Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart
by James Greene
†††††††††† We are beginning the Season of Ordinary Time in this yearís lectionary cycle.† It is the time when the church focuses on different aspects of our faith.† It is a time of our growth in our faith.† This is the reason we use the color green in the vestment on the pulpit.† Todayís focus will be upon Godís Law and how it is the foundation of our life.
†††††††††† In the reading from the book of Nehemiah we see the reading and teaching of the Law in Jerusalem by the Prophet Ezra, and the Levites.† Lets look into the background on this event.† Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia.† Nehemiah was responsible for rebuilding Jerusalemís walls when Israel returned from the Babylonian captivity.† He was the governor of Judah.† There was a poor faithful remnant that had stayed in Judah, and they were now joined by those who returned out of exile.†
Now, there are two Ezrasíin this story, Ezra the Priest, and Ezra the scribe.† It begins in the 7th month the end of September - beginning of October.† It is during the festival of the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.† It is the feast of the ďin gatheringĒ; the bringing in of the harvest.††† Ezra the Priest brings out the scrolls of The Law returned from Babylon.† This is the Torah or the Pentateuch; the first 5 books of the Bible - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy -the Law written by Moses.
The entire population was gathered by the Water Gate.† This is on the South East corner of the City of Jerusalem. The reading and the teaching of the Law is done by not only Ezra the Priest, Ezra the Scribe, but also the teachers of the Law, -the Levites.† This was to help focus the community in their common identity as The People of God.
It was to remind them that they were all one people, and they were to share the fruits of the harvest with those who had nothing.† This was both the teaching and the fulfilling of the Law that day.† This is what he meant: ďThis day is sacred to our Lord.† Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.Ē† They were hearing and acting upon Godís Law in their identity, as a community.
Just as we here today, work together in the Body of Christ, in community, to teach and fulfill The Law within the congregation, and within this community.† We are in fellowship with the other churches and the community.† We both teach and fulfill the Law to each other (by helping the sick) and to the neighbors around us.†††
In the reading from Psalm 19, David describes the works and the Word of God.† How all of the creation proclaims Godís works.† If we just look at the stars at night there is a quiet testament and realization of Godís Law.† You cannot help but be amazed by
the awe and wonder of God's creation and gain an insight into the phrase the Ďfear of the Lordí.† There is a whole different perspective on life and on creation when you see the stars at night while standing in a field, or on a ship in the middle of the ocean.† It is a witness of how all of creation is a testament to Godís Law, and how perfect is that Law.† It is sure and righteous, and there is life and reward.
Did you ever thought about how the laws of Physics are also a part of Godís Law and creation?† As an Aggie, I learned a lesson about Godís Law riding in a friendís car on the way back to San Antonio.† He had thrown a coke bottle over the top of the car and broke it on a road sign as we were driving along.† Coming up upon a railroad bridge, I said ďwatch thisĒ, as I threw a bottle upwards to hit the bridge we were going under.††††††††††††††† Have you ever heard the phrase ďDeafening SilenceĒ?
I had forgotten about Godís Law where ďevery object in motion tends to stay in motionĒ.†† The bottle being thrown up ward and forward traveled at the same speed
as the car.† The problem was, that it cleared the bridge, and came down in the center of the windshield when we came out the other side of the bridge.† It was all part of Godís Perfect Law.† Even for Aggies, the study of Physics is not just a science, but it is the study of Godís Law.† That Law is light to the individual.† Its teachings illuminate our direction and life.†
†††††††††† In I Corinthians this morning Paul is teaching about the Body of Christ.† He focuses on how the Body is one unit, and the Spirit is in one Body.† He explains how one Body is made up of many parts, and many parts make up one Body.† This is a lesson in logic and physics.† He is teaching Godís Perfect Law.† He shows us how God in creation has arranged the parts in the body, and how God has combined the members of the Body.† It is all part of Godís perfect Law and plan.
†††††††††† Paul uses this physical example, as an analogy for the gifts within the Body of Christ, and how God has appointed different gifts to different people to make one working Body.† He demonstrates the interdependent connections with each other, and with other congregations as the Body of Christ.†† It is the element of community like that displayed in Nehemiah that is our identity as a Child, and the People of God.† Being part of the fellowship is how God has arranged and appointed us in His greater scheme of the church.† That connectivity, is part of Godís plan and purpose for us and His Creation.
†††††††††† Paul is using this analogy to teach the early Christians, that they are to be as one.† It is God's requirement in the "royal law"; to treat others as we would want to be treated.† Like the faithful remnant that was there when the exiles returned to Jerusalem.† The focus was to be identified as Godís People and apart of God's plan in community.† It reflected God's creation in teaching and fulfilling of the Law.
Example ĖIt is our connectedness as an individual and as a congregation with other Churches in Lockhart as part of the Christian Community.
In Martin Luther's Treatise on "The Freedom of a Christian", he teaches us that because we are the Children of God, and our heart and faith are focused upon doing God's intended Will; we are both under the Law, and freed from the Law.† We are called to the standard of behavior that is reflected in the Law, but we also have the freedom in fulfilling that standard.† We are called to be merciful, and to "love" one another. †Just as Nehemiah called for the people to share the harvest with those who had none, we in fulfilling the Law, are freed by the Law.† There is strength in our faith, because ďthe joy of the Lord is [our] strength.Ē
In our reading from Luke, we see Jesus in the power of the Spirit, reading in the synagogue of his home congregation.† This is after his baptism by John.† He is reading in the worship service ďas was his customĒ from Isaiah 61:1-2.† He demonstrates in this reading how he is not only part of the body of that congregation, but also a part of the greater body of Godís people Israel.† He shows how they were connected in the Law, and part of Godís plan.†
But he stops in mid verse and closes the scroll, and announces ďToday, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearingĒ.† He is teaching and showing how He is fulfilling the Law though his teaching, and healing.† He is teaching how to live in relationship to each other as a community of Godís people, and how they are connected in that community.† He is teaching Godís Perfect Law by bring sight to the blind (as in
Psalm 19) and preaching good news to the poor (as in Nehemiah).† He is demonstrating how the marginal are to be included in community and how that is the fulfillment of Godís Law and intent from the beginning.† The Law is not a list of doís and doníts, but an outline of being in relationship with God, and in relationship with each other in community.
†††††††††† As a Child of God, and as the People of God are all connected in the teaching and fulfilling of Godís Perfect Law.† We are all called to be one, in the Body of Christ and one, in Spirit.† We are called to reflect not just the letter of the Law, but reflect the heart of the Law, in this congregation but in the community that we live.
So, in the end, we become the example of what it is, to be, in Christ, and in the fellowship of the Body of Christ.† And we do this in the light of Godís Perfect Law, in our identity, as the People of God,†††† and††† we do it all Ö..
In the Name of Ö. The Father,† The Son,† and The Holy Spirit.