Summary: 29th Sunday, Ordinary Time Year C More important than GOd’s words on monuments, t-shirts or bumper stickers is God’s word embodied in our thougths, words and actions.
What’s Written on Your Heart?
The date was August 28, 2003, and the following is a portion of the article that appeared originally in the New York Times and then in other papers around the country. The author – reporting from Montgomery, Alabama, - told of the culmination of a nearly two-year long court battle, writing…
After two years of controversy, a week of protests that resembled revivals and $1 million in lawyers’ fees, the Ten Commandments standoff was resolved on Wednesday in about an hour, by five men and a jack.
A moving crew, hired from out of state because no Alabama company would do it, lifted the 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument installed by Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama and rolled it away.
All the speculation about the titanic slab of granite crashing through the floor of the Alabama Supreme Court or being too heavy to budge ended as the moving crew pushed the monument out of public view, as federal courts have demanded.
Dozens of protesters watched, furious and helpless, from behind the locked glass doors of the courthouse.
Many have been camping out on the courthouse steps, wearing their beliefs on their backs, with such T-shirts as “Jesus is the Standard” and “Satan is a Nerd.” As the workers readied the monument, a preacher belted out, “Pray the wheels crumble!”
After they did not, protesters started screaming: “Bring the monument back! Bring the monument back!”
Moore, who was suspended last week for defying a federal court order to remove the monument, issued a statement saying, “It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our law and the acknowledgment of God has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge.” … the article continues…
For now, the monument is tucked away in a locked back room in the Alabama Supreme Court. Court officials have not indicated what they will ultimately do with it.
Protesters, though, continued to flock to Montgomery. All day they blew ram’s horns, shook Bibles, passed out cans of Coke and knelt on the courthouse steps under a punishing sun.
“This is just the beginning,” said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. “We’re going to call everybody we know and tell them to come to Montgomery to look inside that empty building and see what the future of America looks like.”
Alabama is not the only state to have a controversy of the posting of the Ten Commandments. Nearly every state in the union has had to deal with this issue. The Federal Government, like it or not, has declared that the public posting of the Ten Commandments is acceptable if they are posted as part of a historic display along with other historic icons. But, in cases like the one in Alabama, it is in violation of the Separation of Church and State to solely display the Ten Commandments on government property. Now, I don’t want to focus today on whether we should or should not agree with this ruling on the First Amendment!
What I DO want us to spend some time thinking about is why is the posting of the Ten Commandments so near and dear to so many Christians! In doing research for this message this morning, I found very few references to Jews who were outraged at the removal of these plaques and monuments. But there are a LOT of Christians – probably some of us right here in this sanctuary – who are bothered by these separation of Church and State decisions and feel that the government is trying to take away our rights to faith and religion – in the name of not offending others!
But why? Why does it bother us so much? Is not the Third Commandment – You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…? I think for some of the protesters on their knees outside the state capitol the Ten Commandment monument had become an idol. We see it as representing our faith and as a reminder of God’s will for our lives. But do we need a 5200 pound granite structure to remind us of God’s Law?
The Ten Commandments were given to Moses to be shared with the Hebrew people to help them fulfill the covenant God made with humanity after the great flood. They were to be laws not worshipped, but followed. After sharing of the Commandments, the tablets were put into the Ark of the Covenant which was housed in the Temple. They were not put on display as a sign of the Hebrews’ faith! God expected that these Commandments would be embodied by His people. And yet, we are reminded in today’s scripture from Jeremiah that the people sinned and broke the covenant with God.