Lent Meditation: the Word Commands

“This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At the present, everything does not glam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.”
Martin Luther, Defense and Explanation of All Articles (1521)

On Sunday, we heard two scriptural passages that can be fun to explore.

The first scripture was Exodus 20 (1-17), the Ten Commandments and it never hurts us to be reminded of these commandments.

1. You should have no gods above me.
2. You should not use my name in vain or use it wrongly.
3. You should remember the Sabbath, or day of rest, and keep it holy.
4. You should honor your father and mother.
5. You should not murder.
6. You should not commit adultery.
7. You should not steal.
8. You should not bear false witness or lie.
9. You should not covet your neighbor’s house.
10. You should not covet your neighbor’s… well you name it.

The last commandment includes everything from your neighbor’s wife and children, to their slaves, to their livestock… it literally covers it ALL.

The Ten Commandments are imagined as the foundation of the law; thus, we envision these as the Word ‘Commands’ us.

The Ten Commandments are standards by which all people, all societies, and all faiths embrace, therefore it is a common code of conduct that we ALL struggle to fully live into.

On Sunday (New Standard), I discussed that Martin Luther described the fifth commandment (you should not murder) to not simply be the act of murder but ANYTHING that brings harm or ill to another physically, emotionally/mentally, or spiritually.

And thus, it is NOT easy to live into the Spirit of this code/law.

We, as humans, seek opportunities to limit or summarize the law and discover ‘short cuts’ for living into it. We hold that if the Letter of the law can be black-and-white then the Spirit of the law can be black-and-white too, because then the upholding of it may become easier.

The next scripture was the gospel (John 2), which was Jesus cleansing the Temple. Jesus entered into the Temple telling the money-changers and those selling the needed items for a sacrifice (as directed by Old Testament law) that they had made the Temple into a den of thieves. Jesus also overturned the tables and chased them out with a hand-made whip.

It is a dramatic display of the Letter of the Law verses the Spirit of the Law.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus is in conversation with religious leaders seeking to ‘trick’ him by asking what is the most important of the Ten Commandments. Jesus replies “to love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul AND to love your neighbor as yourself”. However, John omits that narrative and includes this ‘New Commandment’.

The ‘New Commandment’ is the foundation of the law, it is to love one another not as you love yourself [because there are several loopholes with that statement], but as Jesus the Christ first loved us. Jesus the Christ is pure, perfect, and unconditional love THAT closes any loopholes.

Therefore, when we consider how the Word (written scripture and Christ) commands us in order to guide our lives in word and deed, let us further reflect on Paul’s summarizing of the law in Romans (13:10):

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Ultimately, the WORD commands us to love. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Scriptures were Psalm 119:11, Matthew 11: 28-30, John 13: 34-35a.
Originally preached on Wed. 7 March 2018 at Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, IN).

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