Custard, Navman & Commandments
(some excerpts from a sermon on Matthew 22:34-46)
How many of you love being told what to do?
There are some who do you know. Some people are attracted to authority figures – they like decisions being made for them. They like the simplicity of it. It brings order into their lives. No people like that have ever lived in my house or attended churches where I have ministered!
It has been one of the hardest things for me to convince people that many of the things that they think are rules are really just suggestions.
Many people who are cooking think that the recipe has to be adhered to. I remember my first forays into cooking and reading the instructions on the custard packet. I followed the instructions to the letter and custard was an insipid runny mess. From that day on I have totally ignored the instructions and have tipped the custard powder into the milk according to what feels right and I have reaped the rewards; people have always passed positive comments on my custard. (Not that I have eaten it in months or even years!)
People think that the instructions that come with new televisions or computers have papal authority. People buy machines that they put in their cars that tell them where to turn and how to get to where they want to go, and then they do what the machines say! These machines are manufactured in Asia! Have you seen the way people drive in Asia?! What do they know about the nuances of driving in our country?
My nephew bought one of these for himself as a Christmas present. He installed it in his car and puts it on when he heads out anywhere. The young man lives in Timaru – no one gets
lost in Timaru! He has lived all his life in Timaru and he probably knows the names of 85% of the streets. Why does he need a machine to instruct him?
Some day soon they will invent a machine that tells people what clothes to wear and how to put them on!
New Zealanders basically hate being told what to do. The opportunity to step away from authority figures and make a go of things on their own terms was part of what brought our ancestors to this land.
One of the things that people identify as a reason that they have walked away from the church is that they feel judged and that there are too many rules. Thus it intrigues me how willingly people give authority to television reporters, clairvoyants, and gossip columnists but dismiss the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t in the habit of making commandments. In today’s reading he was only
stating commandments because of the question being put to him. The other commandments he makes are kind of wacky – if someone hits you on your cheek, turn the other way and let that person hit you on the other side as well. If someone sues you for your coat, give that person your shirt as well. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off! Pray for your enemy. Rejoice and be glad when someone persecutes you.
Jesus wasn’t in the habit of making commandments – really, for him everything comes down to love – love as God loves, love as you have been loved. But when he does command we dismiss these commandments as options. Don’t judge others, he says, but we do. Take the log out of your own eye before you criticise someone else, but we don’t. Do to others as you would have them do to you, but we think and say quite malicious things behind people’s backs and don’t think that it is a problem.
Love God with everything of who you are – was that a suggestion?
Love your neighbour as yourself – is that an option?