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The sermon for week October 23, 2011

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Give it to Me in a Nutshell
October 23, 2011
Deut 34:1-12 and Matt 22:34-46

"Give it to me in a nutshell" –– an old saying –– it means, Tell me what I need to know, but keep it short. Don't bother me with unnecessary detail. Don't bore me with a long, technical explanation. Just get to the bottom line.

We like things short and sweet. Those who work in media know that they have just enough time to hit the highlights and show us a few pictures. They give us the big picture in a few minutes. We like that.

Give it to me in a nutshell!

In sales they call it the elevator speech which means giving your sales pitch in the time it takes your customer to ride the elevator. There is also a good book out: "How to get your point across in 30 seconds." Basically, because that is the attention span of most people!

Give it to me in a nutshell!

That's what the lawyer said to Jesus, “Give it to me in a nutshell.” At least that is what he meant. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"

Jesus echoes Moses and states, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is from Deuteronomy and then Jesus adds from Leviticus, “And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Jesus clearly connects the idea of obeying God’s commandments to the issue of love and connects God to our neighbor and ourselves. Jesus is explaining the missing link he sees in his own faith; the thing that separates our faith from a system of rules: Love. Love!

Love is the only thing that separates a living faith from a ritualistic orthodoxy is that one simple word, that one compelling force. Love.

That’s it in a nutshell, you can go home now.

Okay, I would like to end here, but I can’t.

I have been blessed to be the father of Samuel Robert, and Eve's proud papa.It could be my lack of sleep or my recent experience coloring my interpretation but I think the scripture lessons for today are incredibly relevant for parents.

As a parent, it’s tempting to buy into the idea that we pass down rules for our children. When I was little I heard time and time again the answer of “Because I’m the mom and I said so.” To whatever question I had, esp. when the question regarded "why do I have to follow THAT rule?!

The only thing many parents think they have to do for kids is set up a structure and simply explain WHY we have rules, and it will result in a different response and behavior from the children. As a father of a two and a half year old and a newborn, I have learned that this simply isn’t the case.

It isn’t the case in the Bible either.

Even Moses had to explain the rules time and time again to the Israelites throughout the time in the wilderness. Never once did the people say, “Oh, now we understand Moses! You have explained it so well, and we’ll do exactly what God wants!”

In Deuteronomy 6:20 Moses sees that one day, parents of Hebrew children would have to answer the question of why we have all these rules and customs. He says, “In the future, your sons and daughters will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord God has commanded you?”

I dread the day when Eve or Sam asks this question. I fear that I will over-react. Put a little too much drama on my response and do something stupid like pull out a whiteboard, draw a line down the middle and say, “On this side of the line is what will happen if you do what is wrong and on the other side are the benefits of doing what is right. As your father I have 30 years of experience, plus your mother and God agree with me on this. Besides, if you don’t do this you’ll be grounded for a month. Any questions?”

But Moses doesn’t go this route. Moses advises his people that when the next generation asks the meaning of the law, “Tell them, ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt but God brought us out, did signs and wonders both great and terrible, delivered us to the promised land that God promised to our ancestors. God has given us these things so that we might always prosper and be kept alive.”

Translated to modern language Moses is saying, “You think you feel like a slave under these rules, you have no idea! I know something of real slavery and God delivered me out of there and gave us guidelines to live by. That’s it in a nutshell.”

Moses tells the story about how great God has been and how God can be trusted. He gives no practical reasons here. He wants children to understand they are a part of a larger story in which God is actively involved and how God has proven love time and time again. Moses wants future generations to see who they are linked to the bigger picture, how they fit into the master plan, how they were connected to a relationship with their Creator through the history of the community.

Instead of encouraging parents to assume the role of attorneys who build a logical case for why the law should be followed, Moses prompted them to focus on the character of the Lawgiver. Jesus picks up on this, and it’s no accident that the person who asks Jesus the question is a lawyer, and Jesus’ answer is not a logical case, it’s an answer straight from the heart.

Research has shown that during the formative and teenage years, it is just as essential for parents to earn trust with their child as it is for the child to earn trust with their parent. Since I haven’t raised teenage children, I will take the experts word for it. Plus I have seen in the relationships between parent and child that I have admired: from my mom to my in-laws relationship with Kate and my sister in-laws, to other friends and their parents, to many in this church. Trust must be reciprocal.

Chap Clark, Founder of ParenTeen and HURT Seminars, challenges parents with the following advice: “Moms and dads need to see their parental roles as a marathon, recognizing that building a relationship in which their child trusts them is even more important than whether they can trust their child regarding the immediate issues of the day.”

In interviews with hundreds of teenagers and college students, the wounds that go the deepest are those connected to issues of trust. What Moses is doing and what Jesus helps us understand in a new light is that we must establish a lifestyle of proving that we can be trusted.

The answer to the question of “How do I establish such a lifestyle? How do I establish such a trust with my child, grandchild, niece, nephew, step-child, etc?” begins when the parent or guardian or grandparent, aunt, uncle, step-parent, mentor, or whatever role one may have with children, begins to love their neighbor as themselves, and love something bigger than themselves. For Christians, that something bigger than the self is the God in Community, the Triune God. This is what every self-help book will teach you in one form or another. This is what Dr Phil teaches you and this is what those Teen Moms on MTV are looking for.

That is the answer in a nutshell.

Love God with all your heart and soul, and it will show up in your lifestyle. As a result, those who trust God will be trusted by the next generation, and the legacy will continue. AMEN.

Bibliography
Joiner, Reggie. Think Orange: Imagine the impact when church and family collide. David C Cook Publishers, 2009.

Clark, Chap.

Parks, Sharon. Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith. Jossey Bass Publishers, 2000.

Beginning of sermon found from Donovan, Richard Niell.
In A Nutshell. From Lectionary.org

Milo, Frank. How To Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds. Pocket Books, 1990

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