Archive for March, 2018

Its Not Up To Us 3-29-19 Maundy Thursday

In this Maundy Thursday Sermon, I explore the Last Supper found in John 13. Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, knowing what’s coming, as an example of the way that we are called to love one another.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/its-not-up-to-us-3-29-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

It never ceases to amaze me to consider the utterly outlandish stories that I come across as I read through the Old Testament narrative. There’s one in the book of Numbers that’s a great example. At this point in the Israelite history, the people have been wandering in the desert for quite a while. They’re of course, very numerous…and they’re actually approaching the borders of the Promised Land.

And as they’re traveling around, there’s this gentile king named Balak who’s getting a little freaked out…he’s seen their numbers…he’s heard reports of battles that they’ve fought with other forces…and he’s concerned.  So King Balak get’s this awesome idea to call in a prophet…a holy man…to call down a curse upon the Israelites…and this prophet’s name is Balaam.

Now maybe you recognize the name of Balaam…and maybe you know his story…at first he resists the messengers that King Balak has sent his way…figuring that if these are God’s chosen people, he better not try to curse them, even if King Balak offers him great riches…which he does…but then God tells Balaam go ahead and go…and so he saddles up his donkey and off he goes…but then an angel of the Lord shows up in the road…which only the donkey can see.

Now the donkey isn’t going anywhere near that angel…and just stops in the road…and Balaam gets so ticked off at this stubborn animal that he gets off and starts beating it…until God opens the mouth of the donkey who pretty much says “DUDE!!! Why are you beating me? There’s an angel there.” Now talking donkeys are awesome…but what is really important about the story of Balaam is the way he views God’s chosen people.  3 times, in 3 different places King Balak calls upon Balaam to curse the Israelites, but he won’t do it…because Balaam knows that God will bless whoever God choses…Its not up to us…and there’s not much that we can do about it. (pause)

Now with that in mind, let’s consider our gospel lesson for tonight…Maundy Thursday…the night of the Last Supper…the time when Jesus joins together with the 12 disciples for one last bit of fellowship…a time of teaching…a very intimate exchange between Jesus and these men that he has claimed…these followers that have been and will continue to be the closest recipients of his personal attention and his love.

We hear this from the get-go. Jesus loves his own…and he loves them till the end…regardless of what anyone else might think…regardless of how they might respond…regardless of everything…the love of Christ…the joy that he feels in the very presence of these people…this is the sense that takes shape here in the Last Supper.

After this time together…they will go out to the garden…Judas will bring along a great crowd…the disciples will flee…Peter will deny…and things only get darker from there. Tonight Jesus will be arrested…tomorrow he will be tortured and killed on the cross…and Jesus makes no secret of that. He’s told the disciples time after time what’s coming…and he even says it here with a term of beloved endearment. Little children, I am with you only a little longer.

And remember Jesus knows all this…he knows what’s coming…he knows what’s in the hearts of the men that are with him…he knows it all…and despite the utter betrayals that will come about on EVERYONE’S part…he still takes this time to literally show them what true love looks like.

During supper Jesus rises from the table, takes off his robe, wraps a towel around his waist…and then one by one, he stoops down to wash the feet of his disciples…some protest…Peter in particular…failing to understand just what it is that Jesus is really up to…but one after another, Jesus looks them in the face…knowing the failure that each will experience just minutes after this time together…and he still washes their feet.

Now you’ve maybe heard me talk about this before…that the job of washing the feet of a traveler would never fall to the master…either the individual would wash their own feet or the lowliest household slave would come along to do so.  This is a matter of hospitality…but no one would expect it go down like it did…and this is why we hear the confusion from Peter…the back and forth as he struggles to understand what’s really happening, just as I imagine the rest of the disciples were feeling as well…and then in the midst of it…in the middle of this odd back and forth which continues to reveal the perfect love of Christ in the face of Peter’s aversion to it…we hear the declaration that Jesus makes…you are clean. (pause)

Now as I think about water along with a statement about the individual on the part of Jesus…on the part of God, my mind goes to things sacramental…because of course this sounds like baptism.  Likewise, as we consider the Last Supper, perhaps we are reminded of Holy Communion…and rightly so…the other gospels tell us of Jesus’ first institution of the Holy Meal…one that we’ll share together in a few more minutes…a meal in which we are all reminded that this is for you for the forgiveness of sins…but not only that…we are also reminded that this meal is for all people.

This is the thing that seems so utterly significant tonight, as we enter once more into a mindset of remembering…of celebrating if we want to use that word…what Jesus endured…what God experienced in the event of Jesus’ life and death, which will lead to his resurrection in a few more days…the thing that is so significant, is that its not up to us.

Peter tries to control what Jesus will do, but Jesus shuts that down.  Judas has his part to play as well…and the rest of the disciples all have their failings. Likewise so do we…and yet, the promises of God, made real in Jesus Christ are still given to each and every one of us…simply because of God’s perfect love and delight found within each of us as individuals…each of us who were lovingly created bearing the divine image of God.

That’s something that we need to remember….that yes we are flawed and broken people…that’s a reality of humanity…but that’s not where our story begins.  If we go all the way back…Genesis chapter 1…we see that Humanity…each one of us was made by God from a place of delight…and God calls us good.  Brokenness doesn’t happen until chapter 3.

We don’t deny it…but we remember that the God who has chosen to redeem this world through Christ has done so because from the beginning of your existence…in the beginning of OUR…existence…we start from the place of goodness and the joy of our creator. (pause)

Now this perfect love…a love which admittedly, our brokenness hinders within each of us…this is the basis for the new commandment that Jesus leaves with his followers…to love one another. The Greeks call this agape love…perfect…sacrificial…all in love…and Jesus says that this is how the world will know that we are his followers, if we have love for one another. (pause)

But what does that look like? That’s a question that I often wrestle with…because it seems like we as a culture have gotten really good at the polar opposite. Many will argue that this is the single most divisive time in our history…and while that’s open to interpretation, I don’t think that any of us would argue that there is a sense of animosity…of division…of vitriol and anger…and dare I say, hate…that exists within the world…and all too often that’s the topic of conversation.

And rather than listening…we yell…we demonize…we throw the other side under the bus…and why? Because might makes right? Does it make us feel superior to have what we consider the better argument? Or have we just gotten really good at yelling louder than the other person?

Today…right now…it seems to be the 2nd Amendment and if its still relevant or outdated.  Or it’s the conservative right verses the liberal left. Or the president verses a porn star over who’s level of morality is better or worse. These are the big topics that everyone seems to be stuck on right now. And as we’ve all heard, maybe even participated in, its full of animosity.

And perhaps no where is this vitriol more present than right here in the church. And I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of being defined by who we hate. Jesus said love each other…so maybe just maybe its time that we as the body of Christ figure out how to start doing just that…instead of tossing logs around that look or sound a lot like judgement of who’s in and who’s out.

Let us remember that Jesus makes the declaration of who’s clean…Jesus makes the determination on who’s being blessed…not the other way around…and he is the one who reminds us that God loves the entire world and that God has sent the son into the world so that it might be saved through him. (pause)

So what does it mean? What does it look like to love one another? Maybe it starts from a place of respect and dignity for whoever it is that’s on the opposite side of the line from you…or maybe it starts from the realization that we’re all in this together, like it or not…and maybe we should act like it.

Maybe love looks like supporting a young man who’s bravely fighting cancer in our community.  Maybe it looks like crossing the street to say good morning to our neighbors. Sometimes it looks like just showing up when someone else is experiencing their own dark night of the soul…not with words of wisdom or the offer of a solution…but simply to bring your presence into their darkness so that they can see the truth that they are not alone.

We live in a world filled with darkness and brokenness and pain and suffering…that is our reality…but there’s a light that shines in the midst of it…a light that the world has tried REALLY hard to snuff out…in fact it tried so hard that it killed the source…but even death wasn’t strong enough to overcome it.

That light shines as a man named Jesus…And this same man, who looked his disciples in the eye, knowing that one by one they would somehow fail him, and he washed their feet…then he declared a blessing upon them…and he has declared the same blessing for you and for all people. Let us remember that in the end, this blessing is not up to us…for God will bless whoever God choses. Amen.

Advertisements

Maybe Its Both 3-25-18

In this Palm Sunday sermon, based on Mark 11:1-11, I explore Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, but consider the possibility of mixed emotions.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/maybe-its-both-3-25-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

I have a tendency…and I hope I’m not the only person who does this…there are certain movies that are SO good…that when I stumble across them while channel surfing…I’ll sit and watch them. It doesn’t matter where the story is at when I find it…I know these movies so well that my brain fills in the backstory…and I just sit and watch it through till the ending.

One of these movies is Forrest Gump…an instant classic from the mid-90s with Tom Hanks playing the hero…simple minded Forrest Gump…who knows “I am not a smart man.”  Somehow, over the course of about 2 hours’ worth of movie…this simple man manages to find himself present and involved in just about EVERY major event that occurs over about 50 years of American History.

His simple and yet utterly amazing life is shaped by the countless people that he encounters…but throughout all of these major events, he is shaped by the words and advice of those closest to him.  The words of his momma…of Jenny, the love of his life…of his friend Bubba, and his commanding officer Lt. Dan.

Now there’s a scene at the end of the movie that encapsulates this quite well. Spoilers for a 24 year old movie…but Forrest is standing at the grave of his beloved Jenny, talking to her while perhaps reflecting back on the life that he has lived and all that he has experienced…and he says this…

I don’t know if Momma was right…or if its Lt Dan…I don’t know if we each, have a…destiny…or if we’re all just floating around accidental, like on a breeze…But I think…maybe its both…maybe both is happening at the same time. (pause)

I can’t help but think there’s a lot of truth in that statement. Often I hear people talking about the idea of free will, and I hear about God’s plan…seemingly 2 sides to the same coin…and I think Forrest might be on to something…because maybe its both…and maybe, this idea of 2 things happening at the same time…2 things that perhaps seem like they are polar opposites of each other…I think that’s often the case in the life, and perhaps in the thoughts of people as individuals as they go through the day to day experience of life. (pause)

Now, in another thought…in my own recent history, I sort of felt like Forrest Gump. In a 2 hour movie he’s present for countless important events in history…and in a 10 day period over the last couple of weeks, I was present in the place where countless BIG events happened, both in the life and ministry of Jesus, as well as some of the much older events in the history of the Bible and the people of Israel…and one of those events…one of those places that I was blessed to see happens in today’s scripture lesson for Palm Sunday…the event that we’ve come to call the Triumphal Entry…as Jesus rides a donkey into the city of Jerusalem, kicking off what we call Holy Week…kicking off the final week of his life before his betrayal and arrest, which of course culminates in his death on the cross before his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday, one week from today.

For Jesus, its all been coming towards this point. We’ve heard time and time again, stories of his miracles…displays of his divine power here within our reality. We’ve heard stories of his teaching, and the way it continues to open up old ways of thinking into a new way of being in the world. We’ve heard of his interactions with people…often times the outcasts as he continues to show us what it means that the kingdom of Heaven has come near…and we’ve heard, several different times, his prediction of what’s going to happen in Jerusalem.

And now…we hear the story itself…and I can’t help but think that there’s a lot going on here.  Jesus and his merry band of followers come upon the twin villages of Bethpage and Bethany…just outside of Jerusalem…and it seem that perhaps Jesus has been pulling some strings behind the scenes…He knows that there’s the colt of donkey that the disciples will find tied up outside a house in the opposite village…he knows what people will say when they try to take it…he tells them how to respond…and it happens, just as he predicts. Now maybe he was setting things up ahead of time…or maybe this is evidence of his divinity…and how he knows all things…maybe its both.

Regardless, the two disciples bring the colt, throw their cloaks on it…Jesus climbs on and rides into the city…people along the way are crying out…laying their cloaks on the road in front of him, along with waving the leafy branches that they’ve cut.

Now, think about it for a moment…how do you pictured this scene? I’ve long thought about it, that Jesus rode down a little bit of a hillside, pretty much in a straight line, and then came back up just a little ways to the gate of the city…people chanting and celebrating the whole way…I’ve always pictured a very joyful scene…like everyone’s really happy that he’s here…with the possible exception of the religious elite trying to hush everyone that we hear about in Luke’s account.

But…things are little bit different in my mind this time around…because 7 days ago…I was standing on the Mount of Olives…I stood there and looked…just as Jesus must have looked…taking it all in….and I wonder what was going through his mind…had he planned this? Or was it just happening. Was this intended to reveal his divine kingship to the world…or was it all just a coincidence? We don’t know…we don’t know.

But what I do think is this…Jesus was there on top of the Mount of Olives…and he looked to the west…and there was the temple mount…not far away…maybe 5-600 yards as the crow flies…but before he could get there…he had to go down through the Kidron Valley…now this is no simple low spot between hills…it’s a deep…deep ravine…with utterly steep sides…today, each side of the valley is utterly filled with graves…its literally a grave yard, its literally a place of death…Jesus would have looked across this valley…and it was nearly evening…the sun likely going down on behind the city, the valley growing darker with every passing moment.

Perhaps Jesus looked to his left, and out there to the south of the city was the valley of Gehenna…the valley that served as a trash heap for the city…a place where a fire was perpetually burning to consume the waste and the garbage and even the bodies of those condemned by the Romans…he would have seen the smoke rising from that fire.

This is no simple little walk that Jesus was about to experience…and I wonder what was in his head as he looked and saw all this. Was he determined…was he happy and joyful…was he concerned? He knew what was coming, just as we know now. Is he afraid yet? In 5 more days he’ll sweat blood in his agony…is that in his mind?

How easy would it have been to just shake his head, slip down off the back of that donkey’s colt and walk away? He could have done it…but he didn’t. He rode down into that deep dark valley…into that place which is now a place of death…and then he came back up from it into the city…with just enough time to look around the temple, and then to walk right back out the same way he came. He literally walked right back through that dark valley a second time, so he could spend the night in the village of Bethany.

Now there’s another aspect to consider here as well…because we don’t know what was in Jesus’ mind and heart in this instant, other than the conviction to do what he must do regardless of the inevitable consequences…and that other factor is found in the hearts and minds of the people that were following along behind and walking along in front, crying out Hosanna in the highest heaven…Blessed in is the one who comes in the name of the Lord…blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David.

I wonder just what they were thinking that day as they cried out Hosanna…because this word is important. 2000 years later, its certainly become a word of praise…of exultation and excitement…one that we perhaps hear in our minds along with children parading around the sanctuary waving palms.

But the word Hosanna…it literally means “Save us now.” (pause) Save us now, you in the highest heaven.  And I wonder, if that perhaps sounds a little familiar.

These would be Jewish people lining the road as Jesus passes by…people coming into the city to celebrate the Passover festival…a festival that literally serves a remembrance to the action that God had taken so long before in Egypt…the action that God took in response to 400 years of crying out in agony for God’s mercy and deliverance.

And now, so many generations later…this same people, who have experienced domination and enslavement from empire after empire…these same people are crying out “Save us now.” Perhaps they hoped to be saved from Roman control…perhaps they saw this man entering David’s city triumphantly and thought here we go…God’s chosen one…God’s anointed leader is finally here…the messiah…the one who will save us.

Were they joyful in this moment…was it the big parade and party that we tend to think in our minds? Or were these cries of Hosanna full of pain and sorrow…were they beseeching God for deliverance, perhaps through this man who could walk on water.  (pause) Maybe its both.

Maybe both is happening at the same time. (pause)

Now as we consider this, I can’t help but think that this dual nature…this tendency towards two different responses…this is truly what it means to be human…because nothing is black and white is it? Within a crowd, there will be some who are feeling joy and happiness…while at the same time there will be some who are experiencing pain and sorrow because of their circumstances…and maybe…just maybe, there are some who are feeling the swirl of both all at the same time.

As we look around this room today, I’m guessing that this is the case. As we kick off Holy Week today, some feel joy…some feel sorrow…some are excited, some feel pain…and you know what…that’s to be expected…because to feel this whirlwind of emotions and thoughts and feelings is simple evidence that you are alive and that you…are…human.

We know that Jesus laughed…and we know that he cried…we know that he felt joy and we know that he felt agony…and we know this because while Jesus was fully divine, he was also human…and what he accomplished…what we will remember this week as we move through it…is that Jesus came to bring the kingdom of heaven near to us…a kingdom which begins from a place of love and delight…the love and delight that God feels for all of creation…for all of life, because to God all life is precious, even when that life is full of brokenness and pain.

Through Jesus, God was showing the world the way of perfect love…but the world said no…and on Friday we’ll remember that in the literal face of the love of God, the world killed him…and we’ll sit with that…but then on Sunday…God says “Oh you thought I was done?” (pause)

Now its not quite Easter yet, though we do celebrate our Risen Lord each and every day…and so today, allow yourself to be human…allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you need to feel…that you need to think…that you need to experience…even if its joy…even its if pain…Or maybe its both.  And remember that we have a God who can and does continue to willingly enter into places of pain and death and darkness in order to bring us into the light of new life. Amen.

So Simple So Complex 3-4-18

In this sermon, based on Exodus 20:1-17, I explore the 10 Commandments. They are given to God’s people as a gift of covenant, not just a rule book.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/so-simple-so-complex-3-4-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Many of you out there know that I’m not much a sports guy…I often joke that if its not a little white ball with dimples I don’t really pay attention…but golf…man I love it. It’s a wonderful game, both to watch and to play. Its amazing simple and yet utterly complex all at same time.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, though I’ve got an okay swing…and I’ve tried at different times to teach someone how to swing a club…and every time I try this, I gain more respect for golf coaches…for swing coaches…for those who manage to actually teach this uniquely wonderful and challenging maneuver.

And as per usual…there’s a movie scene that I think of in this instance…comes from a great film called Tin Cup staring Kevin Costner as a skilled but flawed golf pro who’s giving Rene Russo her first ever golf lesson…and they begin with the question “How do you hit a golf shot.” He walks over, smacks a shot off the range and says “Like that.”  And she responds “Well I process verbally. Can you break down into words how you just did that?” And so he does.

It begins with the grip, the hands combine together to form a single unit…overlap the pinky. Lowly and slowly the club head is led backwards, pulled into position, not by the hands, but by the body which turns away from the target, shifting weight to right side without shifting balance, tempo is everything, perfection unobtainable as the body coils now to the top of the swing, there’s a slight hesitation, a little nod to the gods for he is fallible, and now the weight begins shifting back to the left, pulled by the powers inside the earth, its alive this swing a living sculpture, and down through contact always down, striking the ball crisply, with character, a tuning fork goes off in your heart, such a pure feeling is the well struck golf shot, and then the follow through to the finish always on line…

She just kinda looks at him at this point…and they go back forth a couple times before he says “there’s only one other acceptable theory on how to hit a golf ball…grip it and rip it.” (pause)

I love this scene because it highlights an important point about golf, its both incredibly simple…and its utterly complex all at the same time…and this same truth applies to life as well doesn’t it? (pause)

Now I bring all this up today, because today’s lesson features something else that falls in this same category of incredibly simple and yet utterly complex…the 10 Commandments…the beginning of what we have come know as the Law…specially Jewish Law or Old Testament Law…its got a lot of different names within different traditions…but one thing we can all agree on is where it came from.

Now this story is the third covenant story that we’ve hit upon here in the season of Lent. We started two weeks ago, about 10 generations following the creation and fall of humanity, and we found God making a covenant with Noah, post flood, that never again would the earth be destroyed by flood water. Last week we shifted ahead about another 10 generations….the covenant that God made with Abraham, that despite all logic, his descendants would become a great nation, and all the earth would be blessed through him.

And now we shift ahead once more, covering roughly 500 years of history since Abraham…his descendants have grown…becoming not only a family but eventually an entire culture…an entire nation known as the Israelites…a nation that came into being under the yoke of bondage…in slavery in the land of Egypt…but following some amazingly miraculous signs from God…signs that show them that they have a God who is not okay with enslavement…that their God is one of freedom from oppression, they follow the great deliver Moses out of Egypt, through the waters of the Red Sea…and onward through the desert to Mount Sinai where they camp out for a pretty lengthy amount of time…spending about a year here at the base of the mountain…a period of time that starts off with Moses up on top of the mountain for 40 days receiving what has come to be known as the law.

Now this long teaching…this long period of instruction that the Lord gives to Moses on behalf of the Israelites is utterly complex…all told, between what God gives Moses, and what their later interpretations would establish…there are over 600 articles in the Jewish Law…it takes up a ton of Exodus…a bunch of Leviticus and a fair amount of Deuteronomy to cover it all…and you know what, its not unlike golf in that respect either…serious side note…the official rules of golf include 34 separate rules broken down into 126 sub-sections…its super complex…but can be narrowed down to something as simple as hit the ball repeatedly until it falls in the hole. (pause)
But now back to the 10 Commandments…and the law. I wrestled around with this quite a bit this week…because it seems, at first glance anyway…that this one doesn’t quite fall under the category of covenant like the previous readings.  Those came right out and said it…and for the most part, the action in those seemed like it fell on God, and not so much on the people…but this ones different isn’t it? (pause)

Now I’d like to think that the 10 Commandments are pretty well known…many of us here have studied them in the past…it’s a very common topic in our confirmation tradition…and pretty much every time I’ve worked on this topic with a group, our initial conversation goes the same direction…at face value, the 10 Commandments come across like a rule book…like God is some cosmic life judge who’s giving us pointers on what is and isn’t acceptable…like the Lord is just trying to take away our personal freedom and control everything.

Think about it…is that your response to this list? Is that how you view it? How you hear it? Let’s go down the list…I am the Lord your God, have no other gods before me…Don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain…Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy…honor your father and mother…do not commit murder, don’t commit adultery…don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet your neighbors stuff…don’t covet your neighbors people or animals…sure enough, it’s a lot of do’s and don’ts. (pause)

As covenants go, this one sure seems to put the pressure on the people doesn’t it? But here’s the thing…while its become second nature for us to consider this a drag…a how-to list for acceptable living…just another notch on the board of what we have to…for the original recipients…it wasn’t a drag…it was a gift.

The 10 Commandments were given to a people as a physical reminder of the promise that God had made to them all those generations before…a promise to be with them, and the bless them…but not only that…that they would be a blessing to the rest of the world. And this is the next step in how all that works.

All too often we hear rules…regulations…the list of what we have to do in order to be considered “in”…acceptable…good. But what if I told you that God has intended this for something way deeper…what if I told you that the covenant that God has made with these people is intended as a way for them to be an example of how to live in harmony in this world that God has made…because that’s what God says to them before this whole carving the law out on stone tablets thing happens.  You shall be for me a priestly kingdom…a holy nation…

God intends for the Israelites to be an example for the rest of the world…an example in the way that they live with one another and for one another…and we see it in the recipients of the Commandments themselves…I often bring this up when teaching on the commandments…that the first 3 are aimed at our relationship with God…and the rest are aimed at our relationship with our neighbors…a distinction not lost on Christ by the way…for when Jesus was asked “what’s the most important commandment, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He responded Love God and love your neighbor…all of the law and the prophets can be hung upon this.

But why? Why is it important…that is perhaps the big question both for the Israelites back then…and for us now…and to answer that question, I need to point out a distinction that pops up repeated in this passage.  I am the Lord your God….anyone catch that? 5 times it shows up…5 times we are reminded that the Lord is our God, and if that is true, then so is the reverse…God belongs to us, but more importantly we belong to God, because God is the one who made us in the first place.

If we go all the way back to the beginning, we find a God who creates our world…our entire existence, bringing chaos towards order, and calling each and every step good. God created all of this out of delight and it culminated when God created humanity, each member of the human race bearing the divine image of God…a creation that God calls VERY GOOD.

But this work of bringing chaos towards order isn’t done yet…and I believe that bearing the divine image of the Lord means that we are capable of being invited into this work alongside God…and that means that we are called…we are invited…we are blessed to be able to live in harmony with the one who made it all in the first place…and to live in harmony with the good life that surrounds us in every other person…because all life is precious…all life is good…and we share the ability to recognize that.

But…we also share a different distinction…that we each have the capability for great destruction…and I believe that this is why God has given us a reminder of how to live…not as a way to curry favor…not as a way to try and buy ourselves into divine good graces…but as a response to the divine love and favor that has already been shown to us, simply because God delights in you.

Let me be clear…the law…the commandments…whatever we want to call them are not intended to be viewed as the way to earn God’s favor…and if we only see them in that way we have missed the mark…but rather…they are intended to reveal the way to live in gratitude for the love of God, and in harmony with one another.

And as we consider this, we must also recognize that the Commandments themselves…are utterly simple, and yet utterly complex all at the same time…take number 5 for instance…you shall not kill…no brainer…unless someone threatens you…unless someone threatens your children….what then? Is it okay? Can we justify it? Maybe, maybe not? (pause)

And does it go even deeper than that? If Jesus is to be believed…and I think he is…then it would seem so…remember that little ditty when Jesus says “You have heard it said in ancient time you shall not murder, I tell you that if anyone is angry with a brother or sister, they have committed murder in their heart.” Not quite so simple anymore is it?

Here’s the take away…as we travel through the season of Lent…as we continue to move closer and closer and closer to the betrayal, the arrest…the torture and death of Jesus…as things continue to get darker, we are reminded that whatever it is that God is slowly moving this existence towards…whatever the eventual order is that God is pulling us towards…its not done yet…because there is bad that still occurs right alongside the good.  And yet, the kingdom comes near as we live in a way that brings honor and dignity to those around us…because by doing this we honor the divine image that lies within them as an individual…and when we do this, we honor and respect and love the one who made it all in the first place…and who is this? Who is the one that gives us a way to live that is both utterly simple and yet utterly complex…He tells us several times today…I am the Lord your God.

Now you can take that and try to make it really deep…really complex…really difficult…or you can just grip it and rip it.

Amen.