Maricopa Lutheran ChurchGATHERED by the Holy Spirit;
FED with the Word;
SENT to make Christ known.

Desert Wind School, 35565 W. Honeycutt Rd.
Maricopa, AZ 85138

Worship at 9 am

10:15 am Sunday School
   for 3-5th Graders
10:15 am Adult and Teen
   Bible Study


Pastor Glenn Zimbelman

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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Uplifting others and the 5th Commandment - July 9, 2017

Pastor Glenn Zimbelmann
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Murder Mystery Image

I think almost all of us like a good who-done-it.   Jan and I like to watch British murder mysteries because those Brit’s know how to write a good story.  Today we are looking at the 5th commandment, Thou Shall Not Kill.   As an observation, the breaking of this commandment happens early in Genesis as Cain kills Able.  From a cultural perspective, not killing someone seems like a wise thing to do with regard to community.  If people could kill as they wished, the community would die.  But most people who read this commandment can smugly say to themselves, I have never killed anyone.  I am sure if it means taking the life of a human being, everyone here could say that.  Unless one of you is hiding the fact and now we have our murder mystery.  Jesus being Jesus defines, quote, killing, unquote, as more than just taking a human life. So let us first look at how Luther’s defines this commandment.

“We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs”

Let’s read that again together.  Luther loves to put a positive spin on the commandments.  Even though the commandments say, thou shall not, Luther wants to also remind us of the thou shalls.  The meaning here is how to carry out the commandment in a positive way.  

So the first part of the commandment is that we are to neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors.  Another way to think about this, what are ways we “kill” without a physical death.  I did not have a whole lot of self esteem as a child.  It certainly didn’t help that I had a hearing issue.  Nor did it help that being born early meant I would have very skinny legs and a very skinny body.  While it is natural that 7th graders would tease but I heard things like,  better tie a rock to Zimbelman, or the wind will blow him away.   Words have a way of either uplifting or cutting people down.  Words can even kill.  We heard about the tragic case of the girlfriend who essentially use words to get her boyfriend to kill himself.  And when he was in the middle of doing so, she didn’t even call the authorities.   So think about all the ways we endanger or harm our neighbor?  Well we gossip.  Let me ask you something, even if it is true, should the story be told so that someone else is harmed?   We are becoming a culture a nation in which anger and rage is the norm.   

Picture of the Rage

I love our library I use it to read magazines to keep up with the world.  It certainly saves on paying for subscriptions.  In an issue of The Week which is similar to Time or Newseek.  This is the picture of the cover.  Now I know I am skating on thin ice to bring up politics but I want to use it as an example.  According to The Week, two decades ago Pew Research showed that just 21 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats gave the other party a very unfavorable rating.  Roughly 1/5 of the members of both parties viewed the other party as unfavorable.  That meant that 4/5 were at least positive about the other side.  That was 20 years ago.  By last year the contempt rating has shot up to 58 and 55 percent respectively.  It gets worse, 45 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats view the other party as “a threat to the nations well-being”.  Well guess what.  If you view the other party, whether it is democrat or republican as a threat to the nations well being, no wonder we can’t solve anything.  The contempt that exists between political parties, spouses, any person in leadership and public service people is harming our world.  When you have contempt for people do you know what that really means?  It means they don’t matter in your eyes.  When we have contempt we are breaking this commandment.  Apparently Maricopa had a road rage incident the other day.  Two men damaging each other’s cars and holding up traffic.  When will these people ever grow up?  Killing can take on so many forms. 

 We must recognize that too often for one group to get ahead, it means that another group must suffer.   Our Gospel Lesson refers to forgiving our neighbor or family member before the sun goes down.  It is a reference to never letting the sun set with anger still raging.  Get rid of the anger, or it will carry you though the night and into the next day.   So let’s just agree that all of us are guilty of breaking this commandment.  All of us kill in one way or another.

Picture of Helping Hands.

There is a flipside of this commandment.  Luther loved to make it positive as I have said.  The second half of the commandment says this,

“help and support them in all life’s needs”

The other days someone asked me what is a good approach for dealing with homeless people looking for handouts at the side of the road.  It is hard to not stop and give something.  Guilt also enters in.  What Jan’s church does is to give away goodie bags.  Essentially Jan has in her car a bag filled with energy bars, water and snack items.   Now when she sees someone at a corner that is what she gets.  So imagine as she gives the bag away at a stop light the homeless person says, Thank you.  Jan responds, I am just keeping the 5th commandment.   I am sure that if they knew it, they would freak out.  But that is what she is doing.  When we give of ourselves to help thy neighbor we are keeping the commandment.

It is helpful for us to take a step back and think about the value of the commandments.  We are in the section that focuses on community.  Essentially, how are we to treat and live with each other?  Now in Old Testament times this was actually easier than it is today.  People were agricultural in nature and communities were small.  Everyone knew each other.  Everyone was family.  Jewish people understood what it meant to be Jewish.  They were all in this together.  Now days, we are faced with a world that is quite complex and quite fragmented.  Did you know that the United States is the most religiously diverse country in the world?  That is both something to celebrate but also a challenge as well.  Can we be open to expanding who our community is?  Is our community just those in our own HOA and people who think and look like us?  Is our community only those who follow our political party or who happens to be Lutheran?  Or can we imagine that our community includes everyone and it that is the case, than we are called to support all people with their life’s needs.

Car Trouble

I am sure all of us can recall a time when a stranger helped us.  Perhaps you had car trouble.  Perhaps you lost your wallet or purse?  Perhaps someone saw that you were lost and directed you where you needed to go.   It is the difference between seeing others with contempt or worse yet simply ignoring them and seeing others as part of the human family.  Instead of having a murder mystery, you can surprise people with mysterious random acts of kindness.   For in those random acts, a gift of water, paying for someone’s meal and so forth we discover the human family is a family that cares.  It is how we keep the 5th commandment.  Amen.

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