Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Fourth Commandment

"Honor your father and your mother."

In a way, the Fourth Commandment is the First Commandment, because it is the first commandment of the Second Table (commandments four through ten).  Paul writes, "This is the first commandment with a promise, 'that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land'" (Eph. 6:2-3).  And so to children I would say:

What does the Holy Bible say?
Your parents honor and obey;
This is the first command for you,
The most important thing to do;
You children safe and sound will be!
God keeps His promise faithfully.

And to parents:

O father, mother, listen well,
And Scripture will the secret tell:
To keep them from a bitter heart,
Instruct your children from the start
In the Commandments and the Creed
And in the Prayer for ev'ry need.

Now according to the Small Catechism, the Fourth Commandment means this: "We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them."  The word "Honor" is used by God only here in the Ten Commandments.  He applies it to parents, and not even to Himself!  And its meaning is captured in four verbs: serve, obey, love, cherish.  Ask yourself, Have I prized my parents as the most precious treasure on earth and revered them as second only to God?

The Catechism adds "other authorities."  Who are these?  Answers include my teacher, supervisor, pastor, those who represent the government, my elders, the aged, and I would also include veterans.

But most of all, parents (grandparents too, and guardians).

And a word to our youth.  Do not buy the lie that your parents are against you.  Because no one on earth loves you more, wants more for you, or would sacrifice more for you than your parents.  It's true!

If you want to be cool, truly cool, and a true Christian, and safe and sound, Honor your father and your mother...all your days.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Third Commandment

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."

The First Commandment is about God Himself, and the Second is about His name.  The Third Commandment, then, is about His Word and how we should gladly hear and learn it.

In the Old Testament, that is, before the birth of Christ, the Sabbath day referred to the seventh and last day of the week, Saturday.  Now in the New Testament, we learn and believe that Christ Jesus is the true Sabbath day, the one who gives us rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28-30).

As for what the Third Commandment means according to the Small Catechism, it means: We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

A word worth thinking about here is "gladly" (in German, gerne).  It means "with pleasure, willingly, and readily."  With joy!  What comes to my mind right away is the first line of Psalm 122, which I learned to sing as a child: "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord!'"  Which means, "Let us go to church with joy in our hearts, smiles on our faces, and ears ready to hear God's Holy Word!"

Yes, what does "gladly" look like?  Answers: Looking forward to Sunday morning like no other time of the week.  If possible, attending church and Sunday School faithfully each week.  Preparing for Sunday on Saturday.  Arriving a little bit early to pray before service.  Taking the message home with you and into the week.  Enjoying other opportunities to hear and learn God's Word.

And, what is that Word?  In summary: "Take heart, child, your sins are forgiven."

And note that the word "gladly" is used also in the Close of the Commandments: "Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands."

May the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with true gladness!

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Second Commandment

Parents, take time this week to practice the Ten Commandments with your children.  Do the actions if you know them.  And teach your children that part of loving Jesus is loving His commandments.

The Ten Commandments use the word "no" or "not" a total of eight times.  As a result, people hear the Commandments as a bunch of "no's."  And as a result of this, they hear only part of them, and the smaller part at that.  But for every one of the no's, there is a Yes standing behind, bigger and taller than the no in front of it.

This is something Martin Luther saw and communicated in the Small Catechism.  Let's take one example - the Second Commandment: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God."  According to the Catechism, this means the following:

"We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks."

I have put the no in bold and the Yes in italic.

See how the commandment opens up into a Yes.  The Second Commandment becomes an invitation to worship God and receive His help.

The no is still there but now is dwarfed by the Yes.

To say a little more, the old man (the sinful flesh) hears only the no.  This is the language he understands.  While the new man (born in Baptism) hears the bigger, louder Yes behind it.  And so to him the Ten Commandments are a choir of Yes's.  And that is the purpose of the Commandments: to check the old man, but to direct the new in the way of love.

Ask the Holy Spirit to perform both these tasks in your heart.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The First Commandment

"You shall have no other gods."

The first thing we come to in the Small Catechism is the Ten Commandments.  They will be followed by the Creed and the Lord's Prayer.

The first thing to notice about the Ten Commandments is that there are, no surprise, ten of them.  God gave us each ten fingers (and ten toes!), and He gave us ten commandments.  Let your fingers remind you of the Ten Commandments!

The first three commandments have to do with our relationship toward God, while commandments four through ten are about our relationships toward others, beginning with our parents.

The First Commandment is indeed the first, the foremost, and the foundation for the other nine.  And the First Commandment is this: You shall have no other gods.

What does this mean?  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  This is the shortest What does this mean? of all the commandments.  And yet, what more needs to be said?  A person could say a thousand words about the First Commandment, or ten thousand, and not say as much as these eleven words.

But Luther does us a favor.  Under the Close of the Commandments, he talks about what it means to fear, love, and trust: "God threatens to punish all who break these commandments.  Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them.  But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments.  Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands."

Let's single out the word "trust."  Every other What does this mean? will use "fear and love."  And these two things are very important.  Only here, with the First Commandment, do we have the word "trust."  Trust is the most important thing.  For when we begin to see our many sins against the Ten Commandments, we must trust in God's word of forgiveness and in His beloved Son, our dear Lord Jesus.

You are to trust in God above all things - even above the seriousness of your sins.