Hi ya'll and good morning! I'm not going to lie to you - today's reading is....difficult. Not because of any traumatic stories or anything but simply the legal mumbo jumbo about all the rules of the covenant that are so oddly specific it's very dense to get through. Hopefully knowing it going into it will help you power through!
Scriptures to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this teach me about God?
What does this teach me about humanity?
What does this teach me about myself?
- My Thoughts -
So, wow. Talk about a boring scripture section to read. What I appreciate about reading this section now in light of our current series, Love Your Neighbor, is that Jesus comes and boils all this mumbo jumbo down into 3 simple words. Love. Your. Neighbor. No worrying about if my Ox got me in trouble, or if I steal in the day I don't die, but at night I do die, or any of that. Love your neighbor not only encourages us not to harm our neighbors physically or financially over wrongdoings but instead is built on a foundation of forgiveness. As we continue to approach our time of the election the attacks against one another will only ramp up and sound much more like Exodus 22 - 24 than it will Matthew 19 so to speak. My challenge for myself, and for you dear reader, is to not build up rules against your neighbors but instead be built on a foundation of forgiveness and love.
Rules also make me think of a quick story. A church I previously attended a few times made a big fuss with their rules in the sanctuary not unlike this section of scripture. No drinks in the sanctuary, kids must be quiet and in their seat like perfect angels and if they make a squeak they must be taken to the back of the church until they are quiet, do not touch the offering plates because your fingers oils will tarnish it, do not, do not, do not, do not, etc. One week a young woman and her child were making noise and the whole church would turn around to look at them with shame. The couple never returned and the church mourned why it wasn't growing.
In contrast, I offer this story, there once was a pastor named Dick Parks in our conference, he was the senior pastor at a large church, probably 500-600 people at the time. Rev. Parks used to wander around as he preached and one day he was using a prop that a boy in the church was familiar with and wanted to play with. So that boy jumped out of his seat and ran up to the pastor while he was preaching asking if he could play with it. The boy's parents were incredibly embarrassed. Rev. Parks, however, was not. He smiled at the boy, knelt down, and on the fly changed his sermon to incorporate playing with the child. Not only did that become a memorable and favorite sermon among the church, that boy also grew up to become a pastor one day and is now reading your scripture each morning. I like to think he did that because the church loved me and didn't hand me a rule book on how to behave.
We can either have rules or we can love. I hope you will give love a chance.
God, thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ whose only rule for us is: Follow me. But Lord, I admit, even that is hard. Following Jesus requires sacrifice, and patience, and risk-taking and sometimes I am just too scared to do that. But I want to be a Christian in my heart, I want to love my neighbors, and I want people to know me by my love. So help me God, help me to follow you to the ends of the earth. Amen.
Devotional prepared by Nicholas W. Gliha, associate pastor of Chagrin Falls UMC on October 6th 2020.