Sermon for Matthew 21:33-46   -   Rebellion in the Vineyard
Proper 22

A little boy was once asked by his Sunday school teacher if he knew the Ten Commandments. "No ma'am," came the reply, "my dad said that I don't have to know them since they are doing away with them anyway." It is one thing to be ignorant of the Ten Commandments; it quite another to mock them with impunity. Millions dismiss them as mere platitudes fit for nothing more than a dusty old bookshelf. They disdain them because they are "religious."

There are still others who want to do away with the Ten Commandments altogether. This cannot be an option. These are not just words; they are principles woven into the very fabric of life. They are not just another lifestyle option. They are basic realities upon which all of creation is structured. If we violate them, there will be consequences.

As one person has written: "They are the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions." I think because the Ten Commandments are so stern they have gotten a bad press. They are often thought of as a list of don'ts and shalt nots. It has been correctly pointed out that, except for the first and fifth commandments, all are worded negatively. That does present a problem. Think about this: It is possible to keep negative commandments by simply doing nothing. A person might truthfully be able to say that he had not stolen, committed adultery, or murdered, but that does not mean that that individual is loving and caring.

There was an ancient expression in Judaism that stated: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. Jesus took these words out of the negative and put them in the positive: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you, the golden rule. In other words, love requires us to take action. It is not enough simply to refrain from coveting what our neighbor has. If we want to be please God we must act well; if we want others to be kind and respectful to us, then we must act so to them. In other words, much of the Ten Commandments call upon us to refrain from doing bad. But the call of the Christian life is to do good. So let's just get it out on the table at the outset of this sermon, the Ten Commandments are not meant to be an end in themselves. Still, having said that, we must also concede that the Commandments are so basic to life that if we disregard them, we court disaster. Look at it this way. Jesus called upon us to go the second mile. But to go the second mile you must first go the first. The Ten Commandments represent the first mile. Love represents the second mile. Both are needed; both are necessary. One is law, the other is grace. One is duty, the other is joy. Both go hand in hand. Let us now look at the first mile - the Ten Commandments:

1. The first four speak to our relationship with God.
2. The last six speak to our relationship with others.

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