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The Rev. Samuel Edwards: "On Murder"
Prydain ^ | 3/15/2006 | Will

Posted on 03/15/2006 12:14:26 PM PST by sionnsar

From the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama, we have this sermon, the next in his series on the Ten Commandments:

Sermon on the Second Sunday in Lent (2006)

Countdown to Godliness

Sermon V. On Murder

God spake these words and said: Thou shalt do no murder.

Jesus said, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment: and whosever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

In spite of the fact that most English translations of the Bible give this commandment as “thou shalt not kill,” the translation in the Prayer Book is in fact more accurate. What is prohibited is not killing as such, but killing willfully and with malice. This is evident from the fact that the Lord told the Hebrews that once they had taken control of the Promised Land, they were to set up cities of refuge for people who had accidentally killed someone else – places such persons could go to and be safe from revenge-killing until their case had been judged. (This privilege of refuge specifically did not apply to murderers.)

When Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount made a statement intensifying this commandment, he was not taking his hearers into entirely unfamiliar territory: He was simply making explicit what had been part of the substance of this commandment from the beginning. Every adequately instructed and thoughtful Jew knew very well that this commandment prohibited murder. What our Lord said simply made it more intensely plain that the inward and spiritual sin can be committed even if the outward and visible crime never is. The sad fact is that before God, there are far, far more murderers than are ever chargeable at law for the crime.

One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic strips shows Calvin standing at the school bus stop. His longsuffering mother has tossed him out of the house over his loud protests. He has an ugly scowl on his face and is saying, “I don’t want to catch the bus. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to be here at all. I’m sick of everyone telling me what to do all the time! I hate my life! I hate everything! I wish I was dead! … Well, no I don’t. Not really. I wish everyone else was dead.”

Near the core of both the sin and the crime of murder is anger, which is the prideful response of the self to the frustration of its own desires. When one commits murder, he is giving expression to an attitude which says, “Because of you, I will not be able to be happy. You are an obstruction to my desires. Because I, even I, am at the center of the universe, and there is nothing more important than getting what I want when I want it, you forfeit your right to exist because you are in my way. Your existence offends me, and I have a right to kill you for that alone.”

Every murder recorded in Scripture manifests this inner pattern. Take these examples: Cain is offended that Abel’s sacrifice of the firstlings of his flock is accepted, while his own offering (which is only of the fruits, not of the first fruits of the earth) is not accepted. Instead of accepting the Lord’s correction, Cain nurses his anger and takes it upon himself to fix things by removing his brother from the equation. When the integrity of Uriah the Hittite frustrates the scheme David has devised to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba, David arranges his murder. When Naboth refuses to sell the vineyard King Ahab fancies for an herb garden, Queen Jezebel (in an early abuse of the power of eminent domain) arranges to have Naboth framed for treason and done to death so that Ahab not only can have what he wants, but can have it without even to pay for it (since a traitor’s goods are forfeit to the Crown). When John the Baptist has the temerity to tell home truths about the illicit nature of the marriage of Herod and Herodias, she uses her royal husband’s moral weakness to force him to have John murdered. When Stephen won’t stick to social work and stop preaching the truth to the powers that be, they have him stoned.

In each of these cases, the responsible parties spurned the opportunity to look away from their definition of the problem as being focused on the one who became their victim and instead to look at themselves as the real locus of the problem. In each case, they refused to be corrected and to repent, but instead clung stubbornly to their own version of reality, which just happened to conform to their own desires. So tenaciously did they cling, that they were willing to kill to keep from changing. The reason that they did not want to change was that they were afraid.

In the end, murder – like all sin – is rooted in fear. Fear comes from faithlessness that is founded in forgetting. Like Eve, though we are not made to be alone, we go off on our own. There we forget who we are because we have forgotten Whose we are. Often with encouragement from outside, we begin to fear that, now that we are on our own, it is up to us to provide for our own happiness and continued existence. We buy the lie that we can only put faith in ourselves. We decide what we need and we aim to get it. Sometimes that includes taking aim to get it: We encounter another whose presence complicates our life and frustrates our desires. We fear that we will not be able to get what we want because of this person. This angers us, and having lost faith already, we now lose hope and begin to hate that person. We seek an occasion to eliminate him. We do it. It will be easier the next time, now that we’ve created or reinforced the habit.

Remember that in God’s eyes, it is possible to be guilty of murder without having yet committed the overt act of killing – indeed without ever having committed the overt act – for the essence of murder is not killing, but malice. When Jesus speaks of this, he is not referring to the momentary flash of anger or irritation that accompanies frustration. He is not referring to impulses but to interior action, the sort of action that involves the entertainment, the enjoyment, the basting of our souls in anger and resentment and malice toward our brother. It is foolish to blithely assume that the entertainment of vengeful fantasies harms no one if we do not outwardly act upon them. They do: At the least, they harm us and coarsen our moral sense. That harms our character and that worsens the character of our society. Such indulgences reinforce the notion, with which every man and woman is born, that it is his own individual self who is the most important entity in the universe and that everything of right ought to serve that self. This is the notion that I must increase no matter who else has to decrease in order to make it happen.

That attitude does not exclude God. The fact is that if God is inconvenient to us, we will not disdain to murder even him. Does not this exactly describe what happens to our Lord Jesus – God in the flesh? Simply by existing, he was in the way, so we killed him. Not “they,” but “we.” In the end, every sin is an attempt to murder God, because he – his Truth, his Beauty, his Goodness, his very Being – has proved an inconvenient challenge to our own inflated image of ourselves and to our silly self-made universe. We want not to worship (which is what we were made for): We want to be worshiped. So did the Devil, and “he is a murderer from the beginning.” When we sin, when we rebel against our nature as designed by God, we adopt the Devil as our father and in the process exchange the freedom of a son for the wages of a slave, and a place at the family table of the heavenly banquet for a place on the table at the infernal feast.

Yet he against whom we rebel, whose only-begotten Son we would murder, does not cease to love us for all that. His wrath is real, although it consists for the most part of our own fear, anger and hatred ricocheting back upon us, and we will experience that wrath if we do not take the way out he has given us – a way for which he has provided himself a lamb for the sacrifice [cf. Genesis 22] – a way that we begin to take when we our remember and repent. When that way is taken, first our forgetfulness is replaced with a right remembrance of Who he is and who we are; then our faithless fantasies are replaced by an acceptance of reality; after which our fear is supplanted by faith, and our anger by hope, and our hatred by charity so that in the end our souls are not left in hell but live in heaven.

What we do here, now, we do “in remembrance of me.” This remembrance is not simply a matter of mental recall; it is a making present in the here and now of an everlasting sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction which is fully, perfectly and sufficiently able to deal, not with our sins only, but with the sins of the whole world. Here we are enabled to remember that we are made for and sustained by God and that if we will act on that knowledge, there is nothing to fear. If there is nothing to fear, there is no ground for anger. If there is no ground for anger, there is no reason to hate. If there is no reason to hate, then neither is there any reason not to come to the heavenly table where the one by whom and for whom we were made gives himself as our food and our drink that we may be made like him and dwell with him for ever.
Here we have another sermon from Rev. Edwards that makes us face reality: the reality on one hand that our race is so corrupted that we truly could murder anyone, for humanity certainly did kill our Lord--but also the reality that despite that, God still loves us. What a Saviour, indeed.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
["He is not referring to impulses but to interior action, the sort of action that involves the entertainment, the enjoyment, the basting of our souls in anger and resentment and malice toward our brother." This is where I had concern over Rev. Julie Nicholson's resignation; it was not clear if it was the inability to get to forgiveness, or the harboring of anger. --sionnsar]
1 posted on 03/15/2006 12:14:29 PM PST by sionnsar
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 03/15/2006 12:15:01 PM PST by sionnsar (†† | Libs: Celebrate MY diversity! | Iran Azadi 2006)
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