September 7, 2008


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September 7, 2008
Exodus 12:1-14
12:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
12:2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.
12:3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household.
12:4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.
12:5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
12:6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight.
12:7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.
12:8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
12:9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs.
12:10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.
12:11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.
12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.
12:13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
12:14 This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Romans 13:8-14
13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
13:9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
13:11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;
13:12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;
13:13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.
13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

This is one of those Sundays when the lectionary seems to be honing in on a theme. Our scriptures today are talking about the Law.
The Old Testament reading is describing down to minute detail how to celebrate the Passover and the New Testament reading is sounding a little bit like the Beatles, “All you need is love, Love. Love is all you need.”
This is one of the reasons some folks think the New Testament teaches something entirely different than the Old Testament. You can pick and choose your readings in the Old and New Testaments and make a case for that, but the truth is, as hard as it may be to believe, the New Testament is in continuity with the Old Testament. This is just the fancy way of saying what happened in the New Testament grew out of the Old Testament.
So how do I explain the ton of rules in the Old Testament but the seeming lack of rules in the New?
Well, I think it’s because God reveals to us what we are ready for.
In the Garden of Eden, there was one rule: Don’t eat that from that one particular tree. When they were thrown out there, there wasn’t a rule against murder until well after Cain killed Abel. When you read the Old Testament, you will see God adding the rules as it becomes clear that we need them. The rules are created in reaction to Man’s sin as an aid to help him stop sinning.
In the New Testament, we’ve got the experience of the Old Testament. We’ve got all the stories of the Old Testament, but we’ve got a new lens to read them all through: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ offering himself as a gift of perfect love on the Cross is how we are to read the Old Testament. It is how all the law is to be interpreted.
Paul provides a good example of how to look at this. On one hand, he said, “All you need is love, Love. Love is all you need,” but on the other hand, when the folks in a particular church show that they just don’t get it, he can slap some rules down pretty quick.
Rules are an aid to achieve and end. Let me explain what I mean. I’ve gotten to the age where I can really appreciate a set of instruction. I was putting in a new flushing mechanism in a toilet a few years back. I was going along saying to myself, “You know I teach geometry and I can see three-dimensional images in my head. I don’t need no sticking directions because there is no reason you can put on part 26A before part 3, and it would be so much more convenient for me to put on part 26A now.”
Well, I did that, and when the time came around to put on part 17Z, I couldn’t do it because part 26A was in the way.
A good set of rules can be helpful, but there are folks who worship the rules. They are kind of like kids in this fashion.
To truly appreciate this, you have to realize that my brother Jerry worshipped our Grampa Sam. He and Sam were best buddies. When Sam wanted a glass of iced buttermilk, it was Jerry who got the honor of running into the house and getting it for him. They were inseparable.
There was one fishing trip we went on though when on the way down Grampa and Dad stopped at the liquor store and bought some beer. My Grandma Winters did not allow alcohol in her house. Not whisky, not wine, not beer. It just was not part of the equation. Everybody knew that. Jerry knew that.
Grampa’s buying that beer and, worse yet, drinking it was a definite infraction of that rule.
When we got home that evening, Jerry’s feet hadn’t hit the ground before he was headed telling Grandma about the beer.
The rule gave Jerry power—in his own mind—over Grampa.
God’s rules are not about power. They are about love.
There was a time in this country when we had something call Blue Laws. I’m going to boil it down a bit to keep it from being too complicated, but the Blue Laws kept you from doing business on Sunday.
That’s something that we find alien today. How dare someone have a law on the books to keep you from working on Sunday? You ought to have a choice about whether or not you work on Sunday. Some folks are just stronger and why should I keep them from working.
Besides, I like to take my family out to Wendy’s on Sunday. If they want to sell food and I want to buy it, then I think we should have a choice, don’t you?
Well the reality is, since people like me want to buy it, Wendy’s is going to sell it, and if you want to work at Wendy’s you are going to be in there on Sunday to work, like it or not. You’ve got a choice, all right, pay check or no pay check.
I’m not for the Blue Laws, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s not as simple as we would like to make it out to be.
In one of my other jobs, I spend a lot of time interpreting rules. One of the things that happens is that students transfer in from other schools and their catalog doesn’t match up with our catalog. The folks over at the Registrar’s office do a fine job getting things to match up, but there is only so much they can do. Sometimes something comes in that the rules don’t cover, and it’ll be bumped over to me, and I have to decide whether a course will count or not in a particular way.
When that happens, I’ve got some principles I go by. I want to help the student as much as I can, but I don’t want to give away the store, either. A college degree costs a lot of money, so it ought to mean something. So I make my decision using those principles which are sort of like a higher law.
Paul is saying that love is a higher law.
Okay, you say that sounds great, you say you got it, but there’s a problem. If I were to apply my “higher law” without knowing the rules that the folks in the Registrar’s office use, I would get into trouble quick. PSU would be a diploma mill, and no degree would be worth anything.
Paul says: The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
We get that. But if you leave off those commandments before saying “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” you might have some trouble. Somebody like Bill Clinton might not be able to draw a straight line from “love your neighbor as you love yourself” to “thou shalt not commit adultery.” They might say committing adultery is loving your neighbor. But there’s more involved, isn’t there. Adultery causes hurt it’s not love. The commandments illuminate that.
It’s not easy. I don’t think anyone said it would be. We could never make it on our own. But by God’s grace and through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ, we are given the gift of eternal life.
(Father, we thank you for the law, we thank you for the higher law of love, but we mostly thank you for the gift of your son Jesus Christ who showed us perfect love in his perfect sacrifice. We do this in his name. AMEN.)