Living together - Reflections 8-29-18

Texts for Sunday September 2, 2018
15th Sunday after Pentecost


Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

I have felt glued to my desk chair and computer monitor this month.  August is when I prepare for all manner of fall programming at church to start up again. 

One major task is planning a year of confirmation classes. Though not a sacrament for Lutherans, confirmation classes have historically been a big deal. The fancy description in my brochure says that confirmation ministry is a comprehensive and intensive faith formation program for 7th and 8th graders which assists youth in developing a life of discipleship anchored in worship, service and study. Our textbooks are the Bible and Luther’s Small Catechism. 

This fall we will focus on the Ten Commandments and what Luther said about each one. I have been totally immersed in them for a couple of weeks. When I recently came up for air, I was surprised to see that the scriptures for this week talked about God giving us law and our response to that. The texts sort of have a disagreement/discussion between themselves about the implications of them in our lives.

Deuteronomy sees the law as a gift from God. The Israelite community is to remain faithful and obey the law, not changing it in any way. And they are to teach it to their children and their children’s children. 

I think at this point “the entire law” is understood to be more than 600 laws. One thing I learned when my nose was in Luther’s thoughts on the ten commandments, is that of the laws given on Sinai, Luther felt that only those that agreed with “natural law” – those things that are written on our hearts - are binding on Christians. All others were intended for the ancient Israelite  time and culture. 

The Psalm teaches us how to be good dwellers with God - as in how we would act if we moved in with God. If you think of the sum of the commandments as “Love God and love your neighbor”, the psalm is pretty close to that as the “how to”.

James wants us to stop thinking about good and do it. At one point he counsels “be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger”.  Words to live by in this day of internet bots and trolls who lure us into nasty and divisive responses.

Jesus expresses his frustration at how the religious leaders focus on outside actions of “doing good” without addressing the inside brokenness of the human heart. His list of evil intentions that live in the human heart is almost a summary of what the ten commandments tell us not to do. Perhaps a negative example of what Luther was talking about.

So, I leave these musings by taking from my lesson plans Luther’s 3 purposes of the law.  

First it is a gift to keep order in the world; to provide principles by which people can live together fairly and justly. 
Secondly, it acts as a mirror to show us where we go wrong and how very much we need Christ the Savior. 
Thirdly, it shows us God’s hope for how we can live together serving; it is a rule and guide in how to live as God intends us to live. An important note in that is that the power to live that way comes directly from God.

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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