Sunday, March 11, 2012 - Lent 3
Props: Copies or projection of the 2 photos included herein
Every group, organization or society has rules.
Schools have rules. No running in the halls. Now throwing food in the cafeteria. No cheating. Raise your hand if you want to ask a question in class. No leaving during the school day without permission.
There are rules to follow when playing games. In baseball, only one player is allowed to be up to bat at a time. When yo hit the ball, you must run to first base first, then second, third and then home, and not the other way around.
When playing Candyland, you have to wait your turn before drawing a card. And if you draw a red card, say, you move your playing piece to the next red square on the board, and not a yellow or a green square, right?
There are even rules for walking down the street! Always walk on the sidewalk. Cross only at a corner. Stop and look both ways before crossing the street, or only cross the street if you're with a grown-up. If there is a light at the corner and the signal looks like this (show photo of hand), what do you do?
You stop, that's right. And when the light turns to this, what do you do?
You look both ways and cross when all the cars have stopped. Exactly.
We may not always like rules, but rules are there to keep us safe and to help us live together in peace. Thousands of years ago, God saw that the people of God needed help living in community with respect for each other and for God. So the Lord gave Moses a set of rules to share with the people. They were short and simple--The Ten Commandments. They were rules like:
Worship only God.
Do not swear.
Respect your parents.
Do not lie.
Do not take anything that doesn't belong to you.
Do not murder.
Do not wish really, really hard that you could have something that your neighbor has.
Like I said, there were only ten of these rules--fewer rules than there are in a game of baseball! But the people given these ten commandments lived so long ago, that these were new ideas to them, and so following just these ten was a challenge. Well, years went by, and even though the Ten Commandments became well known and the people tried really hard, they still found it difficult to follow all Ten Commandments all the time. Let's face it--we find it hard, too.
When Jesus came along, he tried to simplify the rules for the people. He said there are two commandments that are the most important--to love God completely and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But we even fail at following these two rules! All of us sometimes put our own needs and wants before the needs and wants of others.
Our failure is why Jesus came into the world in the first place. Jesus came to show us through his own example what it means to live the way God wants us to live. Jesus always loved and respected God and always put the needs of others before his own. He lived a perfect, God-centered life. We try our best to follow Jesus' example, but we aren't perfect all the time. We still fail sometimes. Another word for this failure is sin.
Jesus came to show us the way to God. He also came to save us from our sin. Jesus died on a cross for us, so that when the time comes, we can live in heaven with Jesus and all of God's people.
It is still good to try our best to follow Jesus' example and live a life that shows love and respect for God and others. But it is also good to know that when we fail, when we make mistakes, God forgives us. God still loves us. We are God's children. Forever. This is the gift we call grace.
Let's pray: All-loving and forgiving God, we thank you for rules that keep us safe and living together in peace. And we thank you for the grace that keeps us in your care always. Amen.