How then shall we live?
Lent 3, Common Lectionary Year B
Genesis 1:26; Exodus 20:1-17
Â©2015 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones
Last week we began this preaching series â€œThe Caring Communityâ€
with the big existential question, â€œWhy?â€ Why, of all the things we might possibly be
as a community
– a musically gifted worshipping community,
– a learning community, explorers of Scripture and spirituality,
– a community focussed on social justice,
– a â€˜familyâ€™ and â€œseniorsâ€-friendly community,
WHY of all the things we could choose to focus on,would we believe ourselves to be called by God to be a â€œCaring Communityâ€?
To get at the question, we mused about the character of God. And after admitting that any description of the Creator of Universe will be partial at best, we concluded that this Divine Being, this Divine Source of Love, created all this out of a yearning for relationship, and having done so, binds Godâ€™s very self to creation in an eternal covenant of Care. God cares.
We care, because God cares.
And thereâ€™s more:
We are made in Godâ€™s image.
I can only speak for myself here, but when I allow this deceptively simple
creedal statement to frame my perspective and my actions, it defeats my pessimism and cynicism – about myself and about humans in general.
Whenever Iâ€™m about to give up on myself or others, thinking â€œIâ€™m no goodâ€ â€¦ orâ€¦
â€œThose people are useless, horribleâ€¦.â€this phrase brings me up short:
â€œWe are made in Godâ€™s image.â€
Oh, we may distort it, fall short of it,
fog the mirror in our attempt to forget it,
but we are creatures made in the image of God,
to share the same character, and the same purpose with God,
to bind ourselves, in covenant commitment,
to have dominion, to be stewards of,
to take care of Godâ€™s creation.
Isnâ€™t that mind-bogglingâ€¦. ? God has woven into our human DNA this divine characteristic,
this Godly, God-like compulsion to care! Now, before I get into the â€œHow, then, shall we care?â€ I ought to talk more about that word â€œCare.â€Itâ€™s quite a mundane word really, sometimes it can be quite impaired, uninspiringâ€¦ depending on our experience, say of
â€˜health care, self-care, homecare.â€™â€œI care about youâ€ can sometimes just be a slithering excuse for a lack of true love. And it would be true to say that the word didnâ€™t capture the theological imagination of the apostle Paul; he is captivated rather by the Love of God, declaring that â€œneither death nor life, things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depths, nor anything in all creation can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesusâ€ (Rom 8:38-9), and that when everything in life has gone to rack and ruin, â€œlove remains, love endures.â€ (1 Cor 13)
Wouldnâ€™t it be better if we were to rise to the challenge of being aâ€œLoving Community?â€ Well, perhaps, if you like, but the words love, and care, both in Biblical and contemporary language are not quite synonymous.
When God speaks the creative word to fashion the human creature after Godâ€™s likeness, it was for this purpose; not simply to love, but to have dominion, to be stewards of, to take care of all Godâ€™s creatures, including one another. Put most simply; love may be the initiator, but care is love in action.â€œ Careâ€ is love with flesh and bones, with touch, and word. What God loves, God cares for. What we love, we care for. Care is â€œthe provision of what is necessary for the health,welfare, protection, wellbeing of someone or something.â€
And we know well, all of us, what that is like.This past month, Iâ€™ve taken â€œCaring Communityâ€ on the road, to Womenâ€™s Group, Morning Connections, and to Menâ€™s Group. Weâ€™ve had two sessions now of Sharing Caring Practices, and one of our Sunday Evening â€œExploring Dark, Journey to the Lightâ€ sessions. In each gathering weâ€™ve discovered
just how embedded into our nature it is to care, to give care and to receive it.
From those earliest childhood memories of calamine lotion or Vapo-rub from a parent or grandparent, to our own first attempts to care for a pet, or a sibling, each participant in each of these groups connected quickly and deeply to this fundamental, God-given DNA within our bodies, minds and souls. We, made in Godâ€™s image, are made to care.
How, then shall we live?
How, then shall we care?
How will we shape ourselves in Godâ€™s image as caring community?
Itâ€™s in this framework that we revisit these so-called â€œ10 Commandments.â€
As we noted in the introduction, the correct translation for what weâ€™ve dubbed â€œcommandment, â€is â€œword.â€ (dâ€™bar) â€“ the same life-giving Word-Breath with which God creates the universe/world/birds/sunsets and us. They are ten life-giving â€œwordsâ€ from God
given as a guide to our steps, a template for how we, as humans, made in Godâ€™s image, can live as a caring community, doing what we were made to do, to â€˜take careâ€™ of creation.
Shaped by Godâ€™s love, choosing to trust in the provident grace of God that there is indeed abundant blessing for all Godâ€™s creation, a caring community binds itself to a common vision and purpose; to reject those things which fracture community and undermine Godâ€™s Dream;
â€¢ we shall pay attention to the giftedness of life and relationship, being faithful to one another as well as to God;
â€¢ we shall support one another in replacing fear and murderous hatred with love in action, providing protective care for all life;
â€¢ our words will be words of truth and care,Â not of gossip, bickering and blasphemy;
â€¢ our actions will be marked not by jealousy and covetousness, but by generous sharing of the earthâ€™s and our own gifts.
And this is just a beginning! Next week in our Caring Community series we will work together to imagine our own place within Godâ€™s Dream for a world that cares.
For today, this is enough to remember:
God created us to care.
Caring Community is the love of God in action.
This is our common vision, our common dream, our common purpose.