THE BIG TEN (Exodus 20:1-17)
How many of you were confirmed as a child in the Lutheran Church? How many of you remember studying Luther’s Small Catechism? It was designed for parents to teach their children the basics of Christian doctrine. Luther is credited with lifting up the importance of the ten commandments. The part that I remember the most was his assertion after each explanation was “this is most certainly true.”
But there was something totally left out in the study. It wasn’t until I went to a preacher’s conference after seminary and that is the preamble. Listen carefully. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
This statement is central to understanding the 10 commandments. If we start out with just the commands, we can easily see God as cruel task master expecting us to fulfill commands that God might love and bless us. But the whole atmosphere changes when we read – I love you. I have freed you from slavery of Egypt, the slavery of sin. If you want to remain free, here are things you will want to do.
The first one is to know there is only one God who has created heaven and earth. He is Lord, he is sole judge of what makes for healthy living both in our individual lives and our dealings with each other.
You might say everyone knows this; but I wonder. Last week there was a political meeting in Orlando where a golden image of our previous president was being dragged around the hall.
The second command that we need to watch is “You shall not misuse God’s name.” I remember as a child being taught: “Don’t swear”, while living in a home that God’s name was often uttered in vain. And today when I read emails or Facebook I am struck by the phrase: “OMG.”
Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. If God is the Lord of our life, Christians will spend time at worship, such as we are doing now. But I believe sabbath stretches far beyond this. I believe we need to take some sabbath time every week to just stop and reflect with God about our life direction and what God would have us do with our lives today.
Henry Ford is credited with making automobiles so efficiently that the price dropped to the point that millions could afford a car, which sparked a revolution of being on wheels in America. One day he was asked to reflect on his achievement. He sadly said, “We worked seven days a week to develop the assembly line. I believe we would have been done months sooner if we would have taken a day off a week.
Sabbath is a gift from God. Participate in it so that God might restore the wells of your creativity and soul.
Honor your parents. It is important to remember how important the training of our parents are to our life. They taught us language, our basic ethics, the taking care of our bodies, and provided for our education. Possibly the greatest gift my stepdad gave to me was teaching me how to drive.
But please note the word is honor not obey. I believe we honor our parents by the lives we live and by taking care of them when they become old. But since my parents were racists and never seemed to find time to go to worship, I learned a different way at church that has honored by parents but living a different life than they followed.
Now I would like to connect several commands together in one story from the life of David. One hot night King David was seeking some cool on the roof of his palace when he saw Bathsheba, wife of one of his generals bathing. He was overwhelmed by her beauty and had her summoned to the palace where he became intimate with her. A few days later she sent David the message that she was pregnant by him. Since her husband Uriah was out at war, David was the father. If word got out that David had impregnated Bathsheba, they would both be stoned.
King David hatched a plan to have Uriah come back to Jerusalem for consultation with the King. David figured he would stay the night at home with his wife Bathsheba and his sin would be covered. Uriah went home but since his men were in the field separated from their wives, he could not sleep in his wife’s bed but slept outside. In the morning he went back to the battlefield, without ever getting intimate with Bathsheba.
David panicked and ordered the army to attack the enemy’s city led by Uriah. And when they get close to the wall of the city the army was ordered to retreat leaving Uriah exposed to the enemy. The enemy killed him.
When word got to the king, he made himself look good by marrying Bathsheba. When the child was born, it was sickly and did not live long. Not only that but David was a lousy father to his other children. He sowed the seed of what eventually led to Israel splitting into separate kingdoms that were eventually conquered by their enemies.
What I am saying is the ten commandments are a gift from God who has freed us from the Egypt of living in a world rebelling against God and each other. If we want to have fulfilled life, keeping the 10 commandments is vital.
But let’s face it all of us sin and fall short of the glory of God and the commandments show us what we have done wrong and condemn us. But God didn’t stop giving us the 10 commandments, he sent his son to suffer, die, and be raised from death to give us the gift of forgiveness and the ability to start over even when we have sinned like King David, who coveted his neighbor’s wife, committed adultery, and then ordered his murder. God is there to forgive us and give us the power of the Holy Spirit to start over.
It is this Spirit who is leading us through the spiritual housecleaning of Lent so that the power of Good Friday and Easter might inspire us anew to have life and to have it more abundantly. Amen.
Sermon on March 7, 2021, by The Rev. Bernard Hess for Saint Michael Lutheran Church.