thoughts on Martin Luther King Day

When I was a little girl, I learned about racism and prejudice. I heard about slavery and Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, and I was deeply reassured to know that those awful times were in our nation’s past. I had this idea that because we had made better laws, because schools were integrated, because we knew not to use certain hateful words, that we had fixed racism.

This idea was perpetuated by my schools and community. We celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. and his triumph over segregation and those awful racists. America was a great “melting pot” where all people were welcome as part of the community. And, as I sang in Sunday School, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black, and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

It never once occurred to me as a child that racism could still exist in America in the 1990s.

It was fairly easy for me, with my white skin, to ignore racism, because it wasn’t happening to me. It was there, of course. I just didn’t see it.

When I was a little girl, I also learned about sexism. I learned that women weren’t always allowed to vote, that colleges had prohibited female students, and that people used to think women weren’t as smart or capable as men. Naturally, these things had also been solved: by the passage of the 19th Amendment and Title IX, for instance. We read about Marie Curie and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Earhart. I was sure that men and women were equals now, that sexism was over and done with.

I quickly learned that this was not the case. In 9th Grade Honors English, I heard the other girls talking about how “boys don’t want to date smart girls, so you have to play dumb.” When I was a teenager walking down the street, I would hear catcalls directed at me. I noticed that loud, assertive boys were “leaders,” but loud, assertive girls were “bossy.”

It was not easy for me, as a girl and then a woman, to ignore sexism, because it was happening to me. I saw it all around me.

When modern-day racism was first pointed out to me, I balked. There could not be racism anymore because I did not see it. But, as more and more people of color told their stories, I began to realize that there must be something I wasn’t seeing. So I started to look, to find out if I could see what they saw.

What I saw was deeply troubling.

A few years ago, I was out shopping. I made my purchases and headed to the exit, where an employee was checking receipts against the items in bags. Ahead of me, a Latina woman was stopped and her receipt was examined as the employee peered into the loaded cart. Next, a black man paused as the employee scrutinized his shopping. I walked forward, and the employee said, “Oh, I don’t need to see your receipt.” That was racism, though I didn’t realize it in the moment. The way that employee behaved said that the people of color were potential shoplifters, but the white woman was a paying customer.

Racism is not just about anecdotes and individuals, though. It’s about all the ways in which people of color are treated worse than whites for no reason but their skin tone. For a thorough discussion of systemic racism, I highly recommend Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. I began to see that even if I wasn’t doing or saying racist things, I am complicit in racism whenever I let a racist joke or comment go by without a word. I am complicit when in my home state, Iowa, black men are incarcerated at 13 times the rate of white men, but somehow that doesn’t lead to statewide protest or reform.

The trouble with prejudice and privilege is that it is much easier to see what affects us negatively than to see what affects us positively. I can rattle off the advantages of being a man in this country in a way that I am only beginning to see the advantages of being white. My eyes are not accustomed to seeing my own privileges.

The first step to any change is to see why change is needed. I am often embarrassed or uncomfortable when I am faced with the realities of racism in America, but I will not let that stop me from seeing. I am learning to see with new eyes, and what I see is sobering. White Americans cannot continue congratulating ourselves for ending segregation and confuse that with ending racism any more than men can congratulate themselves for extending women the right to vote and confuse that with ending sexism. As Dr. King put it, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Right now, I am learning to see racism. It is a small step, and an important step. Will you take it with me? It is not the only step on the journey, but it is the step I’m on right now. Will you share the journey with me? Together, we can learn to see with new eyes and walk together into that Promised Land where “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

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thoughts on Stewardship and Privilege

Stewardship.  It’s a word that I have only ever heard used in churches– but it’s an important word, and a good one, so I’m sticking with it. I have a pretty good handle on what stewardship means– that the resources (church speak: “time, talents, and treasure”) I have are not my own, but rather that I must see them as God’s resources to be used not just for my benefit, but for the sake of the Gospel and the whole kingdom of God.

Churches have stewardship drives, where they talk about all the different ways good work is done in the congregation, community, and world because of the gifts of (you guessed it) “time, talents, and treasure” members share with the congregation.  At their worst, these efforts are thinly-veiled pleas to help make up the budget, to pay the bills, to keep the lights on. At their best, these efforts make the connection between money and ministry, between tithing and transformation. Stewardship is not about how much we have, but about how we use what we do have. We can be faithful or foolish with much or little. (See Mt. 25:14-30)

I know how to talk about time and talents and treasures in regard to stewardship, and so do many other leaders. That connection has been made.

I would like to suggest another connection: that privilege and power are related to stewardship, as well. There has been a lot of talk about privilege in American culture lately. There is white privilege, male privilege, educational privilege, able-bodied privilege– the list goes on. Most basically, we receive or are denied privilege based on whether or not the way we look and act fits in with the preferred majority ideal. This gets complicated, as, for instance, I experience privileges associated with being white and well-educated, but I am also denied privileges because I am female and have one arm.

People get touchy when we talk about privilege, in part because it can feel like an attack. It’s not my fault that I am white or female, so how can I be held accountable for the privilege that does or doesn’t come with those attributes?

What if, instead of judging ourselves based on whether or not we have a certain kind privilege or measuring how much we have, we looked at how we use whatever privilege and power we do have?

After all, someone could have one million dollars and use it more responsibly than someone with one hundred dollars. Or, perhaps the person with one hundred dollars might do more good than a dozen millionaires. It seems clear to me that privilege works in a similar way.

Rozella White, Program Director for Young Adult Ministries for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, today at #seiaftc defined power as “organized resources and organized people” to accomplish a desired goal. What else is that but stewardship? If I use my money well but waste my privilege on meaningless efforts, I have misused my own power.

Jesus said, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.” Being in a position of privilege is ultimately a position of responsibility, to use that privilege so that the kingdom of God might indeed draw near.

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thoughts on Shark Attacks

Yesterday morning, I was chatting with a colleague.  After a few minutes of small talk, she inquired, “May I ask about your arm?”

I was born with one arm, I explained, so I have lived my whole life as an amputee. It has posed some challenges, but I have adapted and found ways to accomplish whatever I need to do. I closed by joking, “It makes a great ice-breaker with six-year-olds, though!”

Yesterday afternoon, I was out walking with my husband and infant son when we passed a house with four children playing in the front yard.  They ran down to the street to greet us, and the first words out of one girl’s mouth were, “How did you break your arm?”

Me: “I was just born with one arm.  I didn’t break it.”

Child 1: “Oh.”

Child 2: “We thought maybe you had been attacked by a shark, like in that movie!”

Me: “No shark attack, though that would be an exciting story. I was born with one arm.”

Child 3: “Yeah, somebody said it got bitten off by a shark!”

By this time, another half dozen children had arrived from the backyard to participate in the discussion.

Child 4: “Was your hand bit off by a shark?”

Child 1: “It wasn’t a shark attack, she was just born with one arm.”

Child 5: “I TOLD them you were born with one arm, but they didn’t BELIEVE me.”

Child 6: “Will it ever grow back?”

Child 7: “Does it hurt?”

Me: “No, it doesn’t hurt, and it won’t grow back. This is just how I am.”

Child 6: “Okay.”

And, with a few adoring pats of my son’s head, they all went back to playing.

Children have a wonderful propensity for combining their observations of the world with curiosity and bluntness. They haven’t yet absorbed what adults call “tact,” or, in other words, “the effort to avoid asking personal questions at all costs for fear of giving offense or pointing out potentially uncomfortable differences between people.”

This is a gift. It allows us to talk about our differences and understand each other. Those children were not malicious or rude; they were curious. They saw something they didn’t understand and wanted to know more.

One of my convictions as a Lutheran is that all people are, in one way or another, broken. Some of this brokenness is our doing: through greed or impatience or pride. Often, we are broken through no fault of our own: through disease, through the words or actions of others, through accidents of our birth.

What if we learned to talk about those many ways of brokenness the same way children talk about limb difference? When I walk down the street, everyone can see that I have one arm. They are curious, and they want to understand. Those children were concerned for me, wanting to know if my arm would grow back, or if it hurt to have one arm.

Could we learn from those children how to talk about disease, divorce, or drug addiction? Could we, with curiosity and compassion, ask if it hurt? Could we be prepared to admit that we are broken together, and that only when we are broken in community can we really be whole together? We may not be able to see others’ brokenness just by looking at them, but maybe that’s what makes it all the more important to have people like me around as a reminder that not one of us is perfect.

Shark attacks are exciting. They get adrenaline pumping and evoke a strong emotional response.

Being born with one arm, well, it’s kind of dull in comparison. But it’s who I am. It’s how God made me. And for me, it’s even more exciting to be treated with curiosity and compassion by neighborhood kids than to have a news-worthy story. It helps me remember that we are, all of us, made in the image of God. It reminds me that all of us, whether we look “broken” or not, have a story to tell and questions to ask.

So ask. Ask with curiosity and compassion, knowing that you are asking someone to share their brokenness with you.

And tell. Tell with hope and boldness, trusting that your story of brokenness may make someone else’s whole.

That sounds exciting to me.

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thoughts on Tables

This sermon was preached 7-19-2015 at Trinity Lutheran in Tipton, IA. It is based on Psalm 23.

 

The 23rd Psalm is familiar to most of us, I imagine.  You’ve heard it in hospital rooms, Sunday School classes, and funeral services.  Perhaps you even memorized it, though you may have used an older translation: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters; he restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” We know these words well, probably better than we know most other parts of Scripture.

It’s tempting to think that because we’ve already heard a text several times that we no longer need to pay much attention to it. We go on autopilot instead of engaging with what we read or hear. So what if we stop, turn around, and spend some time digging deeper into the text?

For example, let’s think about that table.  What do you imagine when you think of a table prepared for a feast?  (Yes, I do want you to use your imagination here.)

First, where is the table? Are you in a restaurant, at home, or visiting someone else? What does the table look like?  Is it round or square or rectangular? Is it made of a particular kind of wood? Does it have a tablecloth or placemats? What are the chairs like? Did you have to borrow some folding chairs from church so that all the guests would fit? What sort of plates are on the table? Are they your grandmother’s best china, your everyday dishes, or disposable paper plates? Did you get out the cloth napkins or are you using paper?

And, now that the table is set, someone will need to bring in the food. Who is carrying everything? Is it a waiter or a family member? What is the main dish?  Roast Beef? Turkey? Ham? Enchiladas? Burgers? Lasagna? How about sides? Mashed potatoes, green beans, garlic bread, fried rice, stuffing, fruit salad? Are you drinking water, lemonade, wine, or milk?

Finally, who is there with you at the table? Are there many or few? Is it your whole family, gathered together like you do at holidays, or is it just your immediate family, or maybe a group of friends? Is there space for someone else to join you?

 

I don’t think the psalmist chose this table image as a mistake.  As you could easily testify, we all know about tables. When I asked you about your feast table, I suspect most of you had a particular table in mind. I imagine the spread my grandma put out every year at Christmas when I was a kid, with festive tablecloths and the holiday dishes, and all the cousins scrambling to get another serving of mashed potatoes and gravy before the bowl was scraped clean.

Tables are places of feeding, of gathering, of community. When I was growing up, my parents insisted that my whole family join together for dinner every evening, and that we share together about our days. Many families have such a habit of sharing a family dinner every day, or maybe once a week if their schedules are busy. They do it because when we eat together, we become closer.

Sharing a meal is more than just meeting our nutritional needs together, though. We share food, but we also share our successes and failures, our joys and our pains.  Eating together is part of being a community—just ask the people who stay after worship every week for coffee and treats if they experience community around the tables in the fellowship hall. We become a community by acting like one—by the simple act of eating together.

 

But the psalm doesn’t just say that God is preparing a table for us.  It says that God is preparing a table in the presence of enemies.

Who are your enemies? Or, maybe a better way to put it: who is the last person you’d ever want to invite over for dinner? Who would you avoid at all costs if you saw them in the grocery store? Who do you dismiss offhand as someone you could never, ever, in a million years, become friends with?

God is preparing your table right in front of those people. The table is set, the dishes are prepared, and the meal is ready. You have a seat and begin to eat—and so do they!

It’s tempting to imagine that God would prepare a fabulous feast for the chosen people and then leave everyone else to watch and drool. And it’s pretty satisfying to think that we could have our very own table prepared to enjoy right in front of our worst enemies.

The fact is that God’s table doesn’t work that way.  God prepares a table for us in front of our enemies—the very same table God is preparing for our enemies in front of us!

God brings each one of us together at one table.

And when we come together at that table, that’s when we start to become a community instead of enemies.  We share food, but we also share our successes and failures, our joys and our pains.  Eating together is part of being a community. We become a community by acting like one—by the simple act of eating together.

What table does God prepare? I’m not talking about potlucks or coffee hour, though community is surely formed there.

I’m talking about this table, prepared with bread and wine.

This is God’s table. At this table, enemies are transformed into beloved community.  After all, when Jesus first instituted this meal, it was the night of his betrayal.  Within hours of the Last Supper, Judas would turn Jesus over to the Jewish leaders and Peter would deny that he ever knew Jesus. Despite the ways that the disciples betrayed Jesus by their actions and words—despite the ways that we betray Jesus by our words and actions—Jesus still invites them to “take and eat.”

God prepares a table.

This is God’s table. God prepares it in the midst of God’s enemies—us. When we take advantage of someone else, when we refuse to forgive, when we gossip, when we accept stereotypes instead of people—in short, whenever we fail to live up to God’s expectations—we make ourselves enemies of God.

Still, somehow, God prepares a table for us.

This is God’s table. At this table, sinners come together, divided by hate and fear and misunderstanding, and they become saints, joined to Jesus Christ and joined to one another. That’s why we welcome everyone who believes in Jesus as their savior to this table, young or old, rich or poor.

God prepares this table for you.

You may come to the table as enemies of God or even of one another, but here God makes community.  No longer do you live as God’s enemies, but instead you live as God’s beloved children.

God prepares a table. You have a place at this table, at God’s table, now and forever.  Amen.

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thoughts on pedicures and Mother Emanuel

A few weeks ago, I got a pedicure. Hardly an event that I expected would impact my world. A few days ago, nine people were murdered when a man opened fire at their church. An event that, God willing, cannot help but impact my world.

 

What does a pedicure have to do with a massacre?

First, let me tell you about pedicures. If you’re not familiar with the process of pedicures, let me fill you in. When you arrive at a nail salon, you climb up into a huge comfy armchair that massages your back while you sit in it. Meanwhile, you soak your feet in a basin at the foot of your throne while someone seated on a stool at your feet provides you with a pedicure. It is quite luxurious.

Now, imagine a row of these pedicure thrones and an accompanying row of pedicurist stools. Imagine that you are seated in one of these thrones, and you look down the row from your seat at the end, and you realize that every single woman getting a pedicure is white. Then, you look at the row of women scrubbing and massaging feet, and you realize that every single woman giving a pedicure is Asian.

This, I might be tempted to say, is a “coincidence.” I just happened to be there when several other white women went for pedicures. I just happened to pick a salon that just happened to employ only Asian women. After all, I don’t get pedicures often, so my sample size isn’t very big. I am tempted to say that there is nothing racist going on here, of course not, and it isn’t like I look down on women who give pedicures or anything like that.

While I attempted to rationalize my experience in a way that excuses me of any prejudice, I remembered a story from the Bible. It’s a passage that, in my Lutheran tradition, is read during Holy Week every year. After the Last Supper, before his crucifixion, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. This makes them uncomfortable, as they believe that only a lowly person would wash another person’s feet.

Jesus, however, says, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12-15)

I was, quite literally, doing the opposite of what Jesus commanded. I paid money to set myself up above another child of God, in an industry that has been demonstrated to exploit its workers. I did not “wash one another’s feet.”

 

And then, not so long after my pedicure realization, nine people were murdered in an inexcusable act of hatred for the simple fact of being black women and men gathered together. A white man with ties to hate groups joined a worship service at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and, after sitting for about an hour, opened fire, killing nine people.

In the hours and days that followed, some of my white friends reacted with outrage, with pain, with compassion for the victims of this terrible act. Most did not. Most of us white people said nothing about this murder, about the legacy of racism in our country, about the ease with which we distance ourselves from the lives of our black sisters and brothers. Some of us even tried to suggest that this wasn’t racism, no, this was an attack on the church, that these people were the martyrs of an attack on Christians everywhere.

I was reminded of another Bible story, a passage that also comes from the narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion: when Jesus Christ is brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, Pilate is uneasy about fulfilling the Jewish leaders’ demand for crucifixion. When the Jews insist, Pilate has water brought out so that he can ceremoniously wash his hands before the people, declaring, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matthew 27:24) Then, to meet the crowd’s demand for death, Pilate hands Jesus over to his own soldiers, who take Jesus to be crucified.

When I think of the murders at Emanuel Church, I cannot help but think of the murder of the one Christians call Emmanuel, Jesus Christ. The excuses that I have made, not to take a stand against racism, not to even say to friends or family that the prejudiced comment they made was inappropriate, are simply iterations of my own efforts to wash the blood from my hand.

 

Brothers and sisters, we are guilty. Instead of washing others’ feet in service, we have washed our own hands in self-righteousness. This must stop. We must become people who see the face of Jesus Christ in every person, black and white and every shade in between. We must not excuse ourselves because others are more racist. When we pray, “Christ have mercy,” we must see that we are praying for mercy on our own sin, too.

 

And God, who is rich in mercy, will forgive all our sins and make our wounds whole, not at the price we demand of human lives, but through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Come soon, Lord Jesus.

 

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thoughts on Raising a Son

My son is six months old.  He is, in my completely unbiased opinion, a perfect little baby.  He smiles and coos and rolls over and puts anything he can reach into his mouth.  Delightful.

All of my son’s playmates are girls, because all of my friends who live near us have daughters.  They are older, and possess such skills as walking, climbing, using words, and eating real food.  My son watches them in awe.

For now, those little girls have the advantage. 

They are bigger and more coordinated and can ask for food and know how to call out for Mommy and Daddy.  They can move from one side of the room to the other.  Some of them are even starting to potty train (oh, what a lofty achievement!).  They laugh and play together.  Sometimes they cry or hit or take things from one another; no toddler is an angel.  On the whole, they are happy, healthy, bright, kind little girls, whom I pray would be blessed to grow into women who continue to be happy, healthy, bright, kind adults.

I am saddened, however, when I consider that this brief window of advantage for those girls will be over before they even realize it existed.  By the time they start elementary school, four or five years from now, they will have entered a world that favors my son for no reason but that he is a son and not a daughter.  The girls will be expected to sit still and quietly learn, but if my son is rude or rowdy, well, “boys will be boys,” and that’s that .

Of course, I want my son to succeed, to be well-taught, and to have every opportunity to grow into a man for whom the world is full of possibility.

But I can’t quite be satisfied knowing that he will have those possibilities offered to him as a matter of fact, while those little girls will have to fight for their voices to be heard and their thoughts to be valued.

So, what’s a mother to do?

Aside from praying for my son to know a world characterized by equality and contemplating how to bring it about in my own life, that is?

I will encourage him to honor and respect all people, however different they may be from him.

I will teach him to listen when women speak, and to value their contributions as dearly as his own.

I will surround him with girls and women like the ones I spoke of before, who are kind and bright and loving and determined—in short, what I hope my son will be.

I will remind him that many things will be easier for him, and that Jesus Christ commanded us to have compassion on the “least of these” among us.

I will love him.

And, whatever else I do, I will be me, a woman who believes that her voice matters, who believes that God will not be satisfied until each person’s dignity is valued as deeply as if it were a truly precious treasure.

I do not know if that will be enough.  I pray that it is.  Until then, I will rest confident in knowing that to God, “…there is no male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

Meanwhile, thanks be to God for those little girls.

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thoughts on the Law

This sermon was originally preached on 3/8/2015, based on Exodus 20:1-17 and Psalm 19.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.

Have you ever described someone as having a “sweet tooth”?  If so, you were probably saying that they like to eat candy or love cookies or would never turn down an ice cream sundae.  Perhaps you’ve said of yourself, “I have a real sweet tooth right now,” meaning that you were just craving a sugary treat.

We all know what it means to have a “sweet tooth.”  But I can’t say that I’ve ever considered God’s law as something to have a “sweet tooth” for.

As a good, lifelong Lutheran, I have learned that the Word of God can be divided into Law and Gospel, and I learned that the Law, those rules and regulations and restrictions, are there to show me what a sinner I am.  We know the laws: our first reading even lists them out and reminds us of them.

At first glance, it is tempting to say that we do a pretty good job keeping these commandments.  We could treat them like a checklist: no killing, no stealing, come to worship every week, dot your I’s and cross your T’s, and, voila! Law-abiding Christians one and all.

Remember the Sabbath: not just that you come to church, but that you gladly hear and learn God’s word.

You shall have no other gods: not your money or your career or your politics or your family or anything else.

You shall not kill: not just that you avoid hurting others, but that you, through your lifestyle and decision-making, help and support others in all of life’s needs.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor: do not lie about your neighbor, but even more: defend your neighbor when someone speaks poorly of her, and interpret her words and actions as generously as possible.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house or his shiny new car or his hair that never seems to get thin or gray or anything else that is his.

Perhaps you, like me, are beginning to shift uncomfortably in your seat.  As I read through this list, I realize that perhaps I am not so good at following all these rules as I would like to be.

Maybe I have not killed, but I have neglected to consider how my overuse of natural resources depletes the earth for future generations and even now pushes the global climate into a precarious imbalance.  How often have you thrown away a plastic tub because it was easier than rinsing it out and recycling it?

Perhaps I don’t tell lies about other people, but it is easier to assume the worst about them than believe the best, especially when we disagree.  How often have you insisted that if the other person just “looked at the facts” they would come to agree with your political perspective?

Maybe as much as we would like to think we keep the commandments, our pride at being better people is simply blinding us to all the ways we fall short of the Law.  It sounds like Martin Luther had it right when he said that the law is always accusing and judging us.

But wait!  The author of the psalm says that God’s law revives our very soul.  How can something accuse and give life?

Perhaps the psalmist means something different by “law.”  Perhaps it isn’t just rules and regulations, but something else entirely.

If seminary has taught me anything, it is that when a passage seems puzzling, a little curiosity will take me far.  So, what exactly is that “law” we see in Psalm 19:7?  Our bulletin printed it as “the teaching of the Lord is perfect.”  The Bible says, “the law of the Lord…”  But, with a few Hebrew classes under my belt, I thought I’d go ahead and look that word up.  The Hebrew word is “Torah.”

Now, to be fair to the translators of our Bible, who admittedly know more than I do about Hebrew, Torah can mean Law.  But, if we just translate “Torah” as “law,” then we miss out on the full meaning.

See, Torah is the word that means the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Now, there are plenty of commandments in those books, but at their most basic, they are the story of God forming a covenant relationship with the people of Israel.  Last week, the Old Testament reading was about Abram being called by God, the beginning of God’s relationship with the people who would become the chosen people.  Torah, in other words, could be translated as something like, “the faithfulness of God to the people” or “God’s covenant promises with Israel.”

Now, that sounds kind of different from “law.”  What if we read that verse something like, “The LORD’s promises and faithfulness revive the soul”?  It sounds a little bit different when we read it that way.

Our souls long for God to be faithful, for God to keep the promises spoken to us.  Indeed, even when we see the many ways we break the commandments, God keeps the promise that begins the list: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Or, to you and me: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of your slavery to sin and death, so that you might live in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

And, interestingly enough, God gives the commandments after reminding the people that they are no longer slaves, that they are instead God’s people.

The Law, perhaps, sounds different when you hear it as God’s child.  Because you are God’s child, the commands of the LORD are given to you as a gift, to guide you in your life in God’s community.  In the old Lutheran Book of Worship, part of the prayer at confession was to God: help us to “delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy name.”  God’s Torah is given to delight God’s people, to teach us to live together in community.  After all, stealing is forbidden not for out sake, but for the sake of those from whom we would steal.

And, even if we fail to live in community according to the commandments of God, (and we will fail), God is still faithful.  The promises of God are true, reviving the soul.

What promises are those?  They were made in Baptism, claiming you as God’s child.  They are made whenever you receive the Lord’s Supper, hearing that this is Christ’s body and blood, given for you.  They will be made in a few minutes when we confess our sins and hear God’s forgiveness.

Now, those promises really do sound sweet.  And, of course, God’s promises ARE true. God has promised to bring you to life out of death, and that is exactly what God is doing.

God’s Torah is perfect, reviving the soul.

Amen.

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