A Homily for Advent II
December 6, 2020
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Exodus 20
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
A good parent does not let their child run totally free range around, letting them get totally out of control, letting their child get into whatever trouble they may please. Rather, the parent sets boundaries. These bounds start fairly restrictive, but are loosened as a child grows, learns independent and know their own limits.
The parent doesn’t set this limit because they hate the child, nor because they want to be controlling, but because they love the child. They slowly teach the child of good things, and bad things, of safe things and dangers.
Boundaries and limits are not unloving, rather they show us love. The law of God, the boundaries set forth by God, likewise, show us the deep and inestimable love of God, our creator.
The law has done this for God’s creation – the Decalogue has set these loving bounds for his whole creation in order that we might know life – and not run towards those things that cause death.
This week we will look at Loving God, and the Love of God, a subject that is far too big for a single week, and so, unfortunately, we will fail to cover it in even a remotely exhaustive fashion, but it is a subject that I am certain we will return to regularly as time goes on, as it is both an important theme in our faith and something good to continually remember.
The law is not some harsh legalism, but rather it teaches how we are Loved and how we are to love. It teaches us to love God and love His image, that is our fellow humans. We are told time and again in the in the New Testament, in particularly in the Epistles, that we are to love one another, that we are to love as Christ loved us.
In fact – the Love we find in Christ is so powerful – that St. John the Evangelist tells us that perfect love, that is God’s love found in Christ – drives out fear. Casts out fear – makes the world a place where we need not dread governmental change.
Where we need to fear our neighbor.
Where we need be alarmed by change.
God’s love comforts us amid turmoil – and tells us that he is here with us.
That he will see us through.
Most Sundays we are reminded that all the law and the prophets hang upon the single phrase: that we should Love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. This requires self-sacrifice; to love is not simply an emotional thing. To love as God loves, we are not to love in receiving only, but to love is the act of giving up ourselves for God, for our spouses, for our children, and for our loved ones.
As we survey our current culture, we see that love has become the popular religion, but it is not the love that we know to be the love of the Bible, it is a much more selfish thing.
There’s a billboard that I pass when I’m drive down to Phoenix. It contains a popular phrase “Love is love.”
I first saw this from advocates for gay marriage in Maine.
But this sign is not about that – this sign, instead is for an adult toy story. Our culture has reduced love, not even to caring for one another – but to what happens in the bedroom.
This love that is worshiped, is a selfish love, and love that seeks only to heals the receiver, or worse, only for pleasure. In secular talks of love, they say little of the self-giving-attitude that is demanded from scripture, that God gives.
If for example, we were to unpack the ethics of loving our neighbor as ourselves – a common response might be “well, they’re rather annoying, I’d really rather not talk to them.” Or worse, that we find an unforgiving attitude, perhaps even within ourselves.
However, in this season, we have seen two extremes – at one end – an incredible propensity to give up oneself, an incredible propensity to lay down our lives for the other. But on the other hand – an overarching desire to get what we want – and what we want now.
The demand of love asks us to give up our selfish desires – give up our desires to only get what we want and need and lay down our lives – to lay down our wants that others might learn to have the life that we have in Christ.
What kind of love are you living for?
Where are you placing your hope?
When you interact with the world – are you asking “what is best for my neighbor?”
Or “what is best for me?”
Too often we hope that another might heal the pain that this world always causes, and yet another will always fail us and we will, inevitably, fail them. For though we love, and though goodness is imparted upon us, we are fallen creatures, whose default often goes to the selfish gathering of our own desires, emotionally or physically.
Love between humans is a good, it is not an end, but rather a means to an end.
As we learn to love our spouse, our neighbors, our brothers, and sisters in Christ, these actions help us grow in our walk with God, to grow always in sanctification. Love- true love is practiced, and this practice comes from knowing the Law and comes from Christ’s completion of the law.
This is the law which compels us to respond to God, it is not the written law and following the written law will not draw us any closer to God, instead it is the realization, the allowing of, it is the crashing in of Christ’ into our own life and his imparting of His righteousness upon us.
For this is what it was when Christ said he had come to complete the law – that his grace, his righteousness is imparted onto us, that we are deemed righteous, not by our following of the law, but in his perfection. This is God’s love for us, that though we see the law, though we know the law and it shows us who we are, we are deemed righteous, not by following it, but by putting on Christ’s righteousness, as our own.
We learn the law, that we might know what love is, that we might understand in our mind the love of God,
That we might see His goodness. It is in the written law that we learn of God’s goodness, it reveals to us God’s character,
That we might delight in His consistency,
That we might know His deep abounding love for us.
The Law shows that which is good, and that which is not. It is a solid foundation on which we see our desires and wills do not always align with that which God wants of us, that which our good Father has told us is good for us. And so- we know from this that the law is good.
Revisionism, and the destruction of the canon of scripture is devastating, and dangerous. Modernism has told us that we can cut out or rationalize away that which we do not like, and does not seem to align with how we think things should be. Our modern tendency is to use human reason to create our own god, we create a god in our fallen imagine, in the hubris of thinking that our intelligence is better than the understand God gives us.
Do we find God’s sexual ethics to be too prudish? Cut it out!
Do we find the demand to forgive to hard? Rationalize it away!
Do we find the law too demanding? Let’s unlatch the Old Testament from the New!
Do we want a god who identifies with our politics, our preferences, our prejudices? We can find a few verses to justify that!
But my friends, our God is a good God, and He created us,
we did not nor can we create Him,
the law acts to reveal Him to us, the whole of scripture testifies to His goodness, the whole of scripture is there for our hearts to rejoice in, for when we look at the law totally, we realize how good He is.
The Law reveals God’s goodness, and our desperate need for him, and The Law reveals His incarnation, and his redemption of the world in Jesus Christ.
God is a creative God, we are his created creatures, we are distinct form Him, and as he has created us, he knows us, he knows the totality of His creation. Through the law his covenant with his people is made known. He alone is the author of it, He alone is sovereign.
This too flies in the face of our contemporary culture, but it is a constant reminder to his faithful people of his love, and his sovereignty, for we cannot understand our relationship with him, outside of the bounds of this definition.
It is in the law that we can see ourselves as in a mirror, see ourselves for how we really are. We see our sins, our shortcomings, we see our desperate need for the love and mercy of God. Therefore the law is good.
The law is good because we see how broken we really are, how desperately we need God’s mercy, grace and sanctifying actions in our life.
The law acts to convict our souls of our downfalls, this is why we memorize the Decalogue in catechism,
This is why we recite the Decalogue once a month in church
and why we recite the summary of the law whenever we intend to draw near to His table,
For the Law shines the light upon our dark heart and helps us to realize our need for Christ’s grace in our lives and our need for constant repentance and turning towards Him.
The law helps us to realize the need for Christ in our life.
The Decalogue also acted as a foundation for the covenant between Israel, recently freed from Egypt and God. They act as the terms of love between God and his people and instruct people how to love their fellow man and God. Well the law cannot redeem the heart or mind to God or man, it did spell out God’s expectation in the covenant, and set a guide, which Israel was told to follow.
When we look at the law- we see that it is God protecting us from wasting our life. It protects from false gods, from addiction, from both destructive relationships and our own propensity to destroy relationships, and from making ourselves into our own god.
It protects us from the things that would kill us.
And it shows us what it is to dwell in God’s love, and sovereignty.
It is in the law that we learn what the fear of the Lord is and the Love of the Lord. That though we deserve judgment, and condemnation, it is in God’s grace that we are brought into his presence. It is from His law that we are reminded of the holy reverence that is due to Him.
It is also in His law that we learn what His love looks like, and what He is developing our love into. That the fence that He creates by His law is there to protect us, and yet we realize that we will fail to follow it, and we see in the mirror that it creates that we are desperate need of His mercy, and grace.
That mercy and grace is found in Christ, and that is where we dwell, that is where our hearts are made whole and where our salvation lies, and no good work can bring us any closer to God. In Christ’s completion of the law – the true law is written on our hearts by Him, and in us, true love is fostered for God and for all mankind.
Over the last two weeks, we have laid the foundation for our understanding of the Law – once we realize that the law shows us our desperate need for Christ, once we understand how deep God’s love is for us, once we realize that the Law is good, that it is a good to delight upon, we see God’s incredible love set forth for us and all of humanity in it.
The next two weeks we will look at the two tablets of the law – first, the command to Love God with all our being, and the following week to Love our neighbor as ourselves.
Amidst a season of such turmoil – may this study of the Law of God – open our hearts to God’s transforming love, open our hearts to the grace which we have found in Christ – that we may become a people who do the hard work, who lay down our lives – that we would love God well, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.