Sunday, October 4, 2020 ~ World Communion Sunday – Pastor Teressa Sivers
Exodus 19:3-7, 20:1-17
I think it may have been the most politically contentious, and certainly the most world altering week of all time. It all began with a protest march and ended with a very public, state-sanctioned execution. You see, this hill-country popular figure had stirred up the common people. They were so stirred up that they turned out in force on the first day of that week to cheer this person on as they boldly entered the regional seat of governmental and religious power. The poor and the marginalized and the disenfranchised, the everyday folk, filled the roadways crying out for change, crying out for someone or something to save their lives. And this person, this solitary figure from poor upbringing, unsettled the political establishment, which was also the heart of the religious institution, so badly that the opposing parties, the divided leadership, joined forces to bring him down. So who is this person I am talking about? To what week am I referring? Yes, Jesus—Messiah, Christ, Son of God, Son of David, Son of Man. And yes, it is the holiest of weeks in the church calendar—Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday.
Jesus mounted a donkey on that first day of the week and road into the capital city of the people Israel, the seat of religious power, in the tradition of the kings. That same day he halted all Temple business—he shut it down—causing not only a ruckus, but a mess. Throughout the week he told politically barbed stories, mocking all political sides, painting the powerful leaders as misbehaving sons, wicked tenants in the vineyard, and bad wedding guests. In the halls of that sacred temple, Jesus went toe to toe with Pharisees and Saducees alike-opposing parties-and made them look like fools before the people. Jesus turned their arguments against them for the sake of those poor and marginalized and disenfranchised. Finally, in anger and fear, feeling their power and the status quo slipping through their fingers, the opposing parties put aside their political, ideological and theological differences in order to trip Jesus up, to trap him, and to make HIM appear as the fool before the people. “Oh Teacher…Rabbi…which commandment in the Law is the greatest?”
The Law…Torah…for us it is the first five books in our Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. For many people, the heart of the Law is found in our reading today, God’s top ten. But the true heart, the very purpose of the Law, is found not in Exodus 20, but is Exodus 19, the first portion of our reading today. Exodus 20 and all that follows fills in the details. Exodus 19 is the very definition itself. What is the purpose of the Law? It’s purpose is to call God’s people to be God’s treasure, to be a priestly kingdom, a holy nation, for all the earth. As God said to Abraham in our reading a few weeks ago, “…and all the earth will be blessed in and through you.”
Jesus’ answer to this sticky question asked by the leaders is actually one that all those leaders, from both sides, would find agreeable. It is a summation of the Law. To love the Lord your God with all that you are-heart, mind, body, and soul-and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. First, to love God by having no other God before our God, to refuse false idols and graven images, to never misuse God’s name, and to keep the Sabbath to honor God. Second, to love your neighbor by honoring the parent figures in your community, no killing, no unfaithfulness, no stealing, no lying and no coveting. It is a good summation. Maybe the angry leaders thought someone from backwards Galilee, the son of a day laborer, wouldn’t know such things. Maybe they called him teacher mockingly so that they could expose his ignorance and reveal that he was no teacher. Regardless of their intentions, Jesus’ answer points back not just to summarize that top ten, but to the very purpose of the Law itself—to be Love for the world, a holy nation, a priestly kingdom, a treasure that God shares with the world.
This is how we participate with God in finding ways forward in grace when it seems no way can be found. Love, not a sentiment or a feeling, something found in some romantic comedy, but an action, an action that transforms the world. Love is action. We hold nothing as more important than our God, not money or power or nationality or ethnicity, not political parties or religious affiliations…Nothing. We treasure the gift of God’s holy name and never invoke it for personal or communal gain. We protect the balance between work and rest, not only for ourselves, but for all people, and reserve that space for time in relationship with God. Love is action. We honor the elders in our midst, working for fullness of life, holding them in dignity and offering full respect. We work to end violence. We say NO to white supremacy in all we do. We stand up against the horrible prejudices and biases that demean and devalue all who are created in God’s holy image. We oppose forces that cause people of color to die at alarming rates. We hold up truth, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, and expose lies. We seek faithfulness in all relationships. We protect others, both person and property. We embrace the call to be a priestly people, a holy community, a treasure to the world…beloved.
Our world seems to be swirling in chaos. Our country, our nation, hurts. It seems as if we are surrounded by so much anger and division and fear and grief and loss and violence. But WE can be a way where there seems to be no way! We can BE God’s love in and for the world! We CAN! What better time than World Communion Sunday to recommit ourselves to this way of living!
Two thousand years ago, it was a politically contentious week in Jerusalem. By the end of that week, the religious and political leaders thought they had put and end to radical change, had preserved the status quo…had crucified any potential uprising. And then…on the first day of a new week…while it was still dark…the stone that seemed to block any way forward was rolled aside. Suddenly there was a way…and a truth…and a life. Love Wins! How can we keep from singing?! Let us sing together hymn #2172, “We Are Called.”
Come, live in the light
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord
We are called to be light for the kingdom
To live in the freedom of the city of God
We are called to act with justice
We are called to love tenderly
We are called to serve one another
To walk humbly with God
Come, open your heart
Show your mercy to all those in fear
We are called to be hope for the hopeless
So all hatred and blindness will be no more
Sing, sing a new song
Sing of that great day when all will be one
God will reign and we’ll walk with each other
As sisters and brothers united in love (united in love)