Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37
While serving a congregation on the east coast some years ago, I was astonished one morning when a parishioner told me that I was one of the few priests serving that parish that ever used the word God in preaching. Maybe that is part of what’s wrong with the east coast. It might even be connected to why we came to Muskogee. In any event, we need to talk about God and the law in some very plain terms today.
First let’s consider the “law.” In this case it is the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. It was The Bible during Jesus’ time. The 613 commandments in that text contain both civil and religious statutes. There was no concept of separation of church and state in those days. But we have a common misconception about the purpose of the law or Torah in Jesus’ time.
Often we think that the law is all about our obedience and faithfulness to God. It is a litmus test of our faith. After all the first of the ten commandment is “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods but me.” That one sounds a lot like obedience.
We need to wonder about the purpose of the law itself. Was the law written in order to determine who is faithful to God and who is not? Or was it written because God cares about our relationships with each other and the law gives us a baseline minimum for our relationships?
The God that we pray to is the God of both the Old and New Testaments. This is a God who cares deeply about how we get along. If you contrast this God against other gods, this concern for people becomes clear. For example the Greek philosophers posited a God who was the prime mover and spark that set the universe in motion. Greek mythology portrays the gods as capricious using human lives for entertainment. Eastern religions view god as a means to spiritual enlightenment. And of course the gods of indigenous peoples around the world ...
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