Summary: A sermon for the 3rd. Sunday in Lent, Series B

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3rd Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2009 “Series B”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you gave us your commandments in order to show us how we ought to live our lives in relationship with you, the source of our very being. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to embrace your will for our lives, and when we fail, give us the courage to embrace your redeeming grace, and the power to amend our ways. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

The Ten Commandments are viewed by the Judeo-Christian communities as the basic principles as to how we should live our lives in relationship with God and one another. Of course, numbering the commandments, which is not done in our text from Exodus, has provided some confusion between Lutherans and other denominations. And I believe dear Martin got it wrong, and so I will utilize the more widely accepted numbering of the commandments for my message this morning.

Certainly, the last six of the commandments are not unique to Jews and Christians. From the articles that I have read, all cultures of the world praise or value the fifth commandment to honor our parents. In fact, some cultures, such as the Chinese, place even greater emphasis upon this commandment than Jews and Christians seem to do. However, as Luther points out in his Large Catechism, if we do not learn to respect and honor the authority of our parents, how can we respect and honor those outside our homes?

And as we move out from the home, all civilized societies have laws that prohibit murder, adultery, stealing, and baring false witness against our neighbors. Most societies also discourage the coveting of our neighbor’s possessions, at least on an ideal level. Thus, the last six commandments are known to people quite apart from Biblical revelation, as recorded in our first lesson.

But when we turn to the first 8 verses of our lesson, we find a framework for the commandments that is unique to the Judeo-Christian faith. And there is no passage more important than the first three verses. “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; you shall have no other gods before me…”

In other words, the ethical commandments that form the basis for most cultures of the world, are for the people of Israel, put into the framework of their relationship with God. God first acted in love and concern to free Israel from bondage. God initiated the relationship. Now God enters into a covenant with Israel, of which his commandments are to form the basis of Israel’s response to God’s love already revealed toward them. It is not an earthly culture that establishes these norms of behavior, but the God who set them free. It was out of gratitude for what God had already done for Israel, that they were to embrace his commands.

But how quickly we human beings forget what God so graciously has done for us. As Daniel Schowalter points out in his commentary the “reception of the Ten Commandments is shrouded in mystery, which seems appropriate for such a sacred moment. However, the awe of the people at the time does not prevent them from almost immediately violating the first and second commandments, and breaking all of them on a regular basis.” End quote.

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