Pastor's Page - July 2017
You shall not murder. –Exodus 20:13
The festival and commemoration calendar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America can be found on pages 14-17 of our worship hymnal. On these pages are the names of saints remembered during our liturgical year. August 10 is the commemoration day of a third century deacon, Lawrence of Rome, who was put to death in AD 258.
Lawrence was remembered last month. His name appeared in our worship bulletin on the 9th Sunday after Pentecost. The details of his life reveal courage and faith. He was responsible for the church’s financial matters and for the care of the poor. When the Prefect of Rome demanded of Lawrence the treasure of the church, Lawrence requested three days to collect all the wealth. After these days, Lawrence presented to the Prefect a collection of orphans, lepers, indigents, and others in impoverished conditions, declaring them to be the true treasures of the church. The enraged Prefect had Lawrence swiftly put to death.
You shall not murder is the fifth of God’s Ten Commandments. At one time in my life I believed that surely I would never violate the Fifth Commandment. Two teachings, however, militate against such naiveté. Jesus, first of all, teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that even anger toward another constitutes a violation of the Fifth Commandment (Matthew 5:21-26). Secondly, Luther taught that violations of the Fifth Commandment include harming others by refraining to support them in all of life’s needs. Jesus Christ and Martin Luther broadly defined the definition of murder. Who are we to adopt a narrower meaning of the word?
Christian faith and the Lutheran tradition invite us into serious reflections regarding the Fifth Commandment. Anger, resentments, and insensitivities that we harbor toward family, friends, co-workers, and others are transgressions of the Fifth Commandment. We become by these temperaments like the Prefect of Rome toward Lawrence. We murder others by our thoughts, words, and actions, from hearts filled with rage. The ongoing forgiveness and healing of our distorted affections can be found in Jesus. Our faith teaches us that God is always ready in every moment of every day to forgive, renew, and to transform our lives from the inside out.
As we prepare for Rally Day on September 10, let us include in our preparations many prayers to God for the healing of temperaments. Relationships in our homes, work settings, and in the church will be improved as we make ongoing confessions of anger and resentments. The liberating word of forgiveness we hear from God from every confession enables us to become new again, healed, and ready to serve more fully with grateful hearts. By the grace of God, let us rally to keep the Fifth Commandment. Life will become all the more blessed as we do.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Doug Heagy