Lent 3 3/4/18 Exodus 20:1-17
Jeanie Duck is a single mother with a three-year-old daughter. One day a friend gave Jeanie a two-pound box of Godiva chocolates. Being a chocolate lover, Jeanie was in heaven! As she was oohing and aahing over the box, her daughter, Jennifer, joined in the excitement. This was a bad sign. If Jennifer was excited, it was because she expected to share in Jeanie’s newly acquired bounty. Clearly the only way Jeanie could get rid of her was to share some of her precious chocolate, so she gave Jennifer one piece and sent her to bed. Then she had “just a few” pieces for herself, and went to bed. Later that night, there was a terrible storm. Jeanie got up in the dark and went from room to room, closing the open windows. As she did, she stepped on something crunchy in the hallway. When she turned on the light, she saw that the floor was covered with little round pieces of dark brown paper. She followed the trail of candy wrappers and found a totally empty box of Godiva chocolates!
Jeanie was stunned. She thought, “She’s only three, for goodness sake! How could she possibly polish off two pounds of chocolate?” She found Jennifer sound asleep in her bed, looking angelic. Waking her daughter she said sternly, “Jennifer Duck, you ate all my candy!” “No, I didn’t,” Jennifer replied with a look of earnestness and fear on her face. “Oh yes, you did.” Jeanie said. “Only two people live here--you and me--and I didn’t do it!”
Jennifer hung her head. Then, quietly, she mumbled, “I wish I had a baby brother!” (1)
Every child wishes she had a baby brother when she needs someone to take the blame. That would be convenient, wouldn’t it? But children are not the only ones to play the blame game. Sometime back, a Colorado man brought a “malparenting suit” against his mother and father. He sued them for $300,000 for “lousing up his life.” He claimed that they had intentionally done a terrible job of parenting and had made him what he was. The judge dismissed the suit by saying that there must be a “statute of limitations” on parenting.
The judge went on to say that there must come a time when an adult takes responsibility for his or her own life. (2)
To be a human being is to be responsible. In the book of Genesis, Cain slew his brother Abel in a jealous rage. When confronted with his crime, Cain cried out, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” A lawyer once asked Jesus a question very similar to that one. When Jesus said that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, the lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” In other words, “How far does my responsibility extend?”
Our first lesson today contains the set of moral injunctions that we know as the Ten Commandments. And what are the Ten Commandments but an attempt to define human responsibility? Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. What are my responsibilities to my neighbor? What are my responsibilities to God? The Ten Commandments seek to answer those questions.
To be a human being is to be responsible. Every facet of our life together depends on people acting responsibly. Yet responsibility is a heavy burden for many of us and many of us want to flee from our responsibilities. Ultimately, responsibility is just what the word suggests: it is our response to God’s love as manifested in Jesus Christ. If we resent responsibility, it may be that we do not understand what responsibility is.
Responsibility is our joyful response to what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. That is why the Ten Commandments and the Great Commandment are relevant to our lives. We take responsibility for ourselves and others because He took responsibility for us on the cross of Calvary. Responsibility is not a terrible weight we carry. Responsibility is the road we travel on our way to the abundant life Christ has provided for us. God created us to be responsible--responsible parents, responsible members of our nation, of our community and of our church. We can do that without Christ, but many of us will feel we are living in a straitjacket. There will be no joy in our lives, only a sense of duty. If we make a commitment to God, if our lives are lived in response to the love poured out for us in Jesus Christ– then there can be a new dimension to our lives. We will be living out of grace--not simply doing good works, but enjoying abundant life in Christ Jesus. To be human is to be responsible, yes. But to know Christ is to walk in his joy. Amen.
1. Jeanie Daniel Duck, The Change Monster. Cited by Dr. Stephen C. Lien, http://www.bpcusa.org/Sermons/sermon11804.pdf.
2. David A. Seamands, Putting Away Childish Things (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1982).
Additional source material from Dynamic Preaching, King Duncan, 2012