Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

The Law and Grace of God

Exodus 20

This morning I am going to do something that I have never done before. I am going to preach someone else's sermon. My thanks this morning goes to The Rev. Richard J. Fairchild… a reformed pastor in Golden, British Columbia… whose sermons appear weekly on the internet.

Generally after a very busy week I pull out one of my own old sermons… a practice which I consider to be OK once in awhile. But preaching another person's sermon goes against all the rules I have set for myself in my ministry. Well… sometimes those kinds of rules… you know… the ones we impose on ourselves… ought to be broken. As some of you know… they can be overly restrictive… but that's a different sermon!

Our topic this morning is the 10 Commandments given to the Israelites in the desert at Mt. Sinai. Now I have never preached on the 10 Commandments before… nor have I thought much about them… and there wasn't much time for reflection this past week.

No doubt in Christian churches around the world today there are hundreds… perhaps thousands of preachers who are misusing the law of God… preachers who are using the 10 Commandments to beat up on their congregations. There are likely many thousands of people this morning who are feeling uncomfortable… because they are painfully aware that they have broken one or more of God's laws. On such a morning… we… along with many others may be wondering just how God's law… and God's grace… demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ… can be reconciled.

What do you think of the law of God? Do you think that God's law… and God's grace… are two different things? Or… at the very least… that God's love for us in Christ supersedes the law of Moses? That the law of Moses is restrictive and out of date?

John Killinger wrote a book on the Ten Comandments a few years ago. It is called To My People with Love. Probably if I had read it, I wouldn't have to preach someone else's sermon this morning!

In it he tells the story of a man who came home from work one day to find his daughter sitting on the porch. He could tell that something was wrong, and he said to his wife, "What's wrong with Sarah?"

She replied, "Oh, she just found out there's a law of gravity, and she's mad about it."

Well, the laws of nature are restrictive aren't they… and some people regard the law of God as restrictive and out of date… they see it as binding… hemming them in at every side. For them… the freedom Christ gives us in our new life has no meaning.

This kind of thinking is very sad… it is sad because the law of God was and is an expression of love… it is the answer to the old question… "What do I do after I say 'I love you?'"

The Jewish people call the law "Torah"… and Torah literally means "guidance" or "help." That is what the law is meant to be for us… it is meant to be a guide or a help to us as we seek to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

What is the loving thing to do?… When a close friend asks you to protect him or her by lying?… When someone you care about asks you to go along with them in a scheme to cheat or steal from the government… or engage in some other scam that appears to hurt no-one?… When your husband or wife asks you to join them in a judgement they are making about a neighbor whom they do not like?… Or when your child asks you to buy them something because "everyone else has one"… and you simply cannot afford it? What is the loving thing to do?

The answers are not easy… are they? Even when we know what the law of God says about bearing false witness… about stealing… about judging others… about not coveting our neighbors possessions.

The answers are not easy… but at least… with the law… we have some guidelines to go by… we have some principles by which to determine what is right and what is wrong… by which to determine what is the loving thing… the God-like thing… to do. You see… God's law is there to help us love one another… to help us to love ourselves… and to help us love God.

Today… as we celebrate the Lord's Supper along with Christians around the world… as we remember God's love and grace toward us… it is entirely appropriate for us to consider God's law… and to remember that Jesus… when he died for us… died entirely blameless under the law of God.

Jesus was not blameless under God's law because he rigidly adhered to its every letter. No… he was blameless because he adhered to the spirit of the law… to the spirit of love.

As we hold the bread and the cup this morning… with our brothers and sisters around the world… let us remember that we are set free by Christ from the law of sin and death… that in his love we are forgiven completely for all that we have done wrong. And most especially let us remember that Jesus calls us to live by the law of the spirit of love… a law which… when expressed only on tablets of stone leads us nowhere… but when written on our hearts makes all of human life a joy and a blessing. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on October 3, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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