Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Law and (Priestly) Order

Law & (Priestly) Order
Exodus 20:1-21, Matthew 24:36-43, Romans 13:8-14

In the Exodus story, we have the joy of salvation from slavery, the provision by God as the Israelites get on their feet, and, in today’s reading the ordering of society by God.

What is the Law?
The Law as 10 commandments
The law as 613 laws for a society

Who Kept Order?
Israel was, in its earliest wishes from God, to not have a king. God would be the King.
--the laws would be interpreted by judges
--the priests would provide order and meaning by way of ritual, sacrifice and religious observances.

Law would define and priests would provide order.

Today’s Story Brings Us Back to the Beginning of Genesis. The Garden story is so perfectly defined by Walter Brueggeman as one of
Promise, permission, prohibition

Promise: Matthew
· The Son of Man will come again to restore order and rule in a fallen world.
· That is what Advent really is all about: the anticipation of Christ’s coming
· The promise is to be remembered by followers (even when the ‘data’ doesn’t suggest an
imminent return).
· Negative illustration: if a house owner would know when a robber was to come, they would
be prepared. How much more if we know a king of Glory is to come?

God’s promises are not often expected by people of faith, but it doesn’t take away from their reality.

Permission: Romans
There are commandments, (many of which are in negative form), that are summarized by a very freeing and positive commandment: love your neighbor as yourself.

Love doesn’t harm.

Love is the fulfillment of the law.

That is a liberating permission given by God. Love your neighbor.
Wake up from your spiritual slumber.

Clothing yourself with Christ (clothing in the garden was shame-based). Here is the image of Christ being our identity, esteem, clothing ourselves in the beauty and image of the Lord.

Prohibition: Exodus
Have you ever heard the saying that ‘Religion is a bunch of thou shall not’s.’.

When I was younger, I used to defend against this. But in a sense, it is true.

But, there are prohibitions. In the garden: thou shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
We did, and now we know evil, as well as good.

So “No’s” help us not know evil.
As an American, many have become foundational in our legal system.
As a Christian, they are acts that displease God, so we shouldn’t seek them.

No other gods. No idols or images for God. No taking God’s name in vain. No murder. No adultery. No stealing. No false witness. No coveting.

The thing is, to the extent that you follow these commandments, your life is probably better. So ‘yes’, the bunch of thou shall not’s are part of the story. Sorry. But when we follow Christ, we say yes to God’s promises, and our faith becomes more than just the prohibitions.

I think following Christ is more about Yes than No.
As surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not ‘yes’ and ‘no’. For the Son of God Jesus Christ was not ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but in him it has always been ‘yes’. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ in Christ.
--II Corinthians 1:18-19

Prohibitions shape our permission. And our permission is built on the promise of God.

The Fear of God
God’s voice thundered the day the 10 commandments were spoken. The people, when they encountered God, had fear. They pleaded with Moses, don’t have God speak, or we will die.

Christians have seen the sacrifice of Jesus be the act that makes us able to be in God’s presence. The holiness of God is satisfied when we clothe ourselves with Christ. God looks at us through the lens of his son, and sees beauty. We can love God.

But let us be aware of losing fear. “the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning”.

After Moses teaches the people, he goes back to be with God…
“he approached the thick darkness where God was”.

That too is part of the story. Faith sometimes seems clouded, it seems confusing. It seems that God is elsewhere. That God is not approachable.

We are called to have eyes of faith. Faith honors the prohibitions. Faith captures the permission. Faith holds onto the promise.

Clothe yourself with Christ. He is our law. He is our order.

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