Sunday Sermon 7th March Lent 3 The Ten Commandments
The chosen hymns for this week, A New Commandment and Come and fill our hearts with your peace can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Lent 3 The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20: 1-17
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 7th March.
This is the third week of Lent and our third week of looking at covenant.
We have seen some themes. Often covenant comes at a time of crisis. We have just survived something daunting and maybe we are unsure what we should do next, and God offers us a new path, promises that he will be with us and his strength can help us.
We saw it with Noah just out the ark, with all the fear that what happened in the past will happen again, so what’s the point of trying. And God through the sign of the rainbow shows him that things can be different.
We saw it with Abraham last week who travelled to a new land...but what if the new land is just like the old one? And through the sign of a new birth God gives him hope that things can be different.
Today we have the covenant of the people of Israel, having escaped slavery in Egypt the question then becomes ‘What now?’
And the temptation is to live as they have lived, to make Moses a new Pharaoh and they are all under his power. But here again, God offers something different; a moral framework to work off.
But what does that mean to us?
We will reflect on that after Amanda leads us in the reading and prayer.
Exodus 20: 1-17.
There is a phrase that my wife has that I hate.
She uses it a lot and it has no meaning.
She will have done something, something that I have done that she has condemned me for. Then she has one the same thing. And when I have pulled her up for it she says, ‘Oh but that’s different.’
I will be thinking of buying graphic novels, and Roseanna finds out and complains that maybe we should be saving up for a holiday. We don’t need graphic novels, but we will need a holiday after everything that we have been through.
And I say, ‘But last week you bought face cream just because it was on sale and we have plenty of the stuff already upstairs.’ And she will say, ‘But that’s different.’
I will tell one of my children off for not replying to any of my texts for over a week.
My wife will get a text off that child complaining that I am nagging her and Roseanna will tick me off for it.
I will say, ’But you complained to one of the other children last week because they forgot your birthday and how could they do that to you.’
And she will say, ‘But that’s different.’
And I am more than happy to believe that if it is explained to me.
But when I say, ‘How is it different?’
Roseanna will say, ‘It just is.’
I would suggest that God has a problem.
This is God’s problem.
He wants to help us all.
He wants us all to have that sense of covenant, that promise that things can be done differently, if we trust in his strength and love and power.
And we saw how it worked with Noah.
Noah is terrified of the future, that the future will be just like the past. That another flood will come and everything will be decimated. And God gives Noah the promise that he will be with him, that things can be better if he follows the path God has set for him.
And I say, ‘That can be you, that can be us.’
And you say, ‘No it’s different for us. It won’t work for us. It was fantastic for Noah, but Noah had the faith to build an ark. I am not like that. God won’t be with me.’
We saw how it worked for Abraham.
Abraham is ready to give up. He has travelled hundreds of miles to go to a new place hoping for a new beginning and he arrives and it is full for problems and it looks like it was all a waste of time, that the new place is just like the old place. And God gives Abraham the promise of new life, that things will be different if he follows the path God has set for him.
And I say, ‘That can be you, that can be us.’
And you say, ‘No it’s different for us. We wouldn’t have the courage to move to a new place and hope for something better.’
So then comes God again with a new covenant, a new promise to be with his people. But this time it isn’t given to a person, it is given to a nation.
And there are similarities and there are differences.
The similarities are that the people are like Noah and Abraham.
They are facing an unknown future, a new normal.
They are unsure what to do.
They have faced something bleak and terrible.
And now they are at a place where they can continue to live in fear, or can start to trust in a different way, God’s way.
These people they had spent all their lives as slaves. They had no power, no responsibility.
Others told them what to do.
Others owned them as if they were no more than living tools. In fact a tool might have more worth because a tool is broken might be really inconvenient to the owner, so they might look after a tool, especially one that was really useful. A slave, a slave would just be replaced.
Others had the power of life and death over them.
But they have escaped from that.
And now they have the chance to make their own decisions. But that seems a terrible responsibility; that seems a terrible burden.
And God gives them these guidelines for life, this promise that he will be with them, and just as Noah had the sign of the rainbow, Abraham had the sign of a son, these people are given the sign of the commandments, the guidelines.
And this was a wonderful sign.
For what they feared was themselves, they were unsure what to do.
And what they feared was others, they were vulnerable and what if others took advantage of them.
And these guidelines were like a hope that if they were willing to trust in God, trust in his guidance, follow his path, then the society that they created would be a society of trust.
A place where others didn’t lie to you.
A place where others didn’t try to rob or cheat you.
A place where people respected others, especially the old who felt even more vulnerable.
They didn’t try to steal your flocks or corrupt your family.
A place where people could live in hope.
But here’s where it was different.
In those other covenants, those covenants were given to individuals.
Now the truth is that if God can give a covenant to one person then he can give a covenant to any person.
But they didn’t take it like that, they thought that if God had given these individuals a covenant then that meant that those individuals were better so they deserved the covenant.
Now that’s a complete fallacy if you read the Bible and read what these people were like.
But they still believed the lie that people like Noah and Abraham were different, better, deserving of the covenant.
And believing they were different meant they didn’t trust God when he promised to be with them, so they lived life believing they faced it alone.
And if we believe people like Noah and Abraham are different from us, better than us, more deserving of the covenant than us then we will not trust God when he promises to be with us and we will believe we face life alone.
That’s why it is importnat that this covenant was to a nation.
A nation with all kinds of folk.
A nation of slaves that had nothing, were nothing.
A nation of nobodies.
No matter how low we think we are, we are not lower than they were.
No matter how little we think we have, we have more than they had.
No matter how much of a failure we think we are, we are more successful than they were.
And God promised to be with them, God promises to be with us.
No matter how hard we try, we can’t look in the mirror and say, ‘But it’s different for us.’
Because it isn’t.
God said to them, ‘Things can be different. This new normal you are going to live in. You can choose to live a new normal where you become the type of person others can trust, others can rely on, others can hope with.’
And God says to us, Things can be different. This new normal you are going to live in. You can choose to live a new normal where you become the type of person others can trust, others can rely on, others can hope with.’
So this week try it out.
See if there is someone you can honour and be thankful for.
See if you can be the type of person that others could respect.
Treat others in a way that they can trust you.
Find a way in which you can rest and recharge your batteries.
Believe that in all of these things that God is promising to be with you and help you be the person that you could be.
And when you fail, trust in God’s forgiveness to help you start again.
Let us pray
Awaken us today with the whisper that this day is the start of many days of hope.
May the Spirit revive and renew in us to believe that things can be different.
We can treat others with respect and dignity. We can believe that most folks are trustworthy, that they mean us no harm, in fact in emergencies they would go the extra mile to help us.
May we see the signs of new beginnings in the life around us.
And a world where we are protected from the cold of winter.
In the care we receive from the institutions of society, health and education and due government.
And may other people see, in the life we live, signs that we are there for them.
May we accept the invitations to step into the unknown of all that lies ahead.
If the words of others wound, be the balm that salves the pain.
Help us to respond only with respect and dignity seeking to break the cycle of retaliation and create the community that would honour you in both deed and action. Where all are loved, all are cared for, all are at peace.
This we ask in Jesus name.
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May we trust in the future the Father is creating for us.
May we accept the forgiveness the Son has won for us.
May we live in the power of the Spirit to create, in us, a new beginning. Amen