A Higher Calling

Updated: Aug 30, 2019

Deuteronomy 5:1-16; Luke 13:10-17


Good morning! For those of you who weren’t here the last couple Sundays, this sermon is part four of a six-part series on the Ten Commandments. If you missed any of these sermons, you can go to the church’s website and read the written text of my sermons. And if you want an e

xtended discussion of the Ten Commandments, please check out my podcast at softidolatry.com. Also, today, we’re celebrating the sacrament of baptism—now I know this sounds a lot like the intro to last Sunday’s sermon, but this is actually fresh content. Yes, we’re having another baptism today.

This morning we’re celebrating the sacrament of baptism for Charleigh Marian Pullen. She’s the daughter of Steve and Jill Pullen; Jill was baptized here in FPC when she was a baby, and when her mother, Laura Kiwit was an active member. And guess what? Jill and Laura are transferring their memberships back to this congregation. We will officially recognize their membership after some paperwork is done and the Session has met and examined them, sometime this fall. Today, we will welcome Charleigh into the family of Christ! She gets to be the focus of our attention today. And Jesus. We’re focused on Jesus, too. Right?

When I introduced this sermon series a few weeks ago, I pointed out that, Jesus, when he’s asked which commandment is the greatest, he offers a short summary of the Ten Commandments. He says—I’m paraphrasing here—love God with every fiber of your being and love your neighbor as you love yourself. There’s no commandment greater than these. Nor can we separate out any one commandment from all the rest; they all function together.

The first four commandments tell us how we are supposed to love God. The last six tell us how we are supposed to love our neighbors. The Fifth Commandment states: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Like many of the commandments, it’s not hard to understand. In fact, for many people, it’s not even that difficult to live into. Yet I wonder, why is this commandment the pivot from loving God to loving neighbor? Why is this the first instruction regarding how we treat our neighbors? Wouldn’t it make more sense if this section of the commandments began with something like, “you will not commit murder,” or “you will not steal?” Wouldn’t killing or stealing be more disruptive to society?

To put it another way: if I’m rude to my mother or my father, that makes me a big jerk. Period. But how is that even on par with killing or stealing? Right?

There’s a subtle clue in the last part of this commandment: “Honor your father and mother… so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

In ancient Israel, property was life. The basic family unit was called the beth av, or the house of the father. This wasn’t just the physical house, but all of the land and livestock that was owned by the family, too. This provided the income to feed and clothe the entire family—mom and dad, all the kids, and usually some extended family members, too. This might have included elderly grandparents, mothers-in-law, or perhaps cousins who had been orphaned.

It was the duty of the father to provide for all of those people. It was also the duty of the father and mother to produce a male heir, someone to inherit the property—this is going to be really important next week, when we consider the commandments against murder, theft, and adultery. In that society, there was nothing that was more important than the orderly transfer of property from one generation to the next.