October 4, 2020

Please note that there are two videos for the service today, as we lost the feed for a moment and had to re-start.

World Communion Sunday, October 4, 2020

Posted by FirstPresbyterian Regina on Sunday, October 4, 2020

World Communion Sunday, October 4, 2020

Posted by FirstPresbyterian Regina on Sunday, October 4, 2020

Exodus 20:1-4,  7-9, 12-20
Philippians 3:4b-14

“What Love Looks Like”

Professionals in the area of education will tell you that people learn in a variety of ways. Some are like my husband, who can read a book about something and easily recall all the details and explain the concepts. Others do better when they can listen to someone teaching out loud. (They are the ultimate sermon-listeners!)

Some learn better when they can see images or diagrams that illustrate the points. And still others won’t really get it until they can put it in their own words or actually try out doing it themselves. Personally, I do better with listening than with just reading, and if you can set the material to music, I can be your star student!

It seems to me that the foundational message of God for God’s people doesn’t really change from the ancient days of the Hebrews wandering in the desert to the seemingly new gospel message given in Jesus. Throughout that history, and still today, the goal is to guide human beings towards living in loving relationship both with God, our Creator, and with each other as fellow creatures.

Like me, you’ve likely heard the 10 commandments explained many times before. Or maybe not. Maybe the main thing you’ve done with the commandments was to try to memorize them back in your Sunday School days.

Well, if someone tested me, I’d probably miss a few of them. But what I do know is that the first four are all about how we should relate to God, and the last six are about how we should relate to our neighbours.

  1. We shall have no other gods before the One God, our Creator.
  2. We shall not make idols that we worship instead of God.
  3. We shall not make wrongful use of God’s name – using it to swear by, for example, or perhaps calling upon God in jest.
  4. We shall remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Resting as God rested after the Creation. Spending time in worship and prayer, and building that relationship with the God who made us and who loves us.

Now the commandments that help us with relating to each other:

  1. Honour our parents.
  2. Do not murder.
  3. Do not commit adultery.
  4. Do not steal.
  5. Do not bear false witness against our neighbours.
  6. Do not covet things that our neighbours have and we do not. As in, don’t give in to feelings of jealousy, and be content with what we have.

The 10 commandments are not really that difficult to learn or memorize, but it’s a bit more difficult to actually live by them, especially if we start unpacking them and thinking about how they would apply in our lives and relationships.

I think they’re a good start when it comes to rules to live by. And I guess they fit fairly easily on two stone tablets, as the Bible story goes. But they really don’t cover everything we need to know about all the various circumstances and complicated scenarios of our lives. That’s why the Hebrew Scriptures actually contain way more than 10 commandments – at least 613, according to tradition. And besides the actual commandments, we could add many more explanations and expansions on the commandments by the religious leaders and teachers over the centuries.

We read in the Gospels that “Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” That means that he wasn’t saying that the commandments were wrong or unhelpful. But instead of teaching those commandments, or explaining them in more detail, or preaching on how they should be applied to the circumstances and situations or his time, Jesus just embodied them. He lived them out, and showed what it would look like when a human person loved God above all, and loved his neighbours as himself.

We know that Jesus was formed in his faith as a young person, so he likely did memorize the commandments and study them carefully. But his approach as an adult was not to adhere to them strictly.

You likely remember some of the stories about those times when Jesus broke the rules. No, he didn’t murder or steal or lie, but he performed healings and other miracles on the Sabbath day. He didn’t do it to dishonour God, but he did it to show love for suffering people. And he didn’t apologize for that.

Even if he didn’t rhyme off all of the rules, and even if he was willing to set some of them aside at times… in his very being – his divinity – he understood the spirit of the laws. He knew that the ultimate goal was to live in love with God and with each other, and that’s what he did.

Jesus’ strategy in getting the message across to people was to move away from listing and memorizing the rules, and to invite us to follow him instead. Look at him.  Learn from his example. Instead of telling us the rules of love, Jesus shows us what love looks like.

There’s a Canadian Christian singer and songwriter, Carolyn Arends, whose writing a quite enjoy. She has a song called, “What love looks like” that expresses very well how Jesus taught us to live the commandments to love God and one another. He did it by showing us what love looks like.

Carolyn sings:
Something’s happening
Down by the shore
There is a blind man
Who is not blind anymore

Everybody’s talking
How can this be?
A little mud, a gentle touch
And now he can see

And he squints up at the light
And he wipes his tears away
And he whispers when
He sees his Healer’s face

Oh, this is what love looks like
Oh, this is what love looks like
I never dreamed, I would see such a sight
This is what love looks like

There is no sorrow
In all the world
Deep as a father’s
Who has lost his little girl

He begs the Healer
Come to her side
A whispered word
The daughter stirs
And now she’s alive

And over by the door
Her father stands amazed
And when he tells the story he will say

Oh, this is what love looks like
Oh, this is what love looks like
I never dreamed, I would see such a sight
This is what love looks like

Well, I have seen it too, in the ways a soul can see
When I doubt like Thomas all these things are shown to me
The nail prints in his hand, the wound deep in his side
The body has been broken but his arms are open wide

This is what love looks like
This is what love looks like
I never dreamed, I would see such a sight
This is what love looks like.

The Pharisee, Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul and leader in the early Christian Church had initially lived out his faith by following the rules as strictly as he could. And he was good at it! “As to righteousness under the law,” he said he was “blameless.”

Paul explains: “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

The good news is that our salvation, our promise of life everlasting with God, does not come from memorizing and following the rules perfectly. It comes as a gift from God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and Jesus came – not to test us on the commandments, but to show us what it looks like to love God above all and to love our neighbours too.

All we need to do is look, and learn, and follow, and let God’s Spirit moving in our hearts and guiding our minds shape us more and more into the people God made us to be. People who, like Jesus, embody that same kind of love, making it visible in the world today.

Over the last six months as we’ve lived through the pandemic restrictions, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to study God’s Word in the Scriptures. But finally today, as some of us are gathered together in-person, we will also celebrate Holy Communion.

Whether you are here with us to taste the bread and drink from the cup, or whether you are watching online today, I invite you to look with the eyes of your heart and to see what love looks like. It’s made visible among us today in the Body and Blood of our Lord, broken and shared.

And then when you go out as God’s People, the Body of Christ in the world today, may you also embody God’s law of love, revealing to others what love looks like.