The Grace of the Covenant

March 12, 2012 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III

Lent 3B (texts from Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

United and St John Lutheran Churches

11 March 2012

 

Sermon Audio

'The Ten Commandments' St Paul, Loganton

For all of us who think that religion is just a list of do’s and don’ts,

(and mostly don’ts)

for all of us who think that Christianity is a moral code,

for all of us who think that church is a place where children learn right from wrong,

we must read the Ten Commandments again.

We must read them as part of the story of a God

who acts on behalf of his people to rescue them from their oppressors;

a God who passionately wants to restore the relationship

between himself and his people,

a God who came down into human history to be among his people,

to be one of his people.

Firstly, God identifies himself to the people of Israel this way.

“I am the LORD your God.”

He does not say, “I will be the Lord your God

if you obey these rules I am giving you,

he says, I am the LORD your God.

Before Israel even existed, God called Abraham,

and that before Abraham even knew who God was.

I am the LORD your God.

I am the LORD your God.

This God is not an enemy, but a friend.

This is a God who rescued them, who delivered them,

who saved them from a king armed with chariots and horsemen,

who made a way where there was no way

to safety, to victory, to freedom.

I am the LORD your God.

You shall have no other gods before me.

We can read this as a rule,

Or as grace.

And I would like to suggest that when we read the Ten Commandments,

we might do just as well to read them not as laws,

as we just did a few minutes ago,

but as grace.

It is grace to have no other gods but the God who rescues Israel.

It was grace for the Israelites not to have the gods of Canaan

who demanded child sacrifice.

It is grace to have a jealous God,

who cares about us,

who jealously guards our relationship not to stifle us,

but to free us,

who hates it when we run off with other gods,

the gods of success and pride and prosperity and self-fulfillment

who do not give us liberty but slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.

To be free of the gods which people have set up for themselves

for millennia –

what grace!

What a gracious God who guards his name

so that it may be named at all times in prayer, praise and thanksgiving?

What a gracious God who bids us trust

that there will be time for all our work,

that we are not made for work

but that there is always time to live in the freedom

that is found in relationship with him?

What a gracious God who bids us keep the boundaries between us

whole and inviolate,

that we may not claim for ourselves the honor due our parents,

that we may not claim for ourselves power over life that belongs to him,

that we may not claim for ourselves bodies that belong to others,

that we may not claim for ourselves another’s property or good name,

that we may desire nothing but the freedom and peace of the other?

So that none of us may set ourselves up as gods over another,

But all might live in community with God and each other.

What a gracious God who gives a law

which would keep us free –

from the ravage of rivalry with himself and with each other?

It is not his doing that we see his law as stifling,

as keeping us from what we desire,

whether independence or vengeance or our heart’s desire

or what is rightfully ours or to be lifted up above another.

It is not his doing that we perceived his grace as tyranny,

That Israel was all too willing to turn to other gods,

some of whom demanded the sacrifice of their children,

and that we do too.

It is always the weakest who suffer the consequences of idolatry –

the children whose lives or childhoods are sacrificed

for an adult’s desire for fame or pleasure or independence

or for the exercise of their bitterness,

young people who die for no reason in school or on the streets

or on the battlefields:

the women and men who have no assets but their bodies,

the elderly who are denied the honor due their age,

the poor who are denied a Lord’s day

so that the rich may get what they want whenever they want it,

the relationships that are broken because we can’t keep our mouths shut.

The Lord is not angry because a line has been stepped over.

The Lord’s anger comes when the innocent suffer

because his life of grace has been rejected.

But in his righteous anger God would cleanse.

In our class on Mark we’ve been learning

that Jesus’ first public act during Holy Week

was the so-called ‘cleansing of the Temple.’

In the Gospel of John it is Jesus’ first public act period.

Jesus comes to his Father’s house,

and finds it a place where the life of grace has been rejected.

And he acts to restore the true worship of God.

He acts as a sign of his great action on the cross,

when his body will become the true temple,

the body that we are made part of by baptism,

each individual self a dwelling place for God’s Spirit,

and when we come together, we become a people

among whom God’s Son dwells in Word and Sacrament.

In his righteous anger God would cleanse.

And so may God cleanse us in this holy season.

May God cleanse his church,

As Jesus cleansed the temple.

May God cleanse us as individuals and communities of faith

and take from us all that would reject his gracious offer of life with him.

In Jesus’ cross, may we find all that we need,

so that we may hear God’s Word to us,

as he spoke to others so long ago:

I am the the LORD your God,

who in Jesus Christ set you free from sin, death, and evil

to live in the freedom and peace of the Holy Spirit.

You shall have no other gods before me.

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Entry filed under: Lent, Sermons. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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