21 Pentecost, Cycle A Proper 25, October 29,2017
Deuteronomy 34: 1-12 Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 Matthew 22:34-46
Youth Dialogue Sermon
Caroline: In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. You may be seated.
Catherine, what are you doing with those big thick books?
Catherine: They are books of all the laws.
Caroline: That's a lot of laws. But why are you carrying them around and why are you looking at your cell phone?
Catherine: Well, these books list just some of the laws in our country and I don't want to break any laws, anywhere. How do I know that I won't break a jay walking law in New Jersey, if I have go there? And I keep looking at my phone to see if my lawyer has called to see if I'm breaking any laws.
Alex: Well, don't you think that you are obsessing a bit too much about all the rules?
Catherine: Well, I may be obsessing but that still doesn't mean that I won't break a law. I just have to be prepared.
Caroline: There must be a better way to put yourself at ease over the fear of breaking a law.
Catherine: What do you mean?
Alex: I think she means that not all laws are created equal?
Caroline: I don't think that is what I meant, but what do you mean that "all laws are not created equal?"
Alex: I mean that some laws are more important than others. For example, here's a no brainer: Is it more important not to kill another person or pick up after your dog in the city park?
Caroline: I see what you mean. Of course, it is more important not to kill than to remove that natural dog fertilizer from the city park lawn. But how does that help Catherine's worry about the laws.
Catherine: Yeah, how can this help me? I just can't walk around being uninformed about the laws and rules of society.
Alex: Well, the main worry in life should be about keeping the most important rules.
Caroline: You mean like the 10 Commandments?
Alex: Exactly, Catherine, do you know the 10 Commandments.
Catherine: Yes, I know the Big 10. And I have mostly kept them, short of a few little "white" lies and borrowing some things from my sister secretly. And I've probably "coveted" a few times in wanting too much of what I do not have.
Caroline: So, it was you who borrowed my iPad! I'm glad you finally confessed!
Catherine: Okay, but give me some legal help please!
Caroline: I think Jesus gave some wonderful legal advice.
Alex: How did he do that?
Caroline: He wanted to teach people how to think legally and morally so they would know what to do.
Catherine: How did he do that?
Alex: Well, he reduced the Big 10 to the Big 3. And everyone can remember 3 things easier than 10 or the many other rules in life.
Catherine: And what is the Big 3?
Caroline: One: Love God. Two: Love your neighbor. Three: Love yourself.
Alex: If we judge everything that we do by loving God, loving our neighbor and loving our self, then we will only want to do what is right by God, by our neighbor and by our self.
Catherine: Okay, but what about all the thousands and thousands of rules? Are they important?
Caroline: They are important but important in a different way than how the Big laws are important.
Alex: Yes, the Torah had 613 rules about some of the small details of life. There were so many rules that you needed to have rabbis as religious lawyers around to tell you how to keep all the rules.
Caroline: In the time of Jesus, some of the minor rules were treated as more important than some of the big rules.
Catherine: Like what?
Alex: Like when Jesus healed people on the Sabbath and the religious leaders said that healing was work and so Jesus should not be doing the work of healing on the Sabbath.
Caroline: And that is really petty. If you lift your hand to wash your face or put a piece of bread into your mouth on the Sabbath, isn't that working too?
Catherine: I can really see how petty things could get.
Alex: Jesus was more concerned about our motives in our hearts. He was more concerned about learning how to think legally.
Catherine: Do you mean that he has given us the Holy Spirit who is like the Law of God inside of us? And we can consult the Holy Spirit to inform our conscience about doing right and wrong?
Caroline: Bingo. You've got it. Now ditch the books sister!
Catherine: Phew! What a relief. Jesus has taught me to be a moral and a legal thinker. Hmmm. If I do this will it mean that I am loving God, loving my neighbor and loving myself? If I can answer "yes" do these, then I should be safe in choosing what to do.
Alex: I'm glad that Jesus simplified the law for us, but it doesn't make it any easier.
Caroline: Why do you say that?
Alex: Well trying to love is never finished and we can always get better at doing loving things.
Catherine: I agree. Loving God, our neighbor and ourselves is a lifelong adventure and we never get finished.
Caroline: Well, I've got some good news and some bad news for everyone today.
Alex: What's the bad news?
Caroline: You have 613 rules to learn from the Old Testament and you probably are breaking many of them?
Catherine: What's the good news?
Alex: The good news is that the Big 10 and the even bigger Big 3 help us sort out the most important laws.
Caroline: But even better, Jesus promises to change our lives from within so that we can always be at work loving God, loving our neighbors and loving ourselves.
Catherine: That's probably a good place to stop. The law is not God's gift to us to make us petty and worried about doing wrong. God law is an invitation for all us to become better lovers of God, our neighbors and yes, ourselves. Can you say, Amen?