Sunday at Scarboro – March 4, 2018

Worship Start Time:  10:30am
Preaching: Rev. Erin Klassen
Co-Presiding:
Rev. Lee Spice
Theme: Lent III - Pay Attention and Remember

The coffee is hot at 10:00am, come in and get comfortable. Service begins at 10:30 and is followed by coffee and conversation in the Memorial Hall.

Come and explore the season of Lent, our theme is "Promises, Promises" and you can experience your Lenten journey on a labyrinth in the Memorial Hall.

Co-op gift cards in denominations of $25, $50 and $100 are available after church until March 25, Palm Sunday.

Looking forward to Holy Week:

  • Palm/Passion Sunday will be an inter-generational service, with special guests, Arise Dance YYC.
  • We will have a Maundy Thursday service on March 29 at 7pm in the Chapel. This simple service commemorates Jesus' commandment for his disciples to love and serve one another.
  • We are hosting Central, Knox and Chinese United here at Scarboro for Good Friday at 10:30am on March 30 - Contact the office if you would like to volunteer to host this service.
  • Easter Sunday on April 1st will be a joyful service of music and celebration of Christ's resurrection.

Promises, Promises: Lent III – Pay Attention and Remember
March 4, 2018
Rev. Erin Klassen

Once again, I ask you to pray with me and for me. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

Those words come from Psalm 19, the same Psalm with which our our choir so graciously gifted us. That psalm also proclaims how perfect and renewing the laws of God are.

Your law, YHWH, is perfect;
it refreshes the soul.
Your rule is to be trusted;
it gives wisdom to the naive.
Your purposes, O God, are right;
they gladden the heart.
Your command is clear;
it gives light to the eyes.
Holding you in awe, YHWH, is purifying;
it endures.
Your decrees are steadfast,
and all of them just.
They are more precious than gold,
than the purest of gold,
and sweeter than honey,
than honey fresh from the comb.
In them your faithful people find instruction
there is great reward in keeping them.

(Psalm 19.7-11 from The Inclusive Bible)

Some of this we already know, that the law of God is clear and steadfast and just. But have we ever considered it to be precious, pure, or purifying?

Do the Ten Commandments make you glad?

Enlighten you?

Do they refresh your soul?

I have to be honest here, I don’t often consider the Ten Commandments in my daily living. At all. Perhaps once in awhile they might cross my mind, accompanied by a bit of guilt over the number of times I do make use of God’s name, or do really, really, really want what someone else has. I’m better at keeping some commandments than others. Especially the not murdering one, I’ve totally got that one nailed. I’m better at remembering some commandments better than others, and there’s only ten of them. I mean, I barely have them memorized, and that’s probably only because of Sunday School, not because they form the basis of my life. This week was a good exercise in refreshing my knowledge of the law.

For example, I don’t really recall this piece about God being jealous.

Do not make for yourselves any carved image or likeness of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth,  and do not bow down to them or serve them! For I, YHWH, am a jealous God, and for the parents’ fault I punish the children, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of those who turn from me;  but I show kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love me and heed my commandments.

(Exodus 20.4-6 from The Inclusive Bible)

Um, what now? God will punish the third and fourth generations for the mistakes of their parents and grandparents but will reward the thousandth generation? Well, which is it? And which generation are we? The third, fourth or thousandth? Wouldn’t we be both? Which means that instead of a strange combination of warning and loophole, this is an indication of the true nature of God - the generous love and grace of God that supersedes everything else.

We see this in the first lines of this passage. The introduction of the Ten Commandments begins with God speaking: I am God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

These laws are being given by a liberating God to a freed people. The people have been saved from slavery and are deep in the wilderness wandering. Knowing that it is harder to leave the old ways than the old land, God blesses the people with a new way of living, and a new way of being in a relationship.

The giving of the law is an establishing of a relationship, between God and ourselves. It can be referred to as ‘the ten precepts of living in community.’ The results of which will bring about transformation. In the short term, these commandments will help the people learn how to get along. In the long term, they will help us to be the people of God.

This is not just a list of rules, it is a covenant. A covenant that begins with God’s action. Freedom, redemption, salvation, whatever you want to call it, that comes first,  and not as a result of obedience to the law. It’s actually the other way around - embracing the law is an appropriate response to what God has already done. More than that, it is an embracing of our identity as a covenant people - people who love and honour God, and who treat each other with dignity and respect.

The law as it is given is not linked or restricted to any specific circumstance. Like the blessing of freedom that God gives, it is unequivocal. All obligations that come from these commandments relate back to God of the covenant. Therefore, all covenant relationships, whether they are within the family or the community, are to be treated as sacred.

As one of my colleagues, the Rev. Cordelia Morgan Strandskov, puts it, these were laws given to a community--to help them learn how to be a community, how to care for each other and keep their priorities clear. Not just laws given to individuals, as we generally interpret them today. So, it's not enough to say "Well, I don't steal or murder, so I'm good," especially when we live in a country that exists because the land was stolen and people murdered. So, she says, it's time to look at how we are complicit in breaking these commandments as a community and a culture.

Viewing or hearing the Ten Commandments in this way, is both freeing, personally, and daunting, socially.

For example, I might only worship God and nothing else. That is certainly something that I believe in and proclaim, but as a part of society at large, I sure do put a lot of value on money and status and power.

I might not create any idol, but there are sure a lot of them around us, in the form of celebrity or beauty or youth…

I may or may not use God’s name in vain, and our church have done some horrible things in the name of God, only one being the residential school system, for which we have much to atone.

Here we are on the Sabbath, but do we keep in mind those who are working on the holidays, who are in precarious positions in their lives and employment and therefore unable to say no, or to rest. Do we pressure their places of employment to put people above profits, or do we take advantage of the convenience of being able to run out and grab a few things?

Our lives are witness to the ways in which we keep the covenant.

In the Gospel reading for today, Christ is holding us accountable.

A brief overview of what is happening here, historically. At the time of the Passover, Jews from all over the world would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to remember and give thanks for their freedom. The very same freedom from which came the law of the Ten Commandments. Coming from all over the world, these people were also coming with all different kinds of currency. There were money changers who would happily exchange these coins, for a fee, of course. The people were also expected to make a sacrifice. Any animal sacrificed must be perfect and unblemished. There were inspectors to ensure this. Of course, if any animal was deemed to be unacceptable (as most of them were), there were animals available for purchase, for a price. Most folks would then have to choose between going into debt to make an offering or being excluded from those considered the righteous.

This time of Passover, of remembering liberation, was being used to exploit, marginalize and exclude. It made Jesus angry. It should make us angry. The law existed and exists to bring all people closer to God. So Jesus acted. He drove out the animals, and he overturned the tables, he freed the people from their barriers between themselves and God.

Thus, he demands that we reorient ourselves toward God, and keeping the covenant. The covenant shows us how we ought to order our lives, to put God first along with our neighbors. That we love God and love others sums up the commandments according to Jesus. But do our lives show this? If someone was to meet us, to walk into this church, for the first time, what would they know about us? What would they observe? Would they see worldly measures of importance and success, or would they see the love of God in all that we do and say?

How is your life a witness to God’s work in the world?


 

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