Do those 10 Commandments tell us to resist evil?

Today’s reading from Jewish scripture we hear the Ten Commandments God gives Moses as they struggle to learn how to live as the to guide People of Israel. Our Psalm reminds us of God’s power and strength and the wisdom of God’s ways. St. Paul tells us of “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” And today’s Gospel reading drives home the idea that if we fail to live up to our faith God’s expectations we or “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” If we fail. Jesus warns us, God’s judgment will fall on us and we “will be broken to pieces.” What are we to do as Christians? What are we to do right here at the corner of Turk & Lyon in 21st Century San Francisco? What can the Ten Commandments along with today’s other scriptures tell us about resisting evil in our time and place?

Bishop Robert C. Wright and The Rev. Donna S. Mote have some ideas for us to consider as we plan how we will live in these dangerous times. For much of this talk, and those of the next few weeks, we will carefully consider their perspective as set out in a book titled The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10. It is available as a Kindle e-book or in paperback form from Amazon – I even have some copies if you would like one.  

Wright and Mote see a great deal of anxiety in today’s churches. Some worry about the future of their congregation. Others are concerned about declining participation in organized religion. And a few wonder how we can move from a building based, number crunching religious organization into what the authors see as a “walking, talking, power-demonstrating expression of God’s love for the world. The love that Jesus preached and modeled.”[i]

To reach this goal they say, we must “adapt ourselves and the religious cultures of our churches and church organizations to more closely follow the words and ways of Jesus of Nazareth.”[ii]

“Said another way, when in doubt or despair, individually or institutionally, double down on the ways and words of Jesus.[iii]

“Watch how Jesus allocates his time. Notice that while he visits the temple occasionally, he saves the biggest part of his time and allegiance for those in the world. Those who were beyond the reach of the temple.” “God is on a mission,’” the authors continue. “He has been from the beginning of time. And God doesn’t owe any particular Church or denomination any preferential treatment based on the beauty of vestments, architecture, liturgy, or tradition.”[iv]

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So how did Jesus start building God’s church? He appointed 70 more people to go out into the world and be the church. How did he do that?

“Jesus added seventy people from Galilee to his original twelve disciples. He appointed them. The word for appointed in Greek is anedeixen,” the authors add. “It means to show clearly, to indicate; to lift up and present the one(s) who have been chosen. To proclaim someone as having been elected to an office.[v]

And you know what? You and I have been chosen – we have been appointed by God – to be God’s church right here and right now.

That’s right, the authors say. “The Creator of all the worlds has appointed you to go to the places God is already. To confirm for others that God is alive and is still in the “reaching out and resurrection” business.”[vi]

“We are here,” they continue. “In this millennium, in this century, in this decade. In this year, month, and day. Because we are supposed to be here. Now— right now— is our time, God’s and ours, together.”[vii]

They add: “We are who God wants here and now as the world questions the worth and relevance of faith.”[viii]

“Somehow God knew exactly where God wanted us to be. Somehow in deep collusion with all that is wrong with our present age, we are also the people best suited to help God turn the world right side up by following Jesus now.”[ix]

8.5″ X 6″ Woodcut

How do we ‘turn the world right side up?’ Wright and Mote suggested we are appointed to live out our faith as an adventure.

“Faith talk, generally, is about believing in God and Jesus as an intellectual exercise. The logic goes, if we say the right words, and give assent to the right ideas, then we are followers of Jesus.”[x]

“But,” they warn, “these understandings don’t quite reach the radical notion of belonging to God. That is what produces radical sent-ness. Think about Jesus, and Mary, his mother. Remember the spirituality of belonging to God— as lived by them— and the sent-ness it produced?”[xi]

For most of us today, the idea of living life with a  “radical reliance on God” of feeling the “peace that passes understanding” are unfathomably far away from our daily lives. “Then there is what the world misses out on when you and I keep the ships of our lives in safe harbors.” The authors warn. “Why are we still talking about Paul and calling him a saint? Because of the risks he took to promote Jesus, born of radical dependence on God. These “Jesus risks” generated spiritual insight, authenticity, and moral authority.”[xii]

Consider the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “But If Not” Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia back in November, 1967.

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…You refuse to do it because you want to live longer… You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.”

Dr. King’s words remind us of our need to hear Christ’s call for us to carry his love out into our community, out into this neighborhood of NoPa, into this City of San Francisco. That is our call today: to bring the church out of our building and into the lives of those we meet and minister to in our daily lives. God calls us to resist evil. Christ calls us out of our churches and our comfort zones to resist evil by reflecting God’s love out into the world through our lives. Let us remember our call as we move through the process of planning the resurrection of God’s church here at Turk & Lyon.

Let us pray:

God of all who wander in the wilderness, you go before us as beacon and guide. Lead us through all danger, sustain us through all desolation, and bring us home to the land you have prepared for us. May God’s people say: Amen.

========================================================

[i] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 47-48). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 65-66). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Location 71). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.”

[iv] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 86-90). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[v] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 150-152). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[vi] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 179-181). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[vii] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 189-191). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[viii] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Location 194). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[ix] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 209-210). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[x] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 233-234). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[xi] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 235-237). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

[xii] Wright, Robert C.; Mote, Donna S.. The Go Guide: 10 Steps for Innovations in Ministry from Luke 10 (Kindle Locations 272-276). Holy Innocents Press. Kindle Edition.

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