Commandments Are Not Burdensome
Tony E Dillon Hansen
Sermon based upon 1 John 5:1-6, Psalm 98, and John 15: 9-17
Last week, we talked a little bit about the choices we have in our lives and today’s texts emphasize this. Not just that we have a choice, but rather a command to love one another from Jesus. This is a command many faith traditions share. It is so prominent because it is a universal truth that love is powerful, and our faith helps us to live out that love – not just on Sundays like a good pair of shoes we take for a walk and then neatly pack away for the rest of the week.
Jesus commands to love everyday of our lives. Love God and Love your neighbor!
That is not too difficult – even fits on a bumper sticker. Yet, it is more than just token words, it is how we live that, how we get there.
Leadership seminars will often speak about the essential truth that it is not about the destination but the journey. Again that is why we sing a song, meditate or pray. Not to get to the end, but to discover along the way little bits. Every time we read the scripture, it will speak to you differently depending upon the day and what is happening all around you. That is why we say God is still speaking and that the Bible is a living document rather than old, stale collection of stories.
Even when we get lost, we have a path to restore ourselves with God and with all creation. It is these commandments and our faith in them that gets us there. That is God’s promise.
Let’s look at these a moment from Deuteronomy 5.
God is our God for which we have grace, life and all creation. We are given gifts so that we share those gifts with others. There is no higher power. When we lose sight or turn away, we lose sight of true grace, true possibility. If we place other things as higher importance, materials, money, or for some, they place themselves. When you place yourself more important than others, we become self-centered and divisions arise. What pillar do we need to come down from to help us experience God where God is?
Don’t have idols. God does not need images. God has the face of you and me. Your experience of God may be similar to mine and may not be, but don’t confuse your experience, your feelings, or your expectations to be the only way that God reveals to us. That is to idolize your expectations of God rather than to let God reveal.
Do not just pray to God when you get that touchdown or the win, but also when you lose. Do not invoke God’s name for things that God never claimed. If people want to be mean to someone, that is on them, not God. It is up to us to call them out for injustice. If you do blame God for something, think about it a moment. God is big enough to take it and is listening. Maybe you and God need to have a conversation anyway.
Keep the Sabbath – and remember that others ought to be able to keep the Sabbath too – we are fortunate to be able to take a day off now and then. Think of the single parent who has to work two jobs to keep family with a roof over their heads and food on the table. Think of how many are living paycheck to paycheck, and then the boss, says we got to close.
Honor your heritage, your parents – they are doing the best they can and so should we. Allow others to honor their heritage whether esteemed or as broken as we are. We have all grown up with challenges in our unique ways, we have made it this far. Bless those who came before us, that made tough decisions. For decisions that need to be right, honor them by correcting the wrong.
Don’t kill – how many wars would be avoided if we followed this one, but letting people live even when they irritate you or upset you is allowing God space between you to learn. Remember what I said last time about the Will Rodgers lesson. If you find something good about someone first, you may not have to worry about getting upset because you find it harder to judge them.
Don’t commit adultery – This is perhaps another too often ignored, but how many relationships have ended because fidelity was lost. Before you consider go down that path, consider maybe talking it out. Because once, you go down that path, forever will it dominate your destiny and your relationship.
If you are in a toxic or abusive relationship that feels like a trap, there are resources around to help. You are not alone and you are not trapped.
Don’t steal – simple but how often do we say its ok to make it harder for others to have what we have? This begs the questions: Why cant we all have the same rights, same justice, same chance to succeed as any other? What do we hoard in our lives that is so exclusive that God wasn’t a part and that God does not command for us to share?
Don’t lie! Fiction can be fun and comedic but that is not what we say here. Be reliable in true word and works. When you say love, express your love through your actions. When your mouth bears no truth, people don’t trust you – and when you don’t have trust, you don’t communicate – things breakdown.
Don’t covet property or people otherwise you lean into dangers of greed, mischief and the manipulation of people and the other commandments. When we covet, we find desire for things and ways to get them in whatever ways we desire. That isn’t to say you cannot complement someone for success or being able to get something or maybe use that as example of how I might improve to get things I want, but do it in ways that express love, grace and forgiveness rather than mischief or greed.
Yes, we celebrate the greatest commandment given to us that Jesus reminds us is loving God and loving each other precisely because God so loves us. The epistle reminds us to have faith in that love, have faith in the path given to us through these commandments because that is how faith conquers all.
In each of these commandments, including the greatest of these, is a choice for us to walk a good path toward wholesomeness and life. It is a path to enlightenment. Or, we choose a path that leads to trouble and hurt and pain. Then we perpetuate that trouble in cycles. When we start down the ugly path, even when we feel lost, we don’t need to stay there. We only need step into the good path and God is waiting there.
Walking along the good path requires our faith and our diligence to make sure we do all that we can in our power to express this faith and love as real to us - liberating us from the worldly negatives. When people see that in you, they will want it for themselves too.
Our faith in God, our love for each other is faith in these commandments and through our faith we commit to each other - to lift each other and to support each other as a family, as a Church and as a community.
Thus, I say to you, God’s “commandments are not burdensome.” They are invitations to a path to freedom.
Thanks Be to God