I remember the first of the Indiana Jones movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, when they discover the Ark of the Covenant that had been owned by the Hebrew tribes since Moses got the Law on Mt. Sinai. There are a lot of adventures and finally, Indiana and his companion are all tied up at the end of the movie while some Nazi’s open the Ark and are destroyed by the fires that erupt from within. Finally, Indiana takes the Ark and transports it back to the United States where in the last moments of the film, as the credits roll the Ark disappears into a massive government warehouse probably never to be seen again.
I loved that scene for a number of reasons. First of all, how God’s law superseded the Nazi militancy and dictatorship. Secondly, the way that the whole thing was stored away at the end so that we still have it, but presumably don’t really know where it is.
The truth of it all is that we really do know where it is. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses early in his prophetic life, have been with us through all of the development of our religions. We know on some level that they are true and that we need them. Many people have been tempted to worship them. There is the story of the judge in Alabama who wanted to build a monument to the ten commandments in his court and was prevented by other judges who told him that this wasn’t quite right.
The Ten Commandments became a foundation of the law that was added to and expanded in the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to include all manner of things that humans like to do; the law is expanded throughout the Old Testament.
One of the great gifts that Jesus gave to humanity was to tell us what it is that God wants from all of us. In the Sermon on the Mount are the beatitudes that outline God’s grace for those who suffer: blessed are the meek; they shall inherit the earth; and blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Then finally Jesus gives us his commandments. The first of these is to Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment, Jesus says. And the second is like unto it: Love your neighbor as a person like yourself. On these two commandments hang all of the law and the prophets.
That is incredibly good news for all of us. Love is the critical issue. We don’t have to spend our time acting like the supreme court analyzing the commandments to be sure that we obey all of them. All that we have to do is to love our God and each other.
But that isn’t really easy, is it. Look at this society of ours. I get to the point sometimes that I don’t want to watch the news. One thing after another seems to cloud our contemporary lives. How many shootings have we had this year? This month? This week? I’ve also been disgusted at the way that the kids at the border have been treated – taken away from their parents and locked in cages. We can certainly do better than this. On the good side, what a wonderful show of love was given to those soccer players stranded in the cave in Thailand. One of the seals who was trying to rescue them died, but all twelve were rescued along with their coach.
Love has always been elusive to us because of our human greed and egos. There are lots of stories about how we have failed to love. The story in Mark’s gospel about John the Baptist telling King Herod that it isn’t lawful for him to marry his brother’s wife does nothing but get him imprisoned and finally beheaded when Herod’s daughter Salome danced and asked for John’s head on a platter. And it certainly didn’t take humanity long to deal with the beauty that Jesus offered to all of us. He threatened the established religion to the point that they had to get rid of him.
As soon as it was possible, he was arrested, turned over to Pilate and the Romans and crucified on the cross. But even with all of this, God wasn’t finished. From his place on the cross, Jesus forgave those who crucified him; he invited the thief who was crucified with him to join him in eternal life and three days after his crucifixion, Jesus was raised from the dead to remind us once again that Love is the issue. God’s extravagant love of us all to not let Jesus’ death be the last word; and to continue to love each of us in our lives.
So how do we continue to love in the face of all of the noise and corruption that is around us? I know that there have been prayer meetings about the kids on the border and that a number of churches have gathered food for the hungry. This is the kind of good work that love for one another dictates. A number of churches are supporting the kids on the border by holding prayer meetings, raising money and doing other things to help. These things might seem to be small, but they make a difference. Continue to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as a person like yourself. That is our work.