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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

 

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The Things We Do for Love

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

October 7, 2018

Exodus 19:3-7; 20:1-17 & Matthew 5:17-30

 

What changes have you made in your life out of love for someone else? When people get married they make lots of changes to foster a good relationship with one another.  They may change their religious affiliation to be able to worship together at the same church. Several of you have changed your religious affiliation so that you and your spouse could attend Immanuel together. People may move from the city to the country to be with one another – like in that old TV series Green Acres. What a change that is! People, especially women, may change their name. You want to show your connectedness by sharing the same last name, but that new identity takes some getting used to.

 

Just after I was married when I returned to work after our honeymoon, I couldn’t find my mailbox. Our mailboxes were arranged alphabetically. I went looking for my mailbox in its usual spot in the S’s since my last name was Schmitt. It wasn’t there. A colleague had to tell me to look the A’s. I was an Amborn now!

 

I imagine many of you have made changes like these for the sake of the person you love. There’s an old song “The Things We Do for Love.” It talks about the lengths you’re willing to go to, for the person you love. ? “The things we do for love…Like walking in the rain and the snow when there’s no place to go…” We’re willing to do many things for the sake of having a good relationship with the person we love. 

 

The 10 Commandments tell us what we need to do to have good relationship with God. God went first. He created us and all that we need to live. As we heard in our scripture for today, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

 

Last week, as we focused on the parting of the Red Sea, Jeske led a children’s sermon that vividly illustrated that escape from Egypt. She had all of us stand in the aisle blocking the way like the waters of the Red Sea, and then go back into the pews so the kids could walk through. God went to great lengths to save his people from slavery in Egypt. God went to even greater lengths sacrificing his Son, Jesus, to save you and me from slavery to sin. Out of love, God made the first moves. In the 10 Commandments, God tells us what he wants us to do in response. God tells the things to do for love, so that we might have a loving relationship with him and with one another.

 

The first commandment tells us that we need to have an exclusive relationship with God, to be faithful to only him. “I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods.” In other words, God says: “We’ve got an exclusive commitment you and me. If you’re going to be in relationship with me, don’t be flirting with other gods. Don’t put anything else first in your life – not other people, not money, not your own will. I’m your one and only. Trust me!

 

I think we can understand that. When you love somebody, you need trust that they will be faithful to you and only you. That’s what God’s saying in the first commandment.

 

The second commandment is about respect. There is nothing more personal than someone’s name. The second commandment tells us to use that name of God in respectful ways. “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.” God is telling us that how we speak of him and how we speak to him matters. We need to use God’s name in loving ways. We do that when we call on him in prayer, when we sing his praises, when we thank him for all that he does for us. We’re not to use it thoughtlessly. We are not to use it to curse or to swear.

 

As we think about our relationships with loved ones, this is easy to understand. We don’t speak ill of them. We don’t use their name in mean or nasty ways. We don’t use their name to curse or swear or lie. We use it in loving ways. So, too, with God.

 

The third commandment is about setting aside time to be with God and respecting human limits. “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” It is about making time with God a priority in your life. Relationships require time together. When you spend time with family and friends, relationships grow stronger. When you’re apart for long periods of time, relationships drift apart. The Sabbath is about putting priority on your relationship with God so that you set aside time each week to be with God and to worship God. It is about taking time off from the demands of life and trusting that as you spend time with God, God will provide for your needs.

 

At the time God gave this commandment it was radical indeed. People were living hand-to-mouth. People hunted and gathered every day to put food on the table. The notion of arranging your life to take one day off from work each week was unheard of. Having weekly sabbath really set the Israelites apart from their neighbors. No one else did this. Everyone else worked every day. To take a day off meant organizing your life so that you could do the necessary tasks in six days so that on the seventh day you could worship and rest.

 

Setting up your life to follow this command took forethought and commitment for the people of Israel, and it does for us as well. In our 24/7 culture, the notion of Sabbath                                              is just as radical today as it was 3,500 years ago. It still requires prioritizing God first and intentionally organizing your life so that you take time to worship God each week. 

 

God made us in his image. God knows what is good for us. God knows what we need. In commanding us to honor the Sabbath God explains that he is asking us to follow the model that he lives by. When God created the heavens and the earth, he took that 7th day off to rest. He didn’t just keep on creating non-stop. What makes us think that we can go non-stop when even God took time to rest? When we take time to rest and rejuvenate each week, we live healthy, balanced lives. When we don’t, we get sick.

 

We are not made to work nonstop. We are made to be productive for a while, and then to take time to rest. Keeping the 3rd Commandment gives a healthy rhythm to our lives. It reminds us that we are not machines. We are human beings with human limits. We need to honor those limits. We need to live within the limits that God set for us.

 

The first 3 commandments focus on our relationship with God. As we live our lives in harmony with them, our relationship with God is strong. The remaining seven commandments focus on our relationships with other people.

 

God has certain standards for how he wants his people to live in relationship with one another. In the verses leading up to the Commandments God says “Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession                                               out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” We, who are God’s people, are special to God. We are treasured by God, out of all people. As we keep God’s commandments we live with God and with one another in ways that are pleasing to God.

 

As members of that priestly kingdom and holy nation, there are certain values that God wants us to live by. We are to honor the generation that came before us. We are to respect one another’s property and respect and protect human life. We are to be faithful in our marriages and respect the marriages of others. We are to have integrity in our relationships so we don’t speak falsely of one another or smear the reputations of others. We are not to sit around envying what others have, wishing it were ours, plotting and scheming how we might get it. We are to be content with what we have and not covet everyone else’s stuff.

 

It is good news that God gives us family and all that we need to live. As God gives those gifts, God also protects those gifts by putting up a fence around them in the form of Commandments 4 - 10. These commandments protect parts of our lives that are important to living in a free and just society. We can’t be free if we are worried about people stealing our stuff or stealing our spouse. We can’t be free if we are always having to defend our reputation against attack. As God brings us out of slavery into freedom he establishes rules to live with one another to make that new life together truly free. Abiding by his commandments gives us lives that are free for us and just in our treatment of others.

 

Some people think about the 10 Commandments as a lot of rules that takes the fun out of life. If you really think about it, it is when we don’t obey these commandments               that we run into trouble, individually and as a society. When people steal our property or our spouse, or ruin our reputation, that’s no fun. When we sit around wishing we had someone else’s stuff, we become miserable. That’s no fun. When we live by these commandments all is well with us. When we violate them life gets messy.

 

Some people think that because Jesus paid the price for our sin, we can do whatever we want. Why bother to keep the 10 Commandments when we are forgiven anyway? In our gospel for today Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.” Then Jesus takes the Commandments a step farther. He says: “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not murder.’ But I say to you ‘If you are angry with a brother or sister, you are liable for judgment.’” He continues “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

 

Wow! Jesus takes these commandments seriously. So should we.

 

So, as we think about the 10 Commandments, let’s think of them not as a rigid set of rules that take the fun out of life but rather as a love letter from God the Creator to his beloved creatures, his people. Following the 10 Commandments is one of the things we do for love – for the love of God and for the love of one another.

 

Amen!