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the sermon for

the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

30 July 2017

Small Catechism, The Second Commandment
The name of god is Grace and Charity and Love!

07302017It's the thirtieth of July! And other than being, at least for this year, the eighth Sunday after Pentecost, there's not much more to it. No lesser festival. No commemoration. But it is the fifth Sunday of the month. And as I said earlier, for the past decade or so, that means today's sermon is rooted in the Small Catechism. Nothing organized. Nothing intentional. It's not like we started with page one and we're slowly making our way through the booklet. More often than not, I simply reach into the hat and pull something out. And this time, as you see, it's the second of the ten commandments. "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God." Or, if you prefer King James, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain!"

But to be honest, the choice wasn't all that surprising. You see, about a month ago, Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the E.L.C.A., appeared in a sixty-second clip on the E.L.C.A.'s Facebook page talking about this particular commandment, about this morsel from the Catechism. In fact, some of you might have seen it since I shared it on the congregation's page. And frankly, it sounded pretty much like the advice from any first-year confirmation class. Don't say, "God," but "Gosh!" Don't type O-M-G in your texts. So, I wanted to spend some more time thinking in through. This week is my chance.

"You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God."

First of all, an important thing for us to realize is that the name of God isn't really God! Not even when we capitalize it! The word 'god' is not a proper nous, a naming word! It's just a plain, old, ordinary, everyday, run of the mill, common one. It's like the word 'god'. It applies to all canines in spite of breed or pedigree! It's the name – Rover or Fido – that, actually, identifies a specific individual! "God" point to deity-in-general! The name of god identifies the specific, particular god we mean. For instance, in the Old Testament, when Moses meets "God" at the burning bush and Moses asks for "God's" name, God doesn't say, "My name is God!" God says the name is "Yahweh!" "I am who I am and I will be who I will be!" In the New Testament, of course, the name of God is Jesus!

Just an aside... The whole reason we call god "God" and not Yahweh is because of this commandment. The name Yahweh, they believed, was so holy, was so sacred, that it was a sin for any human being to speak it! Blasphemy! Sacrilege! And so, they addressed Yahweh with adjectives! The Highest! The most holy! The Almighty! They, even, used formal terms of address like Sire and Lord and Sir! By anything and by everything other than the name Yahweh.

Now, as far as wrongful use... Like I said, Bishop Eaton's explanation seemed a tad... simplistic. It was saying, "God!" when we're frustrated! Texting, "OMG!" when we're shocked! But Luther takes it deeper than that. In fact, most of the four, five, and six letter words we, normally, think are cursing are not. In fact, I'd guess that ninety percent of them have nothing to do with the second commandment. Are they socially unacceptable? Yes! Sinful? Not by a long shot! Cursing – biblically speaking – isn't being a "potty mouth". It's wishing, it's wanting, others ill! Cursing is the opposite of blessing, just as damning is the flip side of saving. It's casting into the outer darkness where there's unquenchable fire and gnashing of teeth! And by swearing, Luther envisions a courtroom! So help me god! God as my witness! It's when we use god to back our lies and our deceit! Using god's name to aid and abet! Wrongful use, you see, isn't the occasional verbal faux pas. It's using god to accomplish the ungodly! It's using god's name – Jesus, Savior – to do everything but!

It's using Jesus' name wrongly to frighten and intimidate and exclude and condemn! Not rightly to rescue and to save and deliver! Luther wasn't concernment, first and foremost, with the vocabulary of our everyday conversation. He was concerned – obsessed – with how we speak, with what we say, here, in worship, on Sunday mornings! Setting limits on god's grace! Putting conditions of god's love! Rationing mercy, regulating forgiveness, based on miles or hours or, even, dollars! That's what making wrongful use of god's name is all about! Whether that name is Yeshua or Iesous or Jesus! The vanity is using god's name for selfish reasons! Using god's name for something other than love! And along the road, on billboard after billboard and bumper sticker upon bumper sticker, on our way to Taos and back, we saw the second commandment not just broken, but shattered, by the most well-meaning, best intentioned people.

"In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die... and for his sake, god forgives..." That's how rightful use of god's name is made!

"The body of Christ given... the blood of Christ shed..." That's how god's name is taken meaningfully, significantly, importantly... not in vain!

What does this mean? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive using God's name, but instead use that very name in every time of need to call on, pray to, praise, and give thanks to God.

But then, if we do that – when we do that – the commandments cease to be the yellow brick road leading to heaven! And instead, heaven comes to us! Heaven always comes to us! Instead of morals and ethics and principles showing us the way, the commandments drive us to the only place that matters... the foot of the cross! And we learn to speak – rightly – the only name that's important... Jesus! Savior! It isn't about saying, "God!" And it's not about typing, "OMG!' There's more to it than that!

God is a god who sees us! God is a god who hears us! And god is a god who comes to us! Rescuing and redeeming! Suffering and breaking! Bleeding and dying! All that we might, as last, live! Live fully! Abundantly! There's no other way to speak of god... not for god to be who, what, god has always been! There's no other way to speak of god... and not for god to continue to be god! The name of god, my friends, is Yahweh! The name of god is Jesus! The name of god is Father, Son, and Spirit! The name of god has been, is now, and will always be... Grace! Charity! Love!

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