Sunday Catechism: Bright Metal on a Sullen Ground

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Q: What does the third commandment forbid?

A: The third commandment forbids our treating as unholy or abusing anything God uses to make Himself known.

In Children’s Church we spent some time taking this question in conjunction with last week’s question and reflecting on what it means to be reverent as opposed to abusive. How would you treat a toy with respect versus abuse? A friend? A parent? Money? Time? If our worship can be small-c-catholic, life itself is holy as all creation is stamped with the name of God. Does this mean we can never cut loose, have fun, be silly? Do we always have to hush our behavior as if we’re unrelentingly in church, never taking off our kid gloves?

The story we looked at this week was the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We all could readily see that the profligate son was disrespectful to his father. With some thought, we could also see that the older son was just as disrespectful, just as manipulative. Indeed, the only character who is not abusive but reverent to others is the father or, as Tim Keller puts it, the true prodigal as He is extravagant in his love. So we see again that the third commandment is really a re-formulation of the essential edict: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and others as yourself. Take yourself out of the center, and replace it with something truly transcendent.

When we do this—that is, when Christ does this for us—we do not gate our hearts but open them. It is an invitation to freedom, not overzealous control, to dig and find the significance in things, not to recoil in fear of effrontery.

This is hard to communicate, and in the shadow of this fallen world we may very well have to resort to hushing our children and scold them for writhing disruptively in service. We must still remember that the ultimate goal is not perfect behavior rather a discovery of the joy and holiness of worship. We commit them in prayer to the Holy Spirit for this.

Allow me to suggest something to listen to this week, something that really took me aback and challenged me recently: Terry Gross’ Fresh Air interview with Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. I warn you, you may very well take issue with some of what Ms. Bolz-Weber says. And yet she is as winsome as she may be provocative, and I found it worthwhile to sit and think through the entirety of her presentation. In the end, I found it edifying and iron-sharpening, reverent and not abusive, loving and worshipful in a deep way.

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