Wrestling with God - May 7, 2017

One Commandment Revisited

Someone once said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat their failed behavior.  I believe that the accounts given in the Bible certainly attest to this fact.  From the garden of Eden through the Judges and Kings right up to the time of Christ one pattern continues to unfold chapter by chapter.  A period of adherence to the laws and statutes is followed by a drifting away from the ways of God.  Then the people of Israel fall on hard times until they plead with God to return to them.  These pleas include promises to never stray from God again.  This pattern is followed repeatedly as they never learn from the past.

 On a more cosmic scale we have the phenomenon of “One Commandment”.  In the beginning, God spoke the Word and creation followed.  This Word included the breath of God, The Holy Spirit, hovering over the waters and the Son is the Word.  This is the first indication of the Trinity of God in Scripture.  At the end of this period of creation God has created an abundant garden filled with all that one could desire.  Into this garden, God has placed the first human beings who have been created in God’s own image.  Adam and Eve have one responsibility and that is to tend the garden.  However, they are given “one commandment”:  not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree.  Do this and everything will be well for all eternity.

 In the first instance of the human lack of adherence to God’s commandment, Adam and Eve succumb to temptation and eat of this forbidden fruit.  In doing so they, in the words of my Confirmation students, “really blew it for the rest of us”!  One Commandment, that’s all, One Commandment and the stage was set for all that is wrong with the world.  God did not abandon God’s creation, but continues to sustain it with love.  God even promised to restore creation to its pristine state at some time in the future.  This would be accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ.

 In the period between the first sin and the incarnation of the Son in Jesus Christ the people of Israel repeatedly violated whatever laws were in force.  Mostly these laws were part of a reciprocal agreement between God and God’s people in the form of a covenant.  I will be your God is God’s promise to the people implying that God would protect and provide for them.  God would increase their number and make of them a great nation.  In return the people were to have no other gods.  They were not to worship these gods or their graven images.  The people were even given “Ten Commandments” to guide their lives.  Everything was laid out nice and neat.  What could go wrong?  The same thing that has gone wrong since the beginning of time.  Humankind has always sought an easier, softer way.

 For the Israelites, and for people today, this took the form of a god who promised more with less restriction.  Many times this was Baal, a fertility god, who promised good crops.  Or any of the other numerous gods who were less demanding.  Today we worship at the altars of technology and wealth, to name a couple.  We also follow the practice of having someone, or people, to look down on or to blame for our failures.  This has led to genocide both then and now.  Concentration camps, slavery, and forced labor are also a result of this failure to follow God’s Commandments or the even simpler commandment that Jesus gave to all of us.

 What is this simpler commandment?  The “Mandatum” or One Commandment was given to us on the night in which he was betrayed.  This was at the Last Supper when Jesus told us, “Love one another as I have loved you”.  God has now come full circle from the Garden of Eden.  One commandment then and one commandment now.  Again, God has made our choice so simple, to follow this one commandment or not.  Sounds easy, but is it?  Most days we usually find love comes easily when thinking about our spouse, our children, or our parents.  However, how can we possibly love a terrorist?  How can we love someone who kills innocent men, women, and children?  Not so easy now, is it?  What we are called to do is to love the person who has been created in God’s own image, just as we are so created.  But we do not approve of the actions of the terrorist.  Instead we pray for this person that God will heal whatever hurt has been done to this person that has led to their aberrant behavior.  We also pray for an end to the systemic evil, including our own actions, that are in some way responsible.  This is far from the easier, softer way that we usually take.  However, this is what God desires, even commands, us to do.  Just as in the Garden we are given one commandment.  The fate of creation is in our actions.  What will we do?  Will we live or will we die?  Amen.