In a Heartbeat

Passage: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Rom. 2:13-16; Phil. 3:4-14
Date: October 05, 2008
Preacher: Rev David Hutchinson
Guest Preacher:

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Sermon

There is a connection - - between our rules and our relationships.
Maybe you could describe it as a connection between our laws and our lives.
Or maybe it could be described as a connection between what we say, and what we do.
A connection between head and heart.
Connection - is about what the one - - has to do with the other.
Rules...relationships...laws...lives...what we say...and what we do...head and heart...
In our scripture readings for today, these things come together. Exodus chapter 20 contains the 10 commandments, the basic expression of Old Testament law. And both Romans and Philippians are a reflection on how that law functions. Romans describes Gentiles who don't have the words of the law, but have the law written on their hearts. And in Philippians Paul writes about "righteousness that is his own, based on the law" and righteousness "which is through faith in Christ". For Paul the goal is to become like Christ in his death, so that we may KNOW Christ in his resurrection. What Paul describes here is a relationship - between ourselves and the living Christ.

So listen now to these readings, and may we open ourselves to what they might say to us today. In Exodus we begin with the first of the commandments. And notice that the first ones are about a relationship between ourselves and God... [ read Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9 ] So then we move on from commandments about a relationship with God, to commandments about the relationship between ourselves and others....listen... [ read Exodus 20:12-20 ]
These commandments are the background for what we read in the letters to the Romans, and the Philippians.

As we consider the Old Testament reading and what it might mean for us, consider what Paul wrote in this NON-lectionary text that just jumped into my mind as I prepared for today. In Romans Paul is astonished by Gentiles who, in spite of the fact that they don't have the words of the law, they DO the law in their lives. Listen.... [ read Romans 2:13-16 ]

On this World Communion Sunday, what could it mean to consider people who are not from Jewish ethnicity, but who honor Jewish law? These Gentiles who so impressed Paul. They didn't know the letter of the law, but they were willing to live the law - in a heartbeat!

Finally, Philippians, the letter that both Jim on his last Sunday, and Aleida Jernigan on the 14th of September, preached from for us, but which is the lectionary text for TODAY...
[ Philippians 3:4-14 ]

As you walk down a city street - you can't always tell who is a Christian and who is not. Sometimes there might be indications. Maybe it's a chrome fish symbol on their car - or a zippered Bible in a case in their book bag. But really are these any proof of a REAL relationship with God - or a deep faith? Could they EVEN make us think of the recent movie that played in the Hollywood theater a few months ago, by Dan Merchant, "Lord Save us from Your Followers". The sub-title of the movie is a question, "why is the Gospel of love dividing America?"
So how can we tell if someone is Christian?
Or a follower of Jesus?
And what does that mean?
How does it effect our relationships?
Christians are different from each other. People are different from each other. We look different. We dress differently. We eat different foods. /
And then go global - - - and think about how different we all are.
So for those of us who claim that Christ is at the center of our identity, what do we do about that? What does it mean for that to be - at the center of our relationships?
This Jesus, who loved, and who ate at table with sinners, and who died, and who rose...
This Jesus and the healing that Jesus brings is at the center of who we are. /
But what is the connection between who we are, and what we do?
And what does any of the have to do with laws, and rules, and things written in the Bible?
What is the connection between our rules and our relationships?
What's the connection between what we say and what we do?

On the back of your order of worship is a url address.
[ www.ou.org/oupr/2006/katrinatorah66.htm ] If you type it into a web browser, it will take you to a site that describes the burial of a Torah Scroll. Two years ago, some scrolls, containing the words of the law, were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. In the Jewish tradition, damaged scrolls are buried. They are treated like a person. The Rabbi who spoke at the burial of these scrolls in New Orleans said this, "There are several times, burial being one of them, in which a Jew is compared to a Torah scroll, and a Torah scroll is compared to a Jew. As we bury these scrolls it is crucial that we do not bury the principles of Torah with them. It is important that the vibrancy of Torah and the New Orleans Jewish community remain strong. When we are burying the scroll, in no way does it mean that we should forget the contents. It would be tragic if, in fact, we forgot our Torah. But it is good that we are able to dispose properly and honorably of these receptacles of Torah. Unfortunately, Beth Israel has been destroyed. The Torah scrolls were ruined and must be buried. But by this action we have the opportunity to go on. We have the opportunity and the necessity to continue in the Torah lifestyle; to plant these physical seeds of Torah and to tend them..."

I was astounded by this image: burying a scroll! It reminded me of the "Word became Flesh", which is what we Christians say about Jesus. It made me think about the Torah as something - with a heartbeat. It makes me think of our Adult Bible study class called, "Toothmarks on the Lectionary". /
What would it mean - for us to connect word and flesh?
What does it mean that - in essence - OUR Word - - IS flesh?
Flesh is about being in a body. Being human. Living.
Our word is alive. It's found in relationship with other living beings.
I would even say - that our Word IS those relationships with others.
I would go so far - as to suggest that TRUTH - is our relationships.
But what does THAT mean?

For us truth - is found on a person: Jesus. Jesus being God's attempt to be in relationship with us... And then to point us to right relationship with others... Similarly the Prophet's words are ALL about pointing us to "right relationship".

But when Biblical prophecy is used to condemn other people - before we ever meet them, can that really be - the way God intended the words of prophecy to be used? I personally don't think so. But it seems like some people are so ready to condemn others in a heartbeat. And reconciliation seems so difficult to come by.

I think we have to start using our memories more.
Amnesia about who God is - can be dangerous!

Amnesia can lead to all sorts of abuse - in the name of God. Abuse all around the world, which is why this is important on World Communion Sunday.

To return a minute to the Old Testament text for today, we find a case of amnesia among the Israelites. They have been freed from slavery, but then they are anxious in the wilderness. They are anxious about not having food, and then God provides manna. Then they are anxious about not having water, and God provides water from a rock. Later after the delivery of the 10 commandments they make a Golden Calf. It seems that they - like we are - let's face it - people with a short attention span. We forget how God is - and we get anxious - and we grumble.
Moses job - was to keep reminding them - who God was.
Remember the Red Sea. Remember the quail, and the manna, and the water...
Remember.
Because when we remember, we can live in hope.
In Philippians, Paul says,
"forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead".
Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me".
When we gather around this Communion Table, we respond to those words.
What I often do - is remember. I remember the words about the night Jesus ate the Passover for the last time before his death. I think about the cross. I think about the sin of the world. I think about my own sin.
Maybe I think about the resurrection.
The life, that comes, after the death...

Right now, all around the world, there are people in churches, gathered at tables, remembering Jesus. And thinking about us. There are people in - Malawi, and Cuba, and China, and Korea, and Iran, and Iraq, and Europe, and Columbia, and Palestine, and they are gathered around communion tables. Remembering Jesus. And thinking about us.

And on this day of remembering, we hear words from Paul about forgetting.

As we gather here today, what do we leave behind, and what do we strive for? What do we forget? And what can we NOT forget? What do we need to remember?

Jubilee is about forgetting or forgiving global debt. In that process, what needs to be remembered? What must we strive for? What must we leave behind?

As I think about the Global economic crisis and the bailout package I wonder: what reassurance can we find? What have we forgotten as a people in this country? And how can we cling to those Old Testament stories of providence? Manna, and quail, and water from a rock. God providing in the wilderness. / Remember...
If we can shake off our amnesia, and remember who God is...
If we can forget the old grudges that divide us from one another...
...can we - connect our relationships and our rules?
That's my hope.

As we enter into a stewardship campaign, and a capital campaign, we have to start doing this work of remembering. Remembering who we are. Remembering who Westminster is. And remembering who God is.
God is one who wants to be in relationship with creation - in Jesus.
And in Jesus, we find healing, and hope.
Hope for all of creation.
God's desire for blessing and right relationship can lead us.
It is - at the heart and core of why I am thankful.
Where do you find God's truth written?
Consider your heart.
Your heartbeat is what keeps you alive.
Are we ready to live fully?
Are we ready to let our hearts be truth?
Where in our lives - are we ready in a heartbeat?

Answering that question, that's my goal. Being ready, that's my goal. Following God in a heartbeat. Serving others in a heartbeat. Giving thanks in a heartbeat. And finding in my own heartbeat, the beating heart - of a living God.
Amen.