..to fulfill the law…

The Law – the way of God for the good of humanity – can be a fearful thing:

On that we can agree – or at least agree that the biblical record offers a fearful reaction to the law      when the people first encounter God’s “rules for life” in the wilderness.
Fire and smoke – thunder and lightning –
“…please Moses, step into the breach for us and tell us what God wants of us…”
– and so Moses and the law are forever linked,
and law and fear are forever linked, for the Law comes from the righteousness of God,
and exposes the sinfulness of humankind, and that is a fearful relationship, isn’t it?

 

For as long as God’s people have tried to find a faithful way to live,
the commandments given to Moses have been our guide.
We have turned them into rules, and made much of the cost of breaking them.
The Jewish scholars built a religious system

on the principles expressed in what we call Ten Commandments,

and they became hundreds of commandments for every imaginable situation.

 

And while these laws defined a people and helped found a dynasty,

they really didn’t bring God closer –

Too often, our obsession with them (as rules) seems to drive God away.

But these rules – this law – were meant to help us see the world as God intended.
These commandments – principles of Godly living –

are supposed to make things clearer;

helping us, as we stumble through life,

not to make more of ourselves than we ought,

and to make more of our relationships (with God and with one another)

than we might if left to our own devices.

 

We are supposed to teach them to our children – to bind them to our foreheads –

and write them on the doorposts of our homes, and places of business, and houses of worship.
That doesn’t always happen, but that was the plan –

so that God’s rules of life might become second nature to us.
The law was supposed to be simple,

but we broke the first one when we decided

that we knew better than God how these rules should be interpreted and applied;

we made it complicated.

 

So God offered us Jesus – who comes to “fulfill the law” according to Matthew’s gospel –
and Jesus does what he can to make it simple again…

 

“What of the law?” some ask him “How do you read it – what’s the key?”
and Jesus answer is simple. Love God. love neighbour. No muss, no fuss.

The whole law, he says is summed up in these two phrases;

an easy teaching tool, one that should help us

as we attempt to raise up our children in the way they should go –

one that should help us extract ourselves from the terrible mess we make of our pursuit of righteousness –

but we still don’t get it.

 

I was asked the other day why God doesn’t send signs to help people believe.

We were talking about faith and those who seem to have no faith,

and the question was a good one,but as we talked about the answer,

it occurred to me that we already have all the information that we need.

While the work of Jesus was spectacular and made quite an impact on human history,

he wasn’t exactly breaking new ground…
The Law hasn’t changed, says Jesus – God has not changed,

but this summary statement that Jesus offers

helps us start fresh where our relationship with God is concerned.
Simply stated, the law draws our attention to priorities –

the Law (and Jesus)  strive to put devotion to God at the centre of our thinking.

 

Of course, life is never as simple as we’d like it to be,

but simple is a good place to start;

so our Sunday Schools sing catchy memorable songs,

and we try to teach very complex concepts with illustrations and crafts;

we try to model Godly behaviour with games and in worship,

so that when our young people strike out on their own,

we pray that we have made an impact, and somehow helped to shape their thinking…

 

Today as our programs come to an end, and our graduates consider their next steps

we would do well to consider that our collective efforts in teaching the faith

and nurturing disciples of Jesus

have no clear beginning, and no discernible end.

Programs come and go – leadership changes –

there are rough patches and fruitful times –

yet this simplest of explanations must stand at the core of all we do:

 

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,

and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’

 

Jesus consolidation – Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and the prophets –

will always give us a way to start;

a path to follow – no matter how complicated, or frustrating our lives may become.

So to our young people, I say “well done.”

to our teachers and helpers, a hearty thank you.

And to all of us, learners and teachers and leaders and followers –

I can add nothing to what Jesus said:

In all you strive to do, Love God and love your neighbour –

for there are no greater commandments than these.  Amen.

 

 

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