1. While still the stuff of Super bowls,
a. The rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services
b. Has rendered the art of television advertising somewhat obsolete.
c. Yes, the art of advertising; I know that sounds strange, but it’s not really;
d. Advertising is a uniquely American art form;
i. And as we all know;
1. a well-designed Ad, a catchy jingle, a clever commercial
2. can stick with us forever.
2. For example: one of my favorite ads
3. was a commercial years ago for of all things, Volkswagen.
a. It takes place in a classroom. It is art class.
b. The teacher is passing amongst the rows of students,
c. and droning on to them as they dutifully color in their coloring books,
i. “Color between the lines. The lines are our friends.”
d. Until he comes to a young girl furiously scribbling all over the page with every color in her crayon box
e. The scene abruptly shifts to the girl, now grown, tooling down a mountain road in? Yes! A Volkswagen.
4. The commercial might have ended with some catchy tagline. I don’t remember.
5. But that is really beside the point – which was already made:
6. People who drive Volkswagens are people who make their own rules and color outside the lines.
a. And who would not want to be that?
7. We live in a world governed by rules.
a. Rules at work. Rules in school.
b. We are governed by traffic regulations, guided by table manners, controlled by laws on city state and national levels.
c. Even how we dress and act, the language we use, the jokes we tell are governed by rules of convention and custom which we did not write but only follow.
d. And there is nothing wrong with that.
e. After all, the rules are our friends.
8. Nevertheless, there are times when the rules seem so many, the laws so restrictive, the customs and conventions so…conventional,
a. that we yearn to break free; to color outside the lines; to drive that Volkswagen.
9. Why don’t we? Well sometimes we do.
a. And when that happens,
b. we run the risk of offending custom,
c. breaking convention
d. and trespassing against the law.
10. Perhaps that is the reason for the rush
a. we feel watching that girl turned woman racing along a mountain highway –
i. she is free; and we are afraid – afraid of breaking the law.
b. Because of course that is what the Law is for; to control us and make us good.
i. And to punish us when we are bad.
11. for from an early age we learn that if we don’t behave, we will be punished:
a. by mommy or daddy,
b. by teacher or coach;
c. by sister or father –
d. by God.
12. Indeed, many of us believe
a. that the bad things that happen to us in life
b. are because God is punishing us for not following the rules.
13. This belief has guided the behavior of people for generations.
a. It certainly guided the people of Israel.
b. We hear that guidance expressed in the first reading.
c. It comes from a book called the Book of Wisdom. The writer states:
d. “If you choose, you can keep the commandments. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”
e. In short: We know what is good and life giving. Choose it!
14. It seems so simple; – who needs that Volkswagen? color within the lines; follow the rules and be good.
15. But it is not so simple. And it never has been.
a. Despite what we learned from mommy daddy sister teacher church and or state,
b. It is hard to know what is good, and life giving.
i. And even harder to do it.
ii. Especially when God’ll get us if we don’t.
16. For the people of Israel, the Commandments, written on stone tablets,
a. became God’s Law Book for a good life.
17. And in Jesus’ day
a. it was the scribes who explained that Law and
b. the Pharisees who proclaimed a way of following that law
i. that would make people good.
18. And then comes Jesus.
a. Jesus gained his fame by challenging the rigid rules of the scribes and Pharisees.
b. But what does he tell his disciples?
c. “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into kingdom of heaven”
19. and before the disciples could even ask him what he could mean by this.
20. Jesus says exactly what he meant.
a. He says that anger is equal to murder and Thou shalt not kill.
b. He says that desire is equal to infidelity and Thou shalt not commit adultery.
c. He says that testifying by anything else other than our own honesty is equal to lying and Thou shalt not bear false witness.
21. Jesus so radicalizes the commandments that
a. Not only action, but the merest thought or desire violates them;
22. Whose righteousness could ever achieve that?
a. It seems that Jesus assures them that one day God’ll get us all!
23. Exactly; but perhaps not in the way we might think.
24. Because the question begs to be asked; who can make such demands of us?
a. Either someone who has already judged and condemned us
i. And thus, indicates through these demands the way we will inevitably fail
b. Or someone who has already accepted and saved us
i. And thus, reveals through them the way we will be encouraged to live.
25. Because if the rules are all that matter then we all fail.
26. But for Jesus, it is clear, that
a. long before the rules were written in stone
b. They were written on the flesh of our hearts. And thus,
c. It isn’t that the laws don’t teach us, but they teach us what we already know
d. It isn’t that the laws aren’t necessary, but they are guides, not punishments.
i. In short they reveal to us the way to God’s kingdom,
ii. rather than keep us from ever living there.
27. It is amazing how often we forget that Rules do count. Laws do matter; And not just as people of faith. The rules we follow and that laws we pass not only shape us, but they reveal what is in our hearts as individuals, families as a nation and as a Church.
28. they are guides to being a good person – or not
29. to being a happy family – or not,
30. to being a just nation – or not
31. to being a good, faithful Church or not.
32. Because the Book of Wisdom is right
33. we can choose -
a. but what we chose is not the law it is the life it points to.
b. The law is just the lines; which when followed are simply guides to a colorful picture, and a beautiful life. That is the goal; never fear.
c. IN fact if we live in constant fear of breaking rules,
d. That is a clear indication that while we might well be coloring within the lines
e. We have no idea what the picture we are coloring is for.
34. I think we know this, on one level –for if we didn’t how could we ever stand before God?
a. We have known it ever since another religious teacher, the Buddha, said thousands of years ago
b. “The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon”.
35. Jesus says something similar in today’s Gospel – in short, The Commandments are not the kingdom. They are signs pointing to it.
a. And when we live them, however imperfectly but sincerely, there is the kingdom of Heaven.
b. Not because God’ll get us for breaking rules. But because God already has us. And will never let us go.