Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 2, 2011
 1 Then God gave the people all these instructions: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
 3 “You must not have any other god but me.
 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.
 7 “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
 8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
 12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
 13 “You must not murder.
 14 “You must not commit adultery.
 15 “You must not steal.
 16 “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
 17 “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

 18 When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.

 19 And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”

 20 “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

In our journey through the Old Testament lectionary readings, we have reached Moses and the Ten Commandments.  This past summer our pastor led us through a series on the Ten Commandments.  He did a great job on that.  When you think about it, all of the laws in our country are based on these simple ten laws — Even if your extract the first four which are directed at our relationship with God.  The Pharisees asked Jesus which was the greatest of these commandments.  Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (PDP – the Pastor Dale Paraphrase)

Several years ago I was teaching a Sunday night series and we were discussing this love for God and for others.  When you think about it, if we get these two right, everything else will fall right into place.  In the book of James we hear, “True and lasting religion in the eyes of the Father is this; “Take care of the widows and orphans and keep yourself from being polluted by the world.”  Again, if we get these two right, everything else will fall in place.  The Ten Commandments simply expand on these to components.  I encourage you this week to ask God to help through the power of His Holy Spirit to love God with everything you have and to love your neighbor as yourself.

A Wild End

While the main focus of this blog is pastoring in a smaller community and worship, there are times when I comment on current events or even sports.  Last night after we finished at church, I went home and had planned to head straight to bed, but that’s when I discovered ESPN was carrying all four games that would determine the final two playoff spots for the the Division Series.  It was coming right down to the final game of the season.  Major League Baseball had even made provisions if the season did not end last night.  There would be a one game play-in today.  As the night progress, it seemed certain that that Tampa Bay was going to lose, being down 7 runs to the Yankees.  The Cardinals appeared to have their game well in hand.  The Red Sox had a small lead over the Orioles and the Braves were up by one over my hometown team.

At 11 pm last night, it looked like there might well be a playoff in both leagues.  Because of extra inning games in Atlanta and Tampa Bay and a rain delay in Baltimore, the Cardinals who had started an hour later finished their game early.  Now the

Braves knew they had to win.  The Phillies came back in the top of the 9th to tie (and for the most part, this game was my focus.) I was really hoping the Phils could win three straight going into the playoffs.  During commercials I would change over to the Yankees/Rays.  The Red Sox/Orioles game was blacked-out on ESPN in our market because it was on MASN, which we currently don’t receive.  The Phillies took their game into the 13th inning and finally scored.  It was just a matter of holding off the Braves in the bottom of the 13th.  All of a sudden, things got interesting.  The Rays scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th and tied the game in the bottom of the 9th.  Now two games were in extra innings.  This was getting good.

The Phils finally beat the Braves and you could see the look of players whose season had slipped completely out of their hands.  This was an historic collapse, much like the Phillies of 1964.  I was much too young at the time, but I remember hearing stories of it. Can you imagine how the Braves felt?  You could see the disbelief on their faces.  They had almost an insurmountable lead in the Wild Card race and yet the Phillies will be playing the Cardinals, who played fantastic ball through the month of September instead of the Braves.

Now it was time to watch to see how the American League would shake out.  The Yankee and Rays also went to extra innings.  Boston and Baltimore were now playing again.  It was now nearing midnight.  With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, the Orioles got a man on base.  Before long the Orioles had scored and tied the game.  I could hear the Rays fans getting all excited.  Not long after, I could hear the cheers as the Orioles scored a second time, defeating the Red Sox in the bottom of the 9th.  Now it was all in the Rays’ hands.  Almost as soon as the Red Sox went down in defeat Evan Longoria took a pitch over the short (both height and distance-wise) wall in left at Tropicana Field and the Rays win.  For the second time in just under an hour another team completed an historic collapse.  There was a point earlier in September that the Red Sox had a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs and yet with the 3rd highest payroll in baseball, they didn’t.  

 

The 2011 Braves and the 2011 Red Sox join the ranks of the 1964 Phillies collapse.  It was interesting to listen to the sports commentators — it was interesting to listen to the interviews — how could this happen?  It wasn’t supposed to end this way and yet it did.

As I watched all the drama unfold, I was reminded that our lives can be like what happened last night.  I know that since I have been running, I understand more now the concept of finishing well.  You can’t go out too fast or you won’t have the strength to finish — you must pace yourself.  Both teams were in a great position coming into September.  All they had to do is win half of their games and they would finish with a Wild Card birth and yet in both the Red Sox and the Braves’ case, that didn’t happen.

I know that I needed this reminder for my spiritual life last night.  It is an important reminder that we need to finish well.  We need to keep pressing forward.  It’s great to look back on the accomplishments we have made – and it’s ok to do that, but we must always keep our eye on the prize — both in our regular life and in our spiritual life — which by the way should be one and the same.  So the question is today, are you pressing on?  Are you keeping your eye on the prize?  That is the only way that we will finish well.

Give Us Greater Hunger

Give us a greater hunger, Lord,
Than we have ever known.
Help us to wait in one accord
Until Your power is shown.
Keep us, Your children, on our knees
Beseeching You with might pleas
Till floods of blessing like the seas
Sweep over all Your own.

Give us a sense of urgency
That will not be denied
Give such desire Your work to see
Till ease we cast aside.
Give us soul- hunger and soul- thirst
Till hearts with longing almost burst,
Till we could wish ourselves accursed (Romans 9:3)
If souls but reach Your side!

Lord, now begin Your mighty work;
Make bare Your holy arm.
O God, forbid that we should shirk
Or to this age conform!
Oh, come upon Your Church this hour
By Your own working, Lord, empower
Till Satan’s forts we storm.
Help each of us to do our part;

O Lord, may we not fail.
Give clearest guidance to each heart
Till highest mounts we scale.
Use us however You may choose;
We would no burden Lord, refuse;
But get us, Lord, where You can use
And mightily prevail.

Oh, send the promised Holy Ghost
Upon us as we kneel,
We need His holy working most
Till men conviction feels.
Lord, this is still the day of grace;
Have mercy on our dying race.
Revival sends to every place;
Your miracle reveals.

Wesley Duewel

Worship Begins In the Heart

Remember that the Christian life is fundamentally a love relationship with God out of which issues a life of worship and service.  It is a life of giving.  Worship is not something you get, it is something you give!  Worship does not begin in the worship service; worship begins in the heart.

Ron Owens, Return to Worship: A God-Centered Approach