Exodus 20:1-21, Philippians 3:4(b)-14, Matthew 21:33-46
October 5, 2014
“Commanded To Love”

We’ve splashed our rules all over the sanctuary walls.
So many rules we don’t have time for dancing …
Our grafffiti defiling the house of God.
God’s graffiti is different: God writes: Love upon our hearts.
Some night, let’s sneak into the sanctuary and paint over the rules
and write God’s graffiti all over the walls … Love Love Love Love.

So writes the Presbyterian minister and author<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Reaching-Rainbows-Resources-Creative-Worship/dp/066424355X/ref=la_B001ITXFNQ_1_5?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1412694725&amp;sr=1-5″> Ann Weem</a>s.
A few moments ago we listened once again to one of the most important passages in the Bible, a passage that serves as one of the cornerstones for two of the great religions of mankind – the Jewish and the Christian faiths, the 10 Commandments. These commandments have also been used by some of the greatest societies of all time as a pattern for behavior.
But how should we view and consider the 10 Commandments? What are they?
Are they laws written in stone by God, who will strike us down if we attempt to break them?
Are they 10 laws meant to do away with any fun we might have, or think about having, and handed down to us by a God who is a killjoy and continually spouts forth a litany of “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots”?
Are they 10 laws that restrict what we do, and that are handed down to us by a God who is only interested in limiting our actions?
Or —
Are they 10 rules to closely follow and to keep track of our obedience to, and to take great pride in our ability to follow, while at the same time looking down on those we do not feel keep the Commandments as well as we think we do?
Both ways of interpreting the 10 Commandments are fairly prevalent. Some people see them as rules that restrict us while others see them as rules that cause us great pride when we feel we follow them better than others.
But are there other options for interpreting the 10 Commandments and other options for visualizing God?
Let’s take another look at God giving the 10 Commandments to the Israelites and see if we can come up with another way to interpret the 10 Commandments and another way to visualize God. God had just freed the people of Israel from slavery. Through Moses God had worked miracles and mighty deeds that made clear God’s will for freedom for God’s people. They had been freed by God, but maybe they felt — now what?
Should their freedom change how they live? Are they to live any differently because they have been freed from slavery by God?
The glorious fact that they had been freed from slavery by the power of God was to be the deciding factor in how they lived. They are to live differently from others because God had blessed them with their freedom.
But how were they to live differently? At Mt. Sinai they found out. In the fire and the smoke and the quaking of that holy mountain they found out how God wanted them to live. They had been freed from slavery by their freeing, life-giving God, and now they were to have undivided loyalty to God. They were to have a loyalty that would not allow them to try to manipulate God by carving idols or to take God’s Holy name lightly and that would require them to take a Sabbath day of rest out of every 7 days to remember and worship God. They were also to live in a special relationship with others, honoring their parents — refraining from murder, adultery, stealing, lying and coveting or doing anything else that might keep them from living in this special relationship with God and others.
The 10 Commandments were indeed commandments but they were not Commandments that restricted what the people could and could not do as much as they freed them to love God and to love others, to honor and respect and worship God and to treat others with love and honor and respect.
The 10 Commandments are commandments to love God and to love others. They are not commandments to restrict us or make us feel proud, instead they are commandments to us to love.
We are commanded to love
Jesus understood what the 10 Commandments were all about. When He confronted the Jewish leaders who for centuries had thought that they were better than all others and who used the Commandments as a measuring stick to see how much better they were than others, Jesus made it clear that just having the Commandments, just being in the vineyard, so to speak, is not enough for the Kingdom of God. Unless you let the Commandments lead you to be open to God, loving and respecting God and loving and respecting all people, you are not living in the ways God calls you to live, no matter how good a person you are. If you do not let God lead you to love for Him and others, you are not living in the ways of God.
The tenants in Jesus’ parable thought they had it made there in the vineyard. They thought they had it made and did not care about the landlord’s servants or his son. They didn’t let having the vineyard change them and their attitudes towards the landlord.
Having the love of God, having salvation, should change us and it should bring about a change in our attitudes. It should bring about a change in our devotion to God, and in the love we have and share with others.
That’s what the 10 Commandments are all about. Love. Love Love. Love.
We are commanded to love.
Paul finally understood this. He thought his life was perfect until he met Jesus and saw just how imperfect he was. Then he began striving to live in love. He began striving to live in love for God and love for others. He finally discovered that his life was not meant to be spent feeling superior to others, but loving others. Those 10 Commandments he had taken such great pride in were actually commandments to love God and to love others. He was commanded to love.
So am I. So are you.
We are all commanded to love. We are all commanded to love God and commanded to share the love God has given us with others. We are all commanded to love.
We can not let ourselves become so proud that we look down on others. We also can not let ourselves become so legalistic that we can not show love to others, no matter who they are. No, we must learn to live in love with God and with others.
This is not easy. Paul understood how difficult it was, and yet he let God strengthen him as he strove to fulfill this commandment to love. It is only as we let God do something that is indeed impossible through us that we can love others. It is only when we let God’s love take root in us that we can truly love others. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as yourself.
Today is worldwide Communion Sunday.
This is the day when Christians throughout the world come together around God’s table. Some who come we will find it easy to love, for we know them and can easily love them, or they are just like us and it will be easy for us to love them. Others may not be as easy to love. They may be from other lands other cultures. They may be completely different from us. But we are commanded to love.
How much do you love?
How much do you love God?
How much do you love others?
Do your actions show a love and commitment to God and others?
Does the way you spend your time show your love for and commitment to God and others?
As you partake of the Sacrament, learn once again what it means to love. Learn again what it means to be open to God in your life and to be open to others. Learn again what it means to be loved by a gracious God, who can lead us to love Him and the world.
Use this time in this place and around this table with these people to reflect on how well you do show a love for God and others in your life. Use this Sacrament to strengthen your love for God and for the world.
Who knows – – maybe we can even take Weems up on her dare:
Some night, let’s sneak into the sanctuary and paint over the rules
and write God’s graffiti all over the walls … Love Love Love Love.
We are indeed a people who are commanded to love. Amen.