Sermon: Cold Stones and warm hearts.
Lately I have been watching a wonderful program on Danish TV. It is a series about the Danish History through time, all the way from the Ice age that shaped the landscape and the living conditions of the country Far north through the Stone age and finally with fascinating stories about King Bluetooth, Absalom, Valdemar Atterdag and the first mighty Queen Margrethe.
The stone age is indeed a very fascinating time to study . A time in history when early humans used tools and weapons made out of stone. It lasted from when the first stone tools were made by our ancestors about 3 million years ago, until the introduction of metal tools a few thousand years ago. So, yes, I do believe that the world is older than 7000 years.
The Danish History broadcast made me once again look at these stones, these pieces of Danish treasure throve. My grandfather was so gifted to find these thrives in the abundant fat soils of Fyn. Walking behind the horse or later sitting on his machines, he could spot these tools of stone from a distance or hidden in the soil. Spear, axes, hammerheads. Thousands of years ago a stone age village had been on his land, and now he was finding all these treasures from a long-lost time. They tell a story about the stone age or the hunter age that lasted until a few thousand years ago when metal was introduced and changed the lives and times forever.
The stone was a very important tool in the history of mankind. And later we as Danes know that the mighty king Harald Bluetooth indeed did chiseled his endeavor and might into the Rune Stones.
Moses got the 10 commandments on two tablets of stone. According to history Moses lived about 1500 years before Christ, which by the way was the end of the marvelous time of Egypt with it grand building and famous pyramids of stones.
Stones has been a part of history through time and ages. Moses time and the age of the 1o commandments we estimate to be approx. 3500 years old and the ten commandments was given to Moses on two massive tablets of stone up on mount Sinai.
The ten commandments chiseled on the stone, has since been crushed, read, misunderstood, interpreted, shared, and implemented. The 1o commandments has through the Jewish and later Christian history been the cornerstone of the Jewish and Christian ethics.
They were written by Gods finger on the tablets of stone and by Gods spirit on the hearts of humans.
The ten commandments are primarily religious. The first 3 commandants concern our relations hip to god and the last 6 ones our relationship to our neighbor.
There is one God, and one God only, and don’t use his holy name in vain or in lies and remember to rest on the holy day. This is strictly religious commandants and the rest is all about human relation and thus moral commandments:
Honor your parents, don’t kill, be unfaithful, lie, envy, or steal.
These are not just the cornerstone of our humanity, but even more of civilization and democracy.
And after Moses came Jesus….
He also knew and respected the ten commandments and the letter of law. But his focus was different. He focused on the law of heart and the words of love. As we heard in the Gospel according to John: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments….” Love calls us to keep the commandments, love sets us free to try our very best.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant between God and humans, - not through cold tablets of stone but through warm insisting love. The double commandment of love: “Love your God and your neighbor as yourself.” This commandment of love alongside the 10 commandments probably was the cornerstone of the first congregation’s teachings.
The 1o commandments is a good guide to find salvation and find a way to live well, - but for Jesus it was not all about keeping to the rules and laws. The love of the heart and the mind was most important – and many times Jesus did break the laws of his times, to love and live.
It is not about keeping the commandments and the rules for appearance or respect, - it is about fate, love and grace.
This year 2017, many stones have been turned since the days of Moses and Jesus, - and this year we do celebrate and remember yet another cornerstone of our church, society, and democracy. The 500 anniversaries of the Reformation. The 10 commandments were at the center of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.
“ We are Gods house and church today, built by living stones….” Thus, our Danish reformer Grundtvig writes. We are Gods church, built on traditions and generations of stones and teachings, but also built by us today, by living stones.
Danish and American law and civilization was founded on the 10 commandments in many ways. The cornerstone of our modern society literally is built on two old tablets of stone, from distant land and time. And we built on… as a society and as a church. As a human and as Christians.
Jesus too built on the old tablets of stone, and he did lay new layers, that specifically spoke to our heart and our faith and our hope. Jesus did point to grace, just as later Luther and later again Grundtvig, the amazing grace towards humans who are both sinner and saint, and need God’s grace.
Jesus said today: “The who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me, and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Love is trust, it is honesty, it is grace and mercy.
The Danish middle-aged couple Bent and Inger were not the most religious and in fact they only went to church once a year. As they were leaving church on a fine day in May, the pastor said: “Bent, it sure would be nice to see you and Inger here more than once a year!”
“I know, “Bent said,” but at least we keep the 10 commandments! “
“that’s great, “the pastor said, “I am glad to hear that!”
“yes, “Bent said, “Inger keeps six of them and I keep the other four!”