Searching for....

Monday, September 30, 2013

09292013 18th Sunday After Trinity

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Our church today is impacted by our culture and our society.  Our society has successfully pulled us away from the church and the message of salvation offered by Jesus Christ and His death on Calvary for all mankind.  In one sense we have allowed our culture and society to break one of the commandments, not as it is classically understood, but still in a way where our souls and our eternal resting place are affected.  Society has impacted us to the extent that we complain about a sermon that goes longer than 10 minutes and a worship service that goes longer than an hour, but we gladly sit and watch a football or baseball game even into extra innings or overtime, in the cold or heat and even if it means driving three hours or even six hours to get to the stadium.

Our society caters to the advertising on television, radio, internet and bulk mail, even interrupting our dinner by calling either our home phone and now our cell phones advertising the opportunity to ‘get away’ from our homes, jobs and church family whether by vacations on a cruise ship or along a beach somewhere.  While driving on I-70 we see more motor homes and people headed to the lakes and mountains to relax in the here and now, rather than preparing and feeding our hearts and souls for eternity.  When we do come to church, we feel the burdens of what needs done, rather than the joy of the Savior and feeling empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the kingdom of God.  Our hearts, souls and spirits are in one sense dying a slow death because we seek societies wealth, instead of God’s unending wealth.

Societies and nations, even God’s chosen the people of Israel have for centuries waged wars in order to gain the wealth or land that is found here on earth whether of their own or their neighbors.  Our society has used swords like the one on display this morning to kill people all in the belief that our wants, needs and desires to have more and die with more will change our trajectory or the outcome.  But the reality is clear, no matter how many toys we have, no matter how much wealth we amass here on earth, whether land, possessions or acres of irrigated or dry land, we still die.  No matter if we are killed by the sword in body, by the tongue in our dialogue or by the way in which we live, the reality still remains, we will spend eternity, either with heavenly destitution bought by the sword or heavenly bliss bought by our using the sword for God’s Glory and in His service.

But what does this sword have to do with the Fifth Commandment?  Interestingly this is another place where our Fifth Commandment has some application.  Let’s pull out our inserts and let me read the Fifth Commandment and let us the members of the Body of Christ also known as the Church read out loud the explanation beginning with “We should”.  “You shall not murder.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support them in every bodily need.”  Let us pray asking God to speak to us today about how we can be instruments not to destroy, body, soul or spirit, but build up and amass riches that will not pass away in His Kingdom.

Gracious King and Lord, we know our society has lured us away from Your divine purpose and honoring You.  We as a society and individuals have used the sword, whether of metal or of our tongues for our individual and collective gain, but with the ultimate loss of others self-esteem, self-worth and needs.  Enable us to tame the sword in our hands as well as our mouths and not kill others that You have placed in our path.  For we are Your handiwork and are in desperate need of Your divine help to point to Christ and His sacrifice for all mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

As we walked through Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, Michele, Sarah and I came across some of the decorations for Halloween.  At the bottom of the shelf were these items, a cleaver and a sickle.  Not unusual for decorations or part of a costume for the season for the grim reaper, these items have one purpose, to be used as decor to decorate for Halloween, but I couldn’t help but think of the Fifth Commandment.  These items just as much as the sword displayed are weapons of war or carnage.  They are used and have the connotations of death, which the Fifth Commandment clearly speaks against.  Yet, we as a society and church relegate the use of items such as these to mere toys and forget that we humans do have a sword that even Jesus warned us about.  That sword is this [stick out tongue] our tongue.  Jesus says clearly, if we are angry with our brother we have just as easily ‘committed murder’.  So these toys we mock and even use as decorations are poignant examples and reminders for us of the weight that not only our physical strength have when used with a sickle cutting down wheat, but also a sword or ax when cutting wood and even our words that we use with our neighbor, our friends and even here in the church.

Our words whether intentionally or unintentionally can and do clearly cut even deeper than any metal object.  Sometimes our words have venom in and with them aimed directly at individuals and cause more harm than good.  The harm they cause is not only in relationship with one another whether Mother and Daughter, Father and Son, Brother and Sister, but also here in the church.  In countless movies characters have dialogue that is mean and destructive, wielded and used by many to be destructive of our individual self-worth and we feel the blows that belittle and cause us to wonder if we are important and destroy relationship.  Not only does this occur in society, it even occurs here in the church, even among the leaders of the church, without few if anyone speaking to the person nor against this breaking of the Fifth Commandment.  We are afraid to speak to the person, because we do not want to ‘ruffle their feathers’, we do not want to endanger the relationship we currently have with them, because of the history of the past years or ‘good times we have had.’  We sacrifice doing what is right, for the easy path, that doesn’t require anything of and for us.  The reality becomes that we live in a church that rests on the side of grace and ignores the responsibility and accountability we have been called to fulfill in this the Fifth Commandment.

But of what consequence is that to us today, why should we be worried?  We have been saved by the Grace of God, freed from the bondage of sin, death and the devil by Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.  For what purpose should we be concerned about this commandment that calls us to not kill whether physically or emotionally in our relationship with each other, even our spouse, children and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The reality is that yes, Jesus Christ died for our sins, but as Paul says, should we continue to sin so that grace may abound, by no means.  We as baptized Children of God are called to watch not only our physical actions of using swords or destructive tools like guns or anything that can kill the body, but also we have been called to watch what we say with our tongues, because it kills our souls.  God is calling us to speak with love in our heart, not with malice, hatred or envy, for those are means of destruction not building.

Jesus Christ Who died for each of us even modeled this for all of us when He rose from the dead.  Easily Jesus could have come to the disciples in the Upper Room and verbally chastised them for running away at His betrayal when on the third day He appeared in the Upper Room.  But, Jesus began with forgiveness and peace.  This is the same offer Jesus comes to offer all of mankind.  In, through and by His death on Calvary, Jesus Christ offers the forgiveness of sins for all of mankind.

Though we daily break the Fifth Commandment, not in the classical way of ‘murder’, but with our tongues, Jesus Christ offers us the forgiveness of sins and modelled this for each and every one of us.  The most poignant story of forgiveness told from the 20th Century tells of a woman whose family had been shipped off to Ravensbruck which was a Nazi prisoner of war camp for those who helped shield and protect the Jews during World War II.  Corrie ten Boom and her family were imprisoned there and she was the only member of her family who survived that horrific experience.  She endured the demoralization, the death and the destruction not only of their bodies, but especially of their souls, not only by the leaders but especially the prison guards.  Two years after being liberated from the torture while bringing the message of forgiveness to the people of Holland, Corrie after giving a talk about what true forgiveness was encounters what would have been her greatest nightmare two short years earlier.

After her talk, in front of her stands one of the guards who had brutally and without remorse harassed and exposed her very nakedness.  Now he stood before her with hand extended having heard her talk about forgiveness.  Time stopped and the full impact of the message of forgiveness Corrie had just proclaimed came crashing down upon her.  The former guard did not recognize her, but his image flooded her and nearly drove her to her knees.  The message she had just finished giving of the forgiveness of sins, in an instant took on new meaning and new resolve.

The man standing before her told of his conversion to Christianity, his belief in the forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ and now asked Corrie the one question that radically changed her understanding of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary.  He asked, “will you forgive me?”  For what seemed like hours, but was only a few brief seconds, the faith just proclaimed rested in the balance, either to deny God’s grace, or embrace the forgiveness given by Jesus Christ and proclaim it to the monster who had exposed her nakedness, insulted her humanity and robbed her of her family.  The choice was clear and unmistakable for Corrie, her response was, “Yes, I forgive you.”

This is the forgiveness God offers to each of us today not only for our breaking the Fifth Commandment, but also what we can offer to one another when we kill with the sword, our words, our actions, our inactions and even our attitude.  May we daily offer this forgiveness to one another for our breaking the Fifth Commandment and embrace one another not as enemies, but as true brothers and sisters in Christ redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
//trial script