Searching for....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

10132013 20th Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Audio

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.

When my younger brother Dale started college back in 1990, he didn’t choose a typical school.  It wasn’t UVa, Duke, UNC or Longwood, which were all ‘well-known’ schools.  Dale, chose to attend a college with not only a history, but a heritage that spanned back over 150 years and predated the Civil War.  Now living here in Kansas it is more interesting because the school, Virginia Military Institute better known as VMI was founded in 1839.  In opposition the territory of Kansas was not formed until 1854 and the State of Kansas did not join the Union until 1861.

But Dale, as a student at an all-male military institute was instilled with many important virtues that have served him well during his nearly 20 year military career.  One of the most profound and interesting for me when I first visited him was that all around campus there was a ton of loose change that was just lying on the ground.  I thought I had found the mother load of spare change.  Since VMI was founded to train young men to be gentleman and serve in the states militia, it was believed that the change ‘dropped’ or ‘lost’ by people was not theirs even if they found it on the ground in the middle of a field.  It was considered stealing if they picked up the change, so that is why the campus was strewn with lots of loose change.

I start with that story, because today we continue in our Catechism series with the Seventh Commandment.  Let’s pull our bulletin insert out and respond to God’s Seventh command beginning with “We should”.  “The Seventh Commandment, You shall not steal.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.”  Isn’t it a neat connection with this commandment the value and virtue instilled in students at VMI that comes directly from the Seventh Commandment.  Ironically VMI is a public institution, state funded and has values like this at its core.  Before we continue, let’s pray asking God’s blessing and wisdom upon our time as we learn a new understanding and application of the Seventh Commandment.

Let us pray!  Gracious Father, even the thief on the cross who hung next to Your Son Jesus Christ was rightly convicted for his breaking the law, but the reality is that we are just as guilty of stealing as he was.  It may not be items or valuables, but the reality is that we steal from each other, from the church and from You daily, whether in what we do or do not do.  Even though we deserve to hang on the cross, Your Son Jesus Christ came, lived among us and died in order to pay for all of our sins, even when we steal from You.  Continually remind us of His sacrifice that was for all mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

If it were only a matter of loose change, or a piece of candy that had fallen to the floor in the store, we easily could rationalize our not being guilty of breaking the Seventh Commandment.  But the reality is that it is not about the item, but it is about the concept of stealing that the Seventh Commandment brings to mind.  Everyone of us is guilty in some way of stealing from not only the government with the loop holes of taxes either personally or professionally.  From our community by our own self-interest in only our homes and farms or what will benefit our own family or small group, whether it is sports, the arts, our bridge club or even our pet projects or groups like Kiwanis, Elks or the VFW.  Or our stealing even here in the church where we are only consumers and not wanting to take our ‘valuable time’ and usher, greet, be a communion assistant, Sunday School teacher or lector, either because we have done our time in years past, or we expect the ‘younger generation’ to pick up the slack and serve.  The reality becomes that we are guilty of breaking the Seventh Commandment even here in the church.

Hence this morning, we have a clock and a model church to remind us that the Seventh Commandment is not only about stealing items, it is about our stealing time and stealing from God’s church what God has entrusted to us.  I am not here to make us feel guilty or shame anyone into doing something they do not feel led or called by God to do.  Nor am I here to put down any group like the Kiwanis, Elks, VFW, Boy Scouts or any recreational organization.  Hear clearly, all God wants us as His children to do is not only understand that stealing is wrong, which is very clear, but more specifically for us to build the body of the Church for God’s Glory and His Honor.

When we have the understanding and perspective that Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins, even of our time and wasting it without eternal gain, we begin to change our perspective on time and our relationship not only with the church, but also with God.  Remember the Seventh Commandment deals specifically with the relationship on the horizontal level, or between our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Though Jesus came and died for all of our sins, His offer of life and salvation was not so we can sin even more, it was so we can be transformed into His image of perfect sacrifice and obedience to use our time as precious as it is in His Glory here in the church and in our community.  We will never be perfect, but by our striving to serve in God’s service, we change the landscape of our reality, not our being saved, but our being continuously transformed, continuously reminded of our salvation and continuously serving God when the opportunity arises in the community, the church, and especially for the eternal gains for God’s Kingdom.

God is simply calling us to not steal, not just the physical, but also the eternal blessings that He has in store for us.  This is why we can and should be transformed by His Word and empowered by His blessings He wants to bestow upon us.  When we continuously remind ourselves of His sacrifice by telling, living and embodying the Gospel story, we change not only our perception of this commandment, but also our action not only as a fulfillment of His offer of salvation for us, but also as our opportunity to devote our time for His Glory and not our own.  May we hear His calling clearly and be empowered to use our time, not in stealing it away for our benefit, but in service to Him in the church and for His Glory for all of us saints who bask in the free grace offered by His death on Calvary for all of mankind including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
//trial script