Mother Camellia Sermon 12 February 2023
230212 Epiphany 6A Deuteronomy 10:12-22 Psalm 119:1-8 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 Matthew 5:21-37
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We may ask “What does God expect of me?” In the reading from Deuteronomy, Moses gives a summary that is simple in form and easy to remember. Here are the essentials: Fear God, (in other words have a reverence for God) Walk in all God’s ways, Love God, Serve God with all your heart and soul. Observe God’s commands.
How often do we complicate God’s law with extra rules, regulations, and requirements. Are any of you frustrated and burned out from tying hard to please God? It is better to concentrate on God’s real requirements and find peace. Respect, follow, love, serve and obey God.
The tablets of law that God gave to Moses on the mountain for the second time because the first lot were broken 1445 years before the birth of Jesus, were still in the ark of the covenant about 500 years later when Solomon put the ark in the newly built temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 8:9). The ark last appears in the Israelite’s history during the reign of Josiah, about 300 years after Solomon (2 Chronicles 36:3)
One of the old laws of circumcision was presented again in Deuteronomy as a symbolic understanding of having a single-minded heart. With a circumcised heart a person could begin to imitate God’s love and justice in relationships with others. If our hearts are right with God, then our relationships with other people can be made right too. When we are reconciled with God, we begin to see a difference in the way we treat others.
Can we remember that we are always in danger of worshiping more than God? Things that are important to us. Our home, our garden, our possessions, clothes, entertainment, can all be things that may interfere with the time we devote to God and may interfere with our good stewardship of the life we have. If we are controlled by our desires, quarrels and divisions may distract us and prevent our growth as mature believers.
In saying that the Lord is God of gods and Lord of lords Moses was distinguishing the true God from all the other gods worshiped. Then Moses went a step further in describing God as mighty and awesome. God has such awesome power and justice that people cannot stand in integrity without the mercy of God. Fortunately, God’s mercy toward his people is unlimited. When we begin to grasp the extent of God’s mercy toward us, we see what true love is and how deeply God loves us. Although our sins deserve severe judgement, God has chosen to show love and mercy to all who seek him. So, we are told to Fear God, to reverence God. This kind of fear is very different from the natural fear of disasters, or the fear of other people’s responses to us which can cripple us. The fear of God is life-giving, and creative, drawing us deeper and deeper into the path of wisdom and awareness, freedom, and life as we further discover the mystery and love that is God.
As we learn to walk in God’s ways, we find many helps in the word of God. Psalm 119 is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It may have been written by Ezra after the temple was rebuilt about 516 BC (Ezra 6:14) as a repetitive meditation on the beauty of God’s word and how it helps us stay pure and to grow in faith. Psalm 119 has 22 carefully constructed sections, each corresponding to a different letter in the Hebrew alphabet and if read in Hebrew, with each verse beginning with the letter of its section. Almost every verse mentions God’s Word. Repetition like this was common in the Hebrew culture. People did not have personal copies of the Scriptures to read as we do, so God’s people memorised his Word and passed it along to others and next generations orally. The structure of this psalm allowed for easy memorization and the bible was recognised as the only sure guide for living God’s way.
God expects us to love him. To love someone, is to know that person, so we need to know God. If we are angry, we violate God’s command to love. We miss the intent of God’s Law when we read the rules for living without trying to understand why they were made. Can we live our lives in a way that keep’s our Spirit in a frame of intent that loves and pleases God, and loves our fellow creatures? Our attitude to other people reflects our relationship with God, and we will be held accountable not only for actions, but also for attitudes.
God expects all of us to Serve with all our heart and soul. Our commitment to God and others should not be casual and irresponsible. We need to practice what we preach and keep the promises we make, and we need to be seen to be doing this in every aspect of our relationships. The telling of truth is as important as the good deeds we do, and the gifts and tithes we honour.
We are expected to Observe God’s commands. In Matthew’s writing concerning the Law of Moses in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus becomes the definitive interpreter of the Law, which he lives out in authenticity of life, in both word and deed. In many instances the compassion of Jesus is the interpreter of the Law.
He is in one sense a new Moses, giving the Law, but in another and deeper sense he transcends Moses, because of his unique identity as the Son of God.
So, when we ask what does God expect of me? Two weeks ago we heard the prophet Mica say “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mica 6:8)
Last week we heard Jesus say “Is not this the fast that I choose,’ ‘to loose the bonds of injustice, and to let the oppressed go free?’ (Isaiah 58:6) This week we hear “blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” (Psalm 119:1)
In essence a recipe for life, is to have a reverence for God, walk in God’s ways, love God, serve God and Observe God’s commands. Put simply. Know God, show God and share God with all your heart and soul.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF Hon. Canon Pastor Grafton Cathedral.