commandments of God were not intended to be mere “suggestions”.
They do three things:
1.       They reveal to us God’s expectations about how we should live our lives;
2.       They expose our sinfulness and how far short we fall of God’s expectations;
3.       And they offer to us a promise of how we one day will live in the Kingdom of God.
They are for us a prohibition and a promise.
These are the things you shall not do.
And one day, with or without our cooperation, these are the things we will not do, for they will have no place in God’s new world.
They are to be taken with utmost seriousness for God was not just fooling around when he gave the law, the Ten Commandments.  God was serious.
It’s no accident that the first thing God did when he led the people out of slavery in Egypt was to give them these laws.  They are that important.
And as we ignore them, we pay the consequences.
It’s not just that God is a demanding God and will arbitrarily punish us for disobeying him.
God is a loving God, and gives us this law that we might understand and know that there are certain natural consequences to our actions.
It matters how we live.
Our choices have consequences.
We can submit to the will of God and experience life as God intended it to be.
We can rebel against the will of God, and suffer the consequences of our many missteps and mistakes.
And make no mistake about it, this is reality.  What we do today has a direct impact on the our lives tomorrow. 
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
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, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
This first commandment of God is the most important.
God exists.  There is a God.  One God.  One Lord. 
Oh, and yes, this God is in  charge.  Sovereign.  King.  Ruler of the Universe.
This is not something that we vote on.  It is simply the way it is.
And we, whether we like it or not, are subject to this God.
Yet, in spite of all that, we have many other gods that we submit to, and we pay the price.
One of the most pervasive god for us in this country is freedom, the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
This is another way of saying, that we, like so many generations before us, would rather be our own gods, than to submit ourselves to the reign of the God who created the heavens and the earth.
Freedom is an American ideal.
Submission is not.
Frank Sinatra sang our song, when he sang:
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I've traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way.
That’s the American creed.
I did it my way.
And it’s idolatrous.  Sinful. 
I did it my way.
And God says, “Yes, indeed you did, and that is the problem.”
When Moses gave the commandments to Israel, he concluded by saying:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,  loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
Life and death.
Blessings and curses.
" 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. ' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:  'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. '”
Do these two things, God says, and see what happens.
God is not a ruthless dictator.
Our God is a loving God.
And though we are called to love and serve him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind this is not a bad thing.
And, as if to prove to us that he is indeed a loving God, one of the first things God promises us is a beautiful gift, even though it comes by way of a commandment.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Take a break.
Have a day off.
Take time to be renewed and refreshed.
Imagine going to work for an employer and the first thing the employer tells you is that you will have a day off, and vacation time, and not only will it be given to you, it is required of you that  you take it.
That’s what God is like.
One of the interesting things I learned about the banking industry is that bank employees are required by FDIC regulations to have a minimum of two weeks of vacation in a row.
The FDIC does this to insure an internal safeguard.  You see, embezzlers have to be present at all times to cover up their fraud, and the two weeks of mandatory vacation is specifically designed to give the bank a chance to discover fraud if it is present.
That’s not why God gave us the Sabbath.  It’s not a requirement placed on us to counter our sinfulness.
It is intended to be a pure day of rest, for one, and only one reason.
We need it. 
And God, being a loving God, wants us to have it.
Six days we are to serve the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind—and on the seventh, God serves us.
As you know, I put in a long week.
I work at the cabinet shop in Hayden, putting in almost 40 hours a week there, and then come here to serve as your pastor.  There are days I leave the house at 4:45 in the morning and don’t return until 9 or 10 o’clock at night.  It’s partly because that’s what I need to do, at this time, and partly because it’s what I want to do at this time.
One of the things I’ve learned as a result, though, is the importance of the Sabbath.
Saturday is my Sabbath. 
I rest.  I simply rest.
Sometimes I feel guilty about it.  Shouldn’t I be doing something around the house?  “Yes, maybe I should,” I tell myself, “but first I’ll take a nap.”
God’s love for me, and my wellbeing, has given me this day of rest.
That’s the type of God, God is.
And then God says:  Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
This commandment contains the promise.  It’s right there for us to see.
So that your days may be long. . .
Care for your parents, and you will in turn be cared for in your old age. 
And the rest:
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
All of these commandments are given to us, because God loves us and wants us to enjoy a good and blessed life.
They are not intended to be a burden, but a blessing.
And yet, when our lives are measured against these loving commands of God, we end up failing miserably. 
That’s where God’s promise of forgiveness and redemption comes into play.
You see, these commandments reveal to us not only how we should live now, but how we WILL LIVE in the Kingdom of God.
My pastor in Newport once asked a rhetorical question, “Do you know what the Kingdom of God looks like?” expecting everyone to say “No.”
Being somewhat contentious that day, I wanted to raise my hand and say “Yes, in fact, I do.”
Yes, we do know what the Kingdom of God looks like, because these commandments are the blueprints for that Kingdom.
They are the promise of what will be, because God will make it so.

No comments:

Post a Comment