I have a lot of reminders in my life…mainly reminders for commitments I’ve made.
When I get down to the kitchen in the morning the first thing I say is “Ok Google, good morning” and my Google home device says, “Good morning Sarah…you have 3 meetings today (and then proceeds to tell me what and when those meetings are) and then some days Google will say “Oh by the way, don’t forget to…” because I’ve set a reminder to myself to find a specific tax form or remember to call a friend who has been having a bad week.
I’ll get into work and have a bunch of emails waiting for me–a lot of them about promises I’ve made to others about reading a report they wrote or showing up to a meeting they’re organizing. Oh, and let’s not forget all the emails about the upcoming Valentine’s card exchange at my daughter’s school or the email from a school teacher reminding parents to remind their kids to read a book that came home in their backpacks.
I have a legal pad on my desk reminding me of all the to-do’s I want to accomplish this week…and sometimes those reminders get booted to next week, but if I write them down then somehow those commitments don’t get lost in the dark recesses of my brain.
And this past week I received 10 text messages reminding me to vote in the New Hampshire primary. Well, with that one, those texts weren’t reminding me–they were reminding someone named Charlene–who I guess owned my phone number some years ago and lived in New Hampshire?! Your guess is as good as mine!
I’m inundated with reminders to the commitments I made, and I’m guessing you are often reminded of the commitments you’ve made, too.
And don’t get me wrong, reminders are a good thing.
In my case, they are a great thing.
I would be rubbish at my commitments without those reminders. But as I was staring at the plethora of reminders, emails, notifications, and texts about my commitments, I realized they are simply stating the fact of the promises I’ve made. In some cases these reminders are nudges…in others like paying my taxes on time…they are more like commandments.
But with all these reminders, commandments, and commitments, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of the spirit behind and in the commitments. We can sometimes get focused on the task itself, the thing we need to do, or the one more burden on our day. Especially when we’ve made so many commitments that they seem to be bumping into each other or in our stress or anxiety over the commitments, we find ourselves cursing ever making that commitment, saying yes to that person, or keeping that promise.
That anxiety and frustration and shortsightedness probably explains the time I was driving the car way past the speed limit, because we were late due to a forgotten school item, and as I was hurtling through sky and road to get there on time, my daughter calmly told me that the speed limit on the road said 35…a speed she knew and I knew I was not going.
And if you had an anger meter to measure my response…. Oh boy. Confession and forgiveness are good for the soul.
But she was right. Grumble grumble.
Big picture–what does a school project matter or even a tardiness matter if we hurry so much that somehow I put my child and myself in danger?
It can be so easy to lose sight of the faith, hope, and love that are the foundation of the commitments and the promises we make.
And that is Jesus’ message to us today.
In our Gospel reading, we encounter a section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In our response to Jesus’ call to follow him, we might really wonder what faithful, Christ-following living looks like. The Sermon on the Mount provides that answer. And within the Sermon on the Mount, there are blessings and good news of God’s grace.
The good news that God sees you and values you in a way that so often the world cannot see, value, or understand.
But also in this great sermon, there are demands of how we’re to be and how we’re to live when we follow Jesus. And part of those demands include obedience to God.
I struggle with this word.
Maybe I’m just a bigger sinner than you guys or maybe it’s because I was the youngest of three kids… but when I hear the word obedience or obey, my first response is to do the opposite.
Confession is good for the soul, and so is receiving forgiveness from God.
I know that in the fabric of who I am, when someone says go right I want to go left. When God gives a commandment to not do something, I find myself looking for loopholes or excuses to make my behavior feel acceptable and totally not a sin.
And yet, the psalmist (Psalm 119:1) reminds us of a simple truth. We are happier and more at peace when we keep God’s commandments and we seek God with our whole heart.
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, Jesus reminds us about the difference of the letter of the law and the intent behind it. Or more to the point, the difference of being reminded of a commitment you’ve made versus being reminded of the love that has to be at the foundation of all we do, say, and promise.
When Jesus speaks about the act of murder he raises the ante and says that we need to first examine our hearts and emotions that lead us to anger, to blame, to resentment, and to bitterness.
That these emotions, when left unchecked, can throw a dark pall of death onto any relationship. It can even snuff out the happiness within us and drive life and light out of us.
When Jesus speaks about marital relationships–it is an equal call to both partners in the relationship to be more mindful of our actions and feelings. A reminder of the fragile, yet so beautiful covenants we can create with each other. And in this fragility, life and love and meaning can be born.
And Jesus’ words point to why we always share the peace. It’s more than a hello or how ya’ doin’. It’s a reminder that we’re in this together. That somehow our commitment to each other reflects our commitment to God.
Princeton seminary professor Eric Barreto phrases it this way, “What if broken relationships among neighbors, friends, and family are not just social obstacles among us, but are a barometer for our relationship to God?”
Jesus’ words point to why when we first gather together on a Sunday morning we begin with a statement of fact.
We begin with that good, good confession.
We’re broken, messed up, wayward sinners that are in need of grace, mercy, and acceptance.
And we get to hear the good news of God’s love that goes against the narrative we hear in the world.
Good news of God’s commitment to us.
A commitment, a covenant that is made in the body and blood of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.
A promise that this love will never die.
In fact, this love will carry us through our life and bestow upon us life now and eternally.
As followers of Jesus we bear a life of commitment, of covenant, and of promises. We carry these as part of our identity.
This week we celebrated the lives of two sainted members of St. Peter’s–Janice Riegel and Andy Hirko. Two members who had a long history alongside their brothers and sisters in Christ. Two who used their God-given gifts to bless this community and the community beyond our walls. Whether it was prayers shared in visitation, poems offered for inspiration, countless meals cooked in years of our family gathering, or the simple commitment of showing up and helping out. In their day to day commitments they bore the love that is God.
How we look upon a good life lived can be boiled down to the commandments of love God and love neighbor, and I would also argue the mandate to love yourself.
It is important for you to hear this.
You are worthy of love.
You have been placed here in this time and space to share this love with the people around you. And somehow in our commitments to each other we experience the very delight of God.
How you live out God’s delight is uniquely you.
God’s delight is experienced in steadfast prayer, in faithful giving, in the simple act of showing up and letting God use you as needed, and in surprising ways that you haven’t even imagined yet..
So friends, I invite you to be reminded about your commitments. To whom are you committed?
What promises are you keeping?
And when you think about them, how do they reflect loving God and loving the people in your life?