Sermon: Lent 2 RCL C – “Mind and Heart”


The Decalogue: Traditional

God spake these words, and said:
I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of
Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none
other gods but me.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the
likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth
beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow
down to them, nor worship them.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law
.

Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law
.

Honor thy father and thy mother.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law
.

Thou shalt do no murder.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law
.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not steal.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and incline our hearts to keep this law
.

Thou shalt not covet.
Lord have mercy upon us,
and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.


Cajun Ten Commandments
– Jus be one God… and das’ all.
– Don’t pray to nuttin’ or nobody… jus’ God.
– Don’t be cussin’ at nobody, specially the good Lord.
– When it be Sunday… get yo’self to God’s House.
– Listen to yo mama an’ you daddy.
– Don’t be killin’ no people… duck an’ fish das’ okay.
– God done give you a wife, be wit’ jus’ her.
– Don’t take nuttin’ from nobody else.
– Always told da whole troot.
– Don’t go wantin’ somebody’s stuff.

In his syndicated news column, Will Rogers said, “You give us long enough to argue over something and we will bring you in proofs to show that the Ten Commandments should never be ratified.” Sounds funny, but we know it’s true because anytime someone starts talking about putting up the Ten Commandments in a monument or something, there are at least a dozen others trying to tear them all down. I don’t have a dog in that particular fight, but to be honest, they all seem like they should be pretty easy to get behind, that is, as long as you keep Jesus out of it. Once Jesus gets involved, the standard get’s raised quite a bit.

Some might like to argue: Jesus is the God of the New Testament and the Ten Commandments are from the God of the Old Testament, but not only do we know that these are not two separate gods, we also know that Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

That’s why I believe it is so important that we go through the Decalogue at least once a year as we did at the beginning of the service. Not so that we can simply interpret and apply them as they read on the surface, but so that we can understand them in

light of the teachings of Jesus and so that the words of the Prophet Ezekiel, quoted by St. Paul, can be fulfilled:

I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
(Hebrews 8:10b)

It is one thing to know and be able to quote the commandments, but when they are written on our hearts, they change who we are. Jesus provided us with a few examples of what this looks like, which you are familiar with: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28) He then continues to teach about divorce, oaths, enemies, and more. He does not exhaust all the possibilities, that would be more burdensome than the Law that was already in place, so he provides a few examples of what it looks like to have this Law of God written, not only on our minds but on our hearts as well. In legal terms, it comes down to (I think!) the difference between a law and a principle. The simplest definition that I read states:

“A law externally compels you, through force, threat or punishment, to do the things someone else has deemed good or right. People follow or break rules.”

“A principle internally motivates you to do the things that seem good and right. People develop principles by living with people with principles and seeing the real benefits of such a life.” (Source)

The Ten Commandments (Ten Laws) teach us, You shall not murder, and Jesus defines the principle behind the original intent of that law: don’t even be angry with one another.

Jesus’ complaint against the religious leaders of his time: they were very concerned with the Law, but paid little or no attention to the principle, that which would govern not only a person’s exterior actions but their interior ones as well. Hence, Jesus’ complaint against them, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39) Jesus wanted them to teach both the Law and the principle so that lives and hearts could be changed, but as was noted, the Law was burdensome enough, and to add even more teaching to it would have been untenable, so instead of proposing that, Jesus provided the summary, the first part of which comes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second part from Leviticus 19:18. Combined they read, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) So, with that understanding, is love a law or is love a principle? Both. As Jesus commanded it, it is a law, but it is also a principle because it is what should internally motivate us. And not only is it both, but it is God.

When you want to understand the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, in the way that Jesus would have you… look for the love. When you say, “Lord, have mercy upon us and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee”, what you are truly saying is, “Lord, love us, and help us to make love the guiding law and principle of our lives.”

Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

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