From Our Pastor: 15th Sunday In Ordinary Time
“If only you would heed the voice of the Lord...” Moses pleads with us today. So often people ask questions about if it’s ok to do something, then they want to know why. I don’t mind. But gone are the days of the Lord who commands us to do something or not to do something and yet we want to know why, and we then decide maybe I will follow what God has commanded. God’s law is written in our hearts, but it is passed down fully through His Church. Moses is begging us to stop questioning everything. Stop refusing to do something because it’s hard or inconvenient. Over and over throughout salvation history, Israel refused to follow God’s statutes and decrees; they called themselves followers of the Lord while they ignored the Lord, refused to listen to His messengers the prophets, and then even rejected, tortured, or killed the prophets for their message to turn back to the Lord.
There used to be a general sense of what we believed, and everyone followed it. But in our permissive and relativistic culture we have started to say to our kids, in our families, and with our friends, Well, I guess if it makes you happy. The statement is all wrong. The question for us should be does it make the Lord happy. Moses heeded his people and warns us the same to stop following the pagan world around us. Just because the world says it’s ok to do something doesn’t mean it is ok or it is good for us. The Lord’s understanding of humanity is far better and far more fulfilling than what the world tells us we should be doing. God made us, therefore His user manual on humanity is better qualified than the guy who refuses to read the manual and tell you how things should be. There are so many pervading issues in our culture that are just causing us more misery and more brokenness. Promiscuity and living together and contraception and vasectomies and invitro-fertilization and pornography and drugs, etc. did not all become ok in the eyes of the Lord just because they are hard or society says they’re ok; or, well, they aren’t illegal anymore or everyone is doing it or I lack self-discipline or we are afraid to tell our children no, etc. There are long theological, practical, and clear answers to why each of these issues are sinful and causing humanity problems. But the clearest statement is the Lord says no and that should be more than enough for us. There are so many excuses why people do them anyway, but Moses warns us today, “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord...” So today heed God’s voice and seek answers, but stop rejecting the ways of the Lord. And those that are and read this, this is not a boot to get out, and do not attempt to use it as an excuse that you are rejected. But instead see this as a call to come more, to seek more, to find more, to come to relationship more, to love more, and to be loved more.
Moses goes on to tell us that we don’t have to question these things, that they are not mysterious or unknown answers, and they aren’t something we need to grasp at or seem impossible to answer; but that the commands of the Lord are clear that God has made it “very near to you, already in your mouths, and in your hearts; you only have to carry it out.” The commands of the Lord are so near they are in us, but the love of God came down, as Paul reminds us in Colossians today, that “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God.” God became man so that we have more certainty, more clarity, and more relationship with our God in someone who walked our walk and died our death, so that He may lead us to where we all long to be.
Today Jesus is challenged on the commands of the Lord, and He doesn’t negate them, but calls the man who questions Him, to “do this and you will live.” He then gives us this familiar story of the Good Samaritan. This story is not just a call to us of how we are called to love and care for one another, but it is a call to us of how our God loves YOU and cares for YOU. He doesn’t just pass by, but our Lord comes down into the ditch with us by taking on flesh as a human in Christ, and pulls us out of the ditches of our lives of sin and cares for us and heals us and brings us to the Church to continue to care for us and heal us and nourish us as we get better. So no matter your brokenness or sin, be here all the more. No matter your lack of understanding or rejection, be here all the more. BUT allow then the Church that Christ left you to care for you to challenge you, to correct you, to love you enough to call you to something better, to give you mercy but point you back to the path you should be on, and most especially to heal you and strengthen you. Heed Moses, take to heart Jesus’ words to the man who questions Him “do this and you will live”....and heed this final statement of the good Samaritan story... “‘the one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
-Rev. Steven Arisman