Sermon October 5: God’s Love Story

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Faith United Methodist Church

October 5, 2014

World Communion Sunday

Rev. Krista Beth Atwood

 

Scripture: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Prayer of Illumination:  

The universe proclaims your truth, O God. Your knowledge flows night and day. We open our ears to hear, our minds to comprehend, and our hearts to receive all that you have to share with us this day. Amen.

 

Sermon:                                God’s Love Story

Rules. We all are supposed to follow them, right? The rules of the road. The laws of society. Even the unwritten rules of our families. But sometimes “rules” seems like a dirty word. Don’t you know the rules? What can’t you just follow the rules, anyway? Rules, Rules, Rules!

Today, though, we have before us the rules to beat all rules. The Ten Commandments. How many of you think you could name all ten? No cheating and looking at your Bibles! Yet, even if we are hard pressed to name them all on the spot, we do know they are important, right? The question becomes, why?

Well, the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Jewish law that we find in our Old Testament. And for Jesus, coming from the Jewish culture and tradition, the Law ~ along with the Prophets ~ was his Scripture. In fact, in the Gospel of Matthew we hear Jesus affirm, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus came to live the commandments of God. And he came to show us the way, through grace and love, to live them for ourselves.

In modern America, the place of the Ten Commandments in our public life has been a topic of debate. To post or not to post, that seems to be the question. You may remember a few years back when former chief justice of Alabama, Roy Moore, decided to take the Ten Commandments on the road. His “Ten Commandment Tour” involved him loading a 5,280-pound monument of the Ten Commandments onto the back of his pick-up truck and driving from town to town. Hauling around a 5,000-pound monument certainly demonstrates commitment. That’s 500 pounds per commandment.

Perhaps the weight of that Ten Commandment monument is fitting, though, since we, ourselves, can sometimes buckle under the weight of the them. The people of Israel were filled with dread even as they received them. “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.” One way to view the commandments is as a burden, a heavy obligation.

After all, they are commandments, right? They are not suggestions, good maxims, options, principles or electives. We don’t call them the Ten Recommendations.   They are commandments. They are God’s rule of life. They are the living words of God and their words do carry weight.

I’m not totally convinced, though, that carving them on a monument and hauling them around in the bed of a truck is really the way to go. What we need is to experience the Ten Commandments as lived out through people faith. The people of Israel lived the Ten Commandments in relationship with each other and the living God. D. Brent Laytham shared his opinion in The Christian Century when he wrote, “The appropriate display of the [Ten Commandments] is not a plaque on the wall, nor a replica out front, but the faithful people of God.”

Despite what common sense might tell us, following God’s rule of life doesn’t give us a greater burden to bear. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Following God’s rule of life sets us free. The law is an expression of God’s love and God’s desire to stretch us that we may grow. God’s law sets us free to love, sets us free to serve, sets us free to be witnesses to all that God has done for us. When we are free from jealousy and vengeful thoughts and greed we have more energy for joy and love and service. When we acknowledge that God is the source of all that we have we become generous in our dealings with others and creation. By following God’s rule of life we live God’s love.

As our Seasons of the Spirit puts it, “Such wise laws expand our understanding of God’s intent for community.” They reflect God’s vision for the world. Our obedience to the Ten Commandments reflects our gratitude for all that God has done and continues to do. The Ten Commandments present the kind of life God wants for us, a life of honoring God and honoring each other. The Ten Commandments lay out the boundaries for healthy relationships. Living the Ten Commandments allows us to enact God’s love story on earth. A love story that encompasses the whole world, including our little Leigha baptized this morning. A love story that brings us all into closer relationship with God and with each other.

Let us pray: The weight of your words, your laws, your commandments and decrees can become an impossible burden, Lord, if we allow them to overwhelm and crush us. Yet they were meant to be life-giving, vital and alive – the foundation of our lives, the chief cornerstone of your church, the living temple of God. Loving God, this is your handiwork. How amazing and wonderful it is! Amen.

(Prayer by Bill Hoppe)