Our Call to Confession began with the big IF: If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God…
then you shall live…and the Lord your God will bless you; the big IF and the big blessing that moved a Hebrew of centuries ago to write and sing what is now numbered Psalm 119: 1, which is read as the Assurance of Pardon in our 8:30 service of worship:
Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. (Psalm 119:1)
Blessed are those who obey the commandments of the Lord; happy are those who walk in the way of the Lord.
The blessing of happiness experienced by all who live by the Ten Commandments,
Call them the “Curriculum for Humans,” which we celebrate today as we think back to February 5, 1869 when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted a charter to Ursinus to award Baccalaureate and Masters degrees, at first remembered with a Founder’s Day service on a Sunday in mid February changed in the mid 1900’s, because of winter weather, to the first Sunday afternoon in November, until it was discontinued a few years ago, but now restored to be a February birthday party for the the first President, John H.A. Bomberger.
“Happy Birthday, Ursinus!” for being a college with the motto: “Super Firmum Fundamentum Dei” - On the Firm Foundation of God – the Ten Commandments, which by the time of Jesus, were represented as “Light,”
reminiscent of Moses, with a glow on his face as he descended from the mountain, holding the tablets
engraved with the lamp-like laws meant to bring us out of the darkness of ignorance, arrogance, self-
centeredness, prejudice, and brutality into the light, by which we catch a glimpse of the Great Architect Who called worlds into being (as the UCC Statement of Faith celebrates),
and Curtis Beach teaches us to sing (NCH#8 alt.1966)
Praise to the living God, from whom all things derive,
Whose Spirit formed upon this sphere the first faint seeds of life;
Who caused them to evolve, unwitting toward God’s goal,
Till humankind stood on the earth, as living, thinking souls.-
Souls who bear witness to Jesus’ Gospel charge heard last week:
“You are the light of the world.” - “You are light!” which we hear with first-century Hebrew ears,
knowing the flame we carry is the light of the Law that set Moses’ face aglow, when he brought it to the people,
the Light that shines upon us in Jesus, the pure light of the Creator of light, Who followed His “You are the light of the world” with examples of commandments He introduced with, “you have heard that it was said” and then added,“but I say to you.”
What Jesus said turned a recitation into a reenactment, saying into doing, a law taught into a life lived, shining like light for all to see.
No question about it.
And so Jesus’ Gospel charge: “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”
“Yes,” to claiming the light as coming from God, “no,” to crediting it to ourselves.
A “yes” that in Paul’s words holds us to remembering
we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
For the farmer: like a field bearing the harvest of the fruits of the law, for an urban dweller, like a city aglow with people radiating the light of law…taught and learned in the “Curriculum for Humans.”
When a student quizzed Jesus as to which one of the commandment, which light of the law, was the most important, He said: (Matthew 22: 3-40)
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
All ten are infused with the light of the love of God that ignites us with love that casts that light on others and on self.
One day when the slave hauling British sea captain John Newton looked down into the hold of the ship,
he suddenly saw the cargo packed like sardines in a can, where human beings like himself, and he cried out the words that have become our nation’s number one hymn:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but not am found; was blind but now I see!”
What we confess when walking in the light of the Ten Commandments, that ignite us with love that comes from the God Who gave them;
the “Curriculum for Humans!”…
with the grade being the blessing of happiness experienced by us as we pick up John Newton’s lines:
“When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise, than when we first begun.”
Late in life Leo Tolstoy wrote his biographical “Confessions,”
telling how he had rejected the Christian faith and left the university to find happiness in Moscow’s social life of excessive drinking, illicit sex, and gambling,
but he didn't find happiness.
When he inherited a large amount of money and devoted himself to writing books, and made more money,
he did't find happiness.
So he tried marriage to a wonderful woman and had 13 children who brought him joy, but it didn’t last;
he didn't find happiness..
He was so despondent that he was about to take his life, when he looked at the Russian peasants around him and saw how happy they were.
What did they have ?
He came to realize it was what he had rejected: a response to God’s love in Jesus Christ, the glow he saw in those peasants, who found their happiness in being a lamp-stand, casting the light of the Ten Commandments embodied in Jesus; the “Curriculum for Humans.”
(Quoted from the Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Huston. TX, Day1, Feb. 12, 2017)
Centuries before Tolstoy, Augustine wrote his own “Confessions” in which we read his much-repeated exclamation:
“You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."
The rest - peace, joy - of yielding ourselves to walk in the light of the law of the Lord.
The "Curriculum for Humans"