Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Exodus 19:1-6, 20:1-2 (NRSV)
Grace and peace to you from God, our Creator; Jesus, our Redeemer; and the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier. Amen.
Welcome to this day! It is the first Sunday of four that we will spend thinking about the Ten Commandments, or the Ten Words, as they are called in Judaism. It’s also Trinity Sunday, which is the one Sunday of the church year in which we attempt to explain and to celebrate the Trinity.
Can you think of something else we’re celebrating this weekend?
That’s right! Memorial Day! What does Memorial Day mean to you?
Yes, it’s a day of remembering. We’ve been doing a lot of remembering. Last week, we celebrated the festival of Pentecost. When we remember the sending of the Holy Spirit--the Advocate that Jesus had promised to send to the disciples after his ascension. You may remember that we heard that it wasn’t an accident that there were large crowds in Jerusalem on that day. It was no coincidence. They had come to the city--to the temple--to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavu’ot. This was a holiday of remembering for them, too, just like Monday’s holiday is for us.
Do you remember what the Jewish people were remembering? Yes, it was the remembrance of God’s giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Fifty days after the Passover. Fifty days after Israel had been freed by God from slavery in Egypt. They had passed through the wilderness and reached Mount Sinai. It was at Mount Sinai that Israel entered into a covenant with God--the promise we just heard in the reading from Exodus 19: That, if they obeyed God and stayed true to God’s covenant, then they would be God’s most precious possession out of all the peoples. Israel would be a kingdom of priests for God. A holy nation.
So, to help Israel stay true to the covenant, God gifted them with the Torah. Or the Law. We often think that this is just the Ten Commandments. But, it was much, much more. The video we are about to watch will help us better understand what the Torah meant to Israel. It will also help us understand what the Torah meant to Jesus.
Perhaps the biggest challenge we have as Protestants is that we don’t quite understand what to do with the Law. We teach that we are saved by faith and not by our works--not by the things we do. That we are saved simply through our faith. That we can’t earn our own salvation.
Yet, what we heard in the video is that the law is all about relationships. About our relationship with God. And about our relationships with each other, with our neighbors. Even with our enemies.
It seems perfect that we should begin this series on the Ten Commandments today, on Trinity Sunday. This day when we celebrate the Three Persons of the Godhead. Three distinct persons--each with its own nature, each with its own purpose, each unique, and yet one. Unified with each other. In relationship with each other. You see, the very nature of God is relational. And, it’s this same God that has created us to be in relationship. To be in relationship with God. And to be in relationship with each other. To love God and to love our neighbor.
Luther wrote in his introduction to the Ten Commandments that the person who knows the ten commandments knows all of scripture: love God, and love your neighbor.
The Law teaches us and leads us how to live into God’s unchanging goal for us. God’s vision about what a just and safe a society looks like. A vision of a world of shalom, of wholeness. A vision of a world that is properly ordered--that is tuned into God and into each other.
The Formula of Concord, which is one of the principle documents based on God’s Word that we as Lutherans confess and affirm, lays this out clearly for us, as believers.
“We believe, teach, and confess that, although people who truly believe in Christ and are genuinely converted to God have been liberated and set free from the curse and compulsion of the law through Christ, they indeed are not for that reason without the law. Instead, they have been redeemed by the Son of God so that they may practice the law day and night.”
This is why the Law is still important for us. Because it is the ideal--God’s ideal vision--that we are called to live into. We, who have been freed from our own slavery to sin by Jesus’ dying on the cross, are freed, then, to love and to serve our neighbor.
Because it is always about relationship. With God. And with each other. Always.
Preached May 27, 2018, at Grace & Glory Lutheran Church, Goshen, KY.
Readings: Matthew 22:34-40; Exodus 19:1-6, 20:1-2