Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sermon for fifth mid-week Lent service - 9th and 10th Commandments


                                                                        Mid-Lent 5

                                                                        9th and 10th Commandments



            Several trends have been very evident in model railroading during the last twenty years. The first is that far fewer models of engines and freight cars are produced as kits that a person builds, assembles or details.  Instead the models come completely finished and ready to put on the track for operation.

            The second has been that these models have a degree of detail and accuracy that is outstanding.  I mean, these are gorgeous models that are exact representations of the prototype.  Engines now make the sound that a particular diesel engine or steam engine made. When you run them, they sound just like the real thing.

            The third probably won’t surprise you.  If the manufacturer does all the work of assembly and detail, and provides a model that is far more detailed and accurate, the price is not going to get any cheaper.  Instead, prices have skyrocketed to the point that when it comes to engines, it really doesn’t matter what comes out because it is going to be too expensive for me to buy.

            Prices have gone through the roof.  But manufacturers continue to produce new models because there are people buying them.  Matthew and I always marvel at this, and it usually leads to the observation: “There are people out there who have a lot more money than we do.”

            There are indeed people out there who have a lot more money than I do.  They can buy these models, when I really can’t.  Now would I like to have some of these models? Yes.  Do I really need these models – well, not really.  Do I already have many nice models to run and enjoy?  Certainly yes.  This raises the issue of whether I am going to be content. I have every reason to be – I mean I am really blessed have my model railroad equipment and the layout on which to run them.  But boy, I’d love to have a trio of Rapido RS-11’s to pull my freight trains.  And I know there are people out there who get to do this.

            The Ninth and Tenth Commandments both state that we are not to covet.  The Ninth Commandment says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.”  The Tenth Commandment says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  It’s not a perfect division, but we usually think of the Ninth Commandment as dealing with things, and the Tenth Commandment as dealing with people.

            To covet is to envy what belongs to our neighbor.  We want to have it.  It is to begrudge the fact that they have it and we don’t. We are upset because it seems unfair that they have something that we want, but don’t have.  And it is the action by which see seek to get it from our neighbor – especially in a way that only appears to be right.

            The Ninth and Tenth Commandments deal with God’s gift of contentment. The apostle Paul told Timothy in his first letter, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

            God teaches us to contemplate the blessings that he has given to us.  We must recognize that the only thing God has promised to us is daily bread – those things that are needed to support our body and life.  And then, God has blessed us with so much more than that!  He has provided us with every reason to be content when we consider all that he has given to us.

            Of course, the old Adam in us is never satisfied.  He is always looking to have more – to have better. He looks around and zeroes in on the things that other people have – the things that we don’t.  He sees the things and people in the lives of other that are better than in ours, and causes us to ignore the great blessings that we do have.  He kindles dissatisfaction with our lives, and prompts us to consider how we can get what others have.

            This is a great challenge for us because we live in a world that is constantly telling us that we need more and we need better.  The advertising industry has finely tuned methods by which it delivers this message to us – by which it dangles things in front of us.  Our culture which is so void of spiritual substance knows little else than those things that will make for the “good life.”  But the good life is an ever moving target as a continual flow of new products, renders what we have dated, obsolete and unacceptable.

            What the world teaches us about things it also does with people – especially our spouse.  The world’s view of relationships is that “it’s all about me.” My happiness, my satisfaction are all that matter. If those aren’t sufficient, then surely there is someone else out there who will fix that.  It teaches us to think nothing of leaving our spouse in order to be with someone else – even that if that person is someone else’s spouse. 

            The Small Catechism explains the Ninth Commandment by saying that we are not to “scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right.” It explains the Tenth Commandment by saying that we are not to “entice or force away” those in the life of our neighbor.  Luther emphasizes that these actions may not appear to be stealing.  They may be strictly speaking “legal.”  But he says, “It might not be called stealing or cheating, but it is coveting – that is, having designs on your neighbor’s property, luring it away from them against their will, and begrudging what God gave them.”

            Naturally, there is a similarity with the Seventh Commandment as it forbids stealing.  And just as in the Seventh Commandment, so also in the Ninth and Tenth Commandments the positive action that is inherent in keeping the commandments is to help our neighbor keep what they have.  We are to “help and be of services to him in keeping it.”  We are to urge the people in our neighbor’s life “to stay and do their duty.”  We help our neighbor and treat our neighbor just as we would want to be treated.

            We do covet.  We fail to embrace contentment in the recognition of God’s many blessings.  Because of this our sin, the Son of God gave up the greatest possible contentment of the divine life of the Holy Trinity in order to suffer and die for us.  Paul told the Philippians, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

            Christ loved us. He did not seek something better for himself. Instead, he gave up all in order bring us into the fellowship with God.  He humbled himself by being obedient to the Father to the point of death – even the humiliating and shameful death of the cross.  He did this in order to reconcile us to God – to win forgiveness by which we have been restored to the status of being children of God.

            Our Lord Jesus submitted himself to suffering and death for us.  But he did so in the knowledge that thereby he was also giving us life.  He entered into the world in the incarnation in order to die.  But as he told his disciples during his ministry, he also came to be raised from the dead. He came to defeat death and begin the resurrection of the Last Day.

            On Easter we will celebrate that Jesus has risen.  He lives! Because he does, we will live too, even if we die.  Paul said in the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”  Because our Lord has risen we know death cannot separate us from him. And we also know that he will yet give us something even better.  He will give us a share in his resurrection.  He will give us physical life that will never know suffering, pain or sickness - life that will never die.  As Paul told the Philippians, “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  On that day, we will know contentment that has no end.













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