Keeping the Law

February 12, 2017

Psalms 42 & 43 both share this beautiful refrain;

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? ♦

and why are you so disquieted within me?

14 O put your trust in God; ♦

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

And near the end of Psalm 43 we have this plea;

3 O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, ♦

and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling,

4 That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness; ♦

and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

On some levels, these words reflect the cry of our hearts for that longing for the fullness of life with its associated joy which seems to be promised by the Law and the Commandments of God.

In today’s Gospel, we are continuing in the sermon on the mount, where Jesus is teaching his disciples in full view and perhaps within the hearing of some of the crowds who came out to see and listen to him. Still; the point of his teaching is to the disciples, that is, to you and me.

Today we are particularly focusing in on the Law and the teaching seems to be very pointed and very challenging to all of us. He makes it clear that how we behave and what we do has consequences on our relationships. Not just with other people, but with God and ourselves, hence; ‘why are you so full of heaviness my soul…’

Last week we heard Jesus say;

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

So, Jesus then, in today’s Gospel is spelling out what he means by the deepest following of the Law. That kind of following which includes even the tiniest letter or rule. And the key is not literalism, but heart.

So, in Deuteronomy we hear that the essence of the Law is to fear God, walk in his ways, to love him and serve him with all of our hearts. God through Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19  says;

 ‘I have set before you, life and death, blessings and curses-now choose life.’

Thus, there is nothing in our lives which is not touched by the Law as it is meant to be. The literal way of the Pharisees, which Jesus objected to, meant that for life to be covered in law, there had to be rules and rituals around everything, you literally had a law for everything you were to do or face in life. It made life very complicated and difficult in some circumstances.

So, if Jesus is so particular about the Law, it seems his precepts are truly impossible for us. The things he speaks of, faithfulness in relationships, anger, murder, and promises are not light things and we’re all deeply challenged by them- well I am anyway.

Keeping the literal sense of the law is hard enough, but taking it to another level so that it is coming from our heart is a whole other thing.

We all get angry, we all experience attraction and particularly sexual attraction, we all make promises and commitments which in many ways we don’t meet or fulfil- how can we be obedient.

And when this breaking of the law becomes a persistent way of life as it does so often in our culture, people find themselves disconnected from their heart, and their purpose in life, which is to love God their creator, and their neighbour as themselves [that is the summary of the Law].

There are a couple of levels where we can go with this- the first is to acknowledge our helplessness and our need for rescue; that’s where Psalm 42 speaks into our hearts;

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? ♦

and why are you so disquieted within me?

14

O put your trust in God; ♦

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

The Psalm gives us the answer to the dilemma as well; put your trust in God; give thanks to the one who is the help of my countenance, my well -being.

This is the full answer for us in many ways- as Christians this answer goes deeper because we have Jesus the Son of God, who died so that we can be freed from sin. That means by entrusting our lives to him, we can leave our guilt behind. We still need to repent, to change our ways, that is all part of entrusting ourselves to him, but God is our help- He offers forgiveness from sin, and the gift of the Holy Spirit who both strengthens us and fires up our hearts so we long to be at one with him.

One of the helps with all of this is to acknowledge that the kinds of Law breaking Jesus is speaking of, is earthed in positive things which are implanted into our beings, as children of God, made in the image of God.

We are sexual beings with attractions- this is a gift for the procreation of the species and for us to be able to engage in deep and abiding love with another person. Divorce is just a symptom of our inability to be deeply faithful to each other. Sadly, many people these days know the experience of divorce and there is much damage and pain when people experience this.

We do get angry, that too is a gift from God, in the Bible even God gets angry, Jesus too gets angry; the purpose and place of anger is to help us make wrongs, right. When anger gets to the point of murder and hatred- that’s when the law is broken- anger for purpose of justice, when you think about it comes from a place of love. -thus, righteous anger is not what Jesus is speaking about, but the kind of anger which is focused on me and getting my way and what I want to the exclusion or the destruction of the other.

pause

A brief story:

There were two monks vowed to celibacy who came to a river which they needed to cross. While they were standing on the shore a woman approached them and asked them to help her get across. After a time one of them picked her up and carried her across. The monks left her and went on with their journey and after several hours, the monk who hadn’t carried her, asked the other, how he could have done that as he saw it as breaking the rule of celibacy. And the monk’s reply is very telling. He simply said; ‘I left her at the river, but you are still holding her’.

That’s part of what we need to realise. We always have attraction and desire, but if you feed inappropriate sexual attractions or desires instead of letting them go; that’s when you are being unfaithful. I’ve known people whose relationships have totally broken down, not because they were going out having relationships with other people, but because they were feeding their sexual desires with pornography. That’s a kind of sexual addiction which is being recognised as being as seriously damaging, as any other kind of addiction- drugs, alcohol, gambling. We need to guard our hearts against such things and if we find we’re caught so we can’t put them down, then cry out to God and seek help. Using human resources is a God given gift and there are many resources out there.

The same is true for anger- our relationships are severely damaged if we hold on to anger and don’t seek reconciliation with each other and with God. In fact, the person who ends up most damaged when they hold on to anger, is the one who cannot let go. [this is also true for any addictions, or anger, or grief etc]. Sometimes, with anger this can be difficult, if the other person is not open to being reconciled, then we need to rest in God’s love, and find our forgiveness in him, through Jesus Christ.

These are all hard issues for us, but at the end of the day we need to acknowledge our powerlessness and entrust ourselves to God, and whilst endeavouring to do the best we can, we need to sit lightly to our failures, trusting in God’s love and forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ.

13 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? ♦

and why are you so disquieted within me?

14 O put your trust in God; ♦

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Palm 43

3 O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, ♦

and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling,

4 That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness; ♦

Then and only then can we know that deep joy and gladness which we all long for, which only comes from God. Amen.

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Vicar: Reverend Neil Taylor

Office: 9743 0246

2-4 Unitt Street, Melton, VIC 3337

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