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Sunday, October 27, 2013

10202013 21st 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.

A few weeks ago in our series on the Ten Commandments, I did something that some Pastor’s would have loved to have done.  It wasn’t stripping in front of the congregation.  It wasn’t breaking something in the sanctuary with the whole congregation watching, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to
‘stick my tongue out’ during a sermon.  My personal intent was to illustrate how we sometimes ‘murder’ our neighbor or their good name using our tongue.  Whether it is in what we say, do or act upon, we do ‘murder’ our neighbor, whether their character, their image or even how others view what they do or have done.  So today as a polar opposite to ‘murder’ we encounter the Eighth Commandment which speaks directly to what we ‘should’ do for our neighbor.

Let’s pull out our bulletin insert and read together in unison the “What does this mean?” section as a congregation.  “The Eighth Commandment, You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”  As we begin applying what this means, let’s go to God in prayer and seek God’s blessing upon us as we explore how to ‘explain everything in the kindest way.’

Let us pray!  Wonderful counselor, Your Word is clear that we are to ‘explain our neighbor’s actions in the kindest way’, but this is hard when we have a problem with our neighbor, our friends and even our Pastor.  We feel it easier to say what will harm and hurt even if it is only to our friends and ruin their reputation, rather than walk a mile in their shoes and explain their actions in the kindest way.  Enable us to not only think before we speak, but more importantly understand that Jesus came to save us and explain our sins to His Father by defending us through His death on Calvary for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
We continue this morning dealing with a Commandment that is horizontal or about the relationship between mankind and not between God and man on the vertical.  We tend to forget that 70% of the Commandments deal with the horizontal or the relationship between mankind, and tend not to understand how vital our relationship with our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ is to our faith life even here in the church and our expression of it in community as God’s ambassadors to our community and world.

If I were to take the sledge hammer sitting before us and walk over to the organ, the stain glass windows, the altar or even the pews and begin to break them apart, either everyone in the church would jump to their feet and stop me before I did to much damage, or some of you would sit back and in astonishment say, I had lost my mind.  Clearly if I would begin to destroy items that we collectively hold onto so dearly and tightly, everyone would not wait for my resignation, but begin to throw every book I own, every keep sake I hold dear in my office out into the trash dumpster without a second thought, because I have destroyed something held very dearly by our congregation and which has been paid for by many members of this congregation and our forefathers.

How is someone’s reputation any different than an organ, a stain glass window or a pew?  It isn’t.  When we talk about people, whether in their presence or behind their back with only our closest friends, we clearly break the Eighth Commandment.  And this occurs in our world, our society, our family and even here in the church.  It has even occurred most recently in the last two weeks here in the church.  What we may be saying may be truth from our perspective, and it may be factual and our firm conviction or how we live our own lives, or even what our expectations are of others and even our personal pet peeves, but God in the Eighth Commandment calls us to ‘put the best construction on all things’.

The Eighth Commandment is the hardest Commandment for anyone to fulfill, because the strongest muscle in the human body, which is the tongue, can more quickly tear down a friend and betray a confidence rather than ‘explaining our neighbor’s actions in the kindest way.’  But this is exactly what Jesus did and does daily and we lay claim to daily in the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus Christ knows the depth of our sin, but even in the depth of our sin He steps in front of and took the entirety of the wrath of God the Father for the sins of the World, for our own sins, even to death in order to set us free.  This is pure and simple grace offered by Jesus Christ for all of us gathered here this morning.  Jesus Christ chose to suffer in order to model what the Eighth Commandment is all about by putting the best construction on our actions and suffering what each of us deserves.  Was it easy?  By no means, but this is exactly what Jesus Christ did in His perfect obedience of His Father in heaven and in fulfillment of the Eighth Commandment.

But how can we do that today?  Recently, a member of our own congregation asked me about Evolution.  They said, the schools are teaching it, society believes in it, how can we as a church and a people of faith fight against it and clearly speak against Evolution?  Using the Eighth Commandment I began by saying, I personally do not believe in Evolution, however, I have learned about it, can talk about it and explain it clearly to anyone.  Notice, I was following the Eighth Commandment model, I continued, by saying as a man of faith and a Pastor, I believe it is important to understand and be able to articulate the Evolution teaching.

Personally if asked, I do not agree with Evolution, nor is my faith wavered by what is espoused, but in following the Eighth Commandment, I can explain why some people are so adamant about this theory and not speak evil of them nor the theory of Evolution.  We to as Christians when we encounter others who may not have the same faith or depth of faith that we do see a person do something, however it makes us feel or even if it goes against our beliefs or values have Jesus Christ as our model to not use a sledge hammer and break the persons character, reputation or good name.  We are called as Christians and heirs of the Blood of the Lamb of God found in Jesus Christ to defend our neighbor, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.  For in fulfilling and following God’s perfect model in His Son Jesus Christ, we are freed from our own sins and set free to be the people of God made in His image that includes all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
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