COMMUNITY CHURCH OF THE MONTEREY PENINSULA
P. O. BOX 222811
CARMEL CA 93922
Rev. Paul Wrightman, Pastor
Independent and United Church of Christ
June 21, 2020
A very HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all our Fathers and Grandfathers!
Our Board of Directors will hold its June meeting by conference call on Thursday, June 25th. The main item of business will be to finalize a plan for the reopening of Community Church. A task force consisting of JoAnn Holbrook, Dr. Richard Gray and Pam Klaumann has come up with a detailed plan for our gradual reopening, and this plan will be the basis for the Board’s discussion. After the Board has officially approved the process, it will communicate this process to all members and friends of the church via regular mail. Please stay tuned for more information. It will be great to have an actual date to look forward to!
Erika Ledin had a summer job lined up in Pacific Grove, but it fell through because the owner feels that there won’t be enough business this summer. If you or anyone you know needs help with animal care, gardening, handy-girl type stuff, or shopping, you can contact Lisa at 236-0197. Lisa is happy to work out transportation and is also happy to help Erika if two persons are needed.
Jacklyn Finley had a bad fall and, among other injuries, broke her wrist. She is currently in an assisted living situation near Prunedale. Please send a card to her at: Shepherd’s Inn, 11899 Cypress Circle, Castroville CA 95012.
We continue our sermon series on the most important texts in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. We are in that part of the Old Testament which Christians know as the Ten Commandments. Today we look at the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother.”
Have a great week and remember that Jesus is Emmanuel, God WITH Us, Paul
WORSHIP SERVICE FOR JUNE 21, 2020
INTRODUCTORY READINGS John O’Donohue
I’d like to share with you two blessing prayers from his amazing book To Bless the Space Between Us: For a Mother and For a Father.
FOR A MOTHER
Your voice learning to soothe
Your new child
Was the first home-sound
We heard before we could see.
Your young eyes
Gazing on us
Was the first mirror
Where we glimpsed
What to be seen
Your nearness tilled the air,
An umbilical garden for all the seeds
Of thought that stirred in our infant hearts.
You nurtured and fostered this space
To root all our quietly gathering intensity
That could grow nowhere else.
Formed from the depths beneath your heart,
You know us from the inside out.
No deeds or seas or others
Could ever erase that.
FOR A FATHER
The longer we live,
The more of your presence
We find, laid down,
Weave upon weave
Within our lives.
The quiet constancy of your gentleness
Drew no attention to itself,
Yet filled our home
With a climate of kindness
Where each mind felt free
To seek its own direction.
As the fields of distance
Opened inside childhood,
Your presence was a sheltering tree
Where our fledgling hearts could rest.
The earth seemed to trust your hands
As they tilled the soil, put in the seed,
Gathered together the lonely stones.
Something in you loved to inquire
In the neighborhood of air,
Searching its transparent rooms
For the fallen glances of God.
The warmth and wonder of your prayer
Opened our eyes to glimpse
The subtle ones who
Are eternally there.
Whenever, silently, in off moments,
The beauty of the whole thing overcame you,
You would gaze quietly out upon us,
The look from your eyes
Like a kiss alighting on skin.
There are many things
We could have said,
But words never wanted
To name them;
And perhaps a world
That is quietly sensed
Across the air
In another’s heart
Becomes the inner companion
To one’s own unknown.
SUGGESTED MUSIC Praise to the Living God Eamon Younis You Tube
OPENING PRAYER Richard Harries, Contemporary
O God, the Spirit of truth,
help us to be truthful with one another.
O God, the Spirit of gentleness,
help us to be gentle with one another.
O God, who knows what is in our hearts
more clearly than we do ourselves,
help us to hear one another.
O God, lead us in the way
of truth and love.
SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 20:12
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
SERMON: THE BIG IMPLICATIONS OF RESPECTING ONE’S PARENTS
Copyright 2020: Rev. Paul Wrightman
(The underlinings indicate what I would emphasize if delivering this orally)
We are considering the Ten Commandments from the Jewish perspective as ten life-giving words, or teachings, from God. The Jewish tradition sees God as entrusting these ten life-giving words to us in the hope that they would serve as patterns, or, if you will, as blueprints, for the creation of a radically different kind of community, a community which was and is called to grow into and, finally to embody, nothing less than the very heart of God.
Today we look at God’s fifth word, “Honor your father and your mother,” which at its deepest level calls us to participate in a life-giving family and community which is close to the center of God’s desire for the well-being of each of us.
The original intent of this commandment was for adult children to always remember to take good care of their aging parents. If this commandment were followed, put into practice from one generation to the next, not only would the elderly be honored and cared for, the children of those elderly, and their children’s children, would also be honored and cared for in unbroken succession as the generations unfold.
The original intent of this commandment, taking good care of one’s elderly parents, and the likely consequence of breaking it, is well-illustrated in this typically blunt tale from the Brothers Grimm:
“There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, and whose ears had become dull of hearing. His knees trembled and his hands trembled, and when he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth.
His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears.
Once his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the floor and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they bought him a cheap, unbreakable wooden bowl, and made him eat out of that.
They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years began to gather some bits of wood upon the floor. ‘What are you doing?’ asked the father. ‘I am making a little trough,’ answered the child, ‘for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.’
The man and his wife stared at each other for a long while. Then they took the old grandfather back to the family table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.”
This morality-tale nicely makes the point of what happens when the crucial honoring among the generations fails to take place. If adult children fail to honor their elderly parents, in all likelihood they will not be honored by their children when they too become elderly.
Thus, this fifth word from God, “Honor your father and your mother,” is intended to keep the vicious circle of elder neglect and elder abuse from ever gaining a foothold in human life.
More positively, this fifth life-giving word from God has at its very heart the vision of different generations living out love, honor, and respect for one another.
Over the past several weeks, we have seen how each commandment that we have studied, in addition to having a specific meaning for the original people for whom it was given, also hinted at a more universal meaning, a meaning which, in many cases, took centuries, if not millennia, to grow into, a meaning which, in many cases, we are still growing into.
In terms of the more universal dimensions hidden in today’s commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” it is significant that, when compared with other law codes of the time, the Ten Commandments are the only code which includes mothers as well as fathers in its admonition to honor parents.
I think this inclusion of mothers is very important from the point of view of the relationships that God wants to encourage.
Just as the seventh commandment, the one against adultery, was intended not just to protect the man’s property rights, but on a more universal level, to safeguard and honor the marriage relationship, and on an even more universal level, to mirror the faithfulness of God, the same dynamic is present in the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother.”
By including mother as well as father, this fifth life-giving word points well beyond the understanding of children-as-the-property-of-their-fathers of the time, and creates the space for growing into an understanding of marriage and family where marriage is mutual and where children, too, are honored.
This fifth commandment thus contains, as it were, the seed which will eventually grow into a much fuller appreciation of family, the honored place of children within the family, and of how family as well as marriage is intended, in its deepest dimension, to reflect the unconditional love and faithfulness of God.
This reminds me of a brief teaching video from pastor and theologian Rob Bell, whose book Love Wins received notoriety several years ago.
The video tells the story of how Rob’s young son, seven or eight years old at the time, stole a tennis ball from a neighbor-kid. His Mom finds the ball, asks him about it, and he lies. The lie is found-out, and the child is sent upstairs to his room as punishment.
Instead of going to his room, the child goes to his parents’ room, and there hides under the covers in his parents’ bed for several hours.
The video portrays Rob coming home from work, seeking out his wayward son, expressing surprise and concern at not finding him in his own room, and showing great relief at sighting the sizable mound in the middle of the bed in the master bedroom.
Rob slowly lifts the covers, gently repeating the words, “There is nothing you can do that could make me love you less.”
“There is nothing you can do that would make me love you less.”
At this point the father and son experience a tearful reconciliation.
The video is meant to serve as a parable of the way that God loves each of us: “There is nothing you can do that could make me love you less.”
I’m a bit provoked at Rob’s casting himself in the hero’s role, and implicitly in the role of God the Father.
The parable would have been less stereotypical and even more powerful, I think, if Rob’s wife and mother of their child, had been cast in the hero’s role and implicitly in the role of God.
The lesson and the role, however, is a critical one for all parents to grow into: the ability not only to feel but also to effectively communicate unconditional love toward their child or children.
And we have good reason to trace the roots of this attitude of unconditional love from parent to child, as well as from child to parent, to our fifth life-giving word from God, a word revealed from God to Moses at Mt. Sinai some thirty-three hundred years ago: “Honor your father and your mother.”
In today’s culture, where so much more is openly talked about than in the past, which I think is basically a good thing, one can barely finish quoting the fifth commandment when someone will ask “But what about an abusive parent or parents?”
In response, we need to remember that the commandments, by their very nature, were visionary: they portrayed values close to God’s own heart, values which, if lived out, would bring about whole and healthy relationships in a whole and healthy culture.
They were never intended to provide guidance for all conceivable circumstances or to give answers to all conceivable questions.
To the question “How does one honor an abusive parent or parents?,” a response that would honor God’s deepest intention for healthy families and a healthy society would be, I suggest: if one is a grandparent and abuse comes to your attention, report the parent or parents to the proper authorities, which would be the police or protective children’s services, depending on the nature of the abuse. If one is an adult child of an abusive parent or parents, a difficult, but ultimately honoring response, would be to remove oneself from the situation, communicating the message, “I will no longer allow you to harm me, and I will no longer allow you to dishonor yourself by harming me.”
I would like to look at one more hidden, but implicit, dimension of the commandment to honor one’s parents. Concerning this week’s commandment, we see Jesus honoring the commandment by placing his mother, Mary, in the care of John, one of his closest disciples (see John 19:26-27).
But Jesus also does something far more radical with this commandment: he extends the meaning of father and mother, of sister and brother, to include the community of his disciples.
Thus, the love, care, and support which, ideally, the family provides and which mirrors the love, care, and support of God, is expanded by Jesus to include the circle of all those connected to him.
The community of disciples is called to mirror the love, care, and support of God in their relationships with one another and in their relationships with persons outside the community.
One of the most fascinating bits of scholarship that I have stumbled upon recently is a growing consensus that within Jesus’ own lifetime there were small communities of disciples who looked out for one another in terms of food, companionship, and shelter.
Finally, I’ve found an answer to one of my ongoing questions: What happened to the poor widow who, we are told, gave the very last of her money as an act of praise and worship to God (see Mark 12:41-44)?
Jesus makes a big deal out of the woman’s gift, and praises her example to high heaven, but I always wondered what happened to her after her gift of everything she had. Now that she was totally without means of support, did she just go off and die?
The answer is that she was taken in by one of the small discipleship communities that were already in existence in Jesus’ lifetime. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, these small discipleship communities became the basis, the foundation, of what eventually comes to be called the “church.”
In its early years, this dynamic discipleship community, the “church,” literally turns the ancient world upside down and inside out, not only by preaching the Gospel of Jesus crucified and risen, but also by doing things that hardly anyone else was doing in the ancient world: feeding and clothing widows, taking care of orphans, founding hospitals, and giving food and shelter to strangers.
The early church, in other words, was simply living out Jesus’ teaching on extended family, teaching that in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus expands even further to include anyone in need, even an “enemy.”
The spiritual discipline that flows most directly from God’s fifth life-giving word is that of community.
A very practical and very challenging way to grow into this spiritual discipline of community is to practice living out the “one another” statements that are to be found throughout the letters of people like James, Paul, Peter, and John that we find toward the end of the New Testament.
This is not surprising, since these letters describe what life was like in the earliest church. If we, the community of Community Church, want to get back to what life was like in the earliest church, learning to live these “one another” statements is the most direct possible route of going back to move forward.
What are these “one another’s?”
For now, let me simply list them. My suggestion would be to choose one to grow into, and when you have made some progress growing into one, to move on to another.
Love one another,
Encourage one another,
Bear one another’s burdens,
Care for one another,
Accept one another,
Be kind to one another,
Live in harmony with one another,
Forgive one another,
Be hospitable to one another,
Honor one another,
Belong to one another,
Be devoted to one another,
Speak truthfully to one another,
Teach one another,
Agree with one another,
Look out for one another,
Worship with one another,
Do not provoke one another,
Do not grumble against one another,
Do not envy one another.
And, finally, lay down your lives for one another, which does not just mean one dramatic act of self-giving, but refers much more to those everyday acts of dying to self that are at the heart of what it means to be a real community, to be a community that reflects in its own life the very heart of God.
May God bless our efforts to become more Godlike; knowing that in becoming more like God, we become more like our own truest, deepest selves, and in doing that we help our neighbor to do the same.
Rank-order the “one another” statements listed at the end of the sermon in terms of where you see yourself most in need of growth. Then work your way through your list, in the process becoming more and more like Jesus and like God.
CLOSING PRAYER Thomas Ken (1637-1711)
O God, make the door of this house wide enough
to receive all who need human love and friendship,
but narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride, and malice.
Make its threshold smooth enough
to be no stumbling block to children,
nor to straying feet,
but strong enough to turn away the power of evil.
God, make the door of this house
a gateway to your eternal kingdom.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
SUGGESTED MUSIC There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
performed by The Riverside Choir I May 3, 2020 You Tube
Patiently and persistently, God loves.
Relentlessly and unconditionally, God loves.
Now and forever, God loves.