Each week we begin our 5-8th grade Midweek Classes with Vespers, and I preach a short homily on the Catechism. Here is the first one on Commandments 1-3.
1st Catechism Vespers
Text: Luke 16:19-31
Hymn: 581 (Stanzas 1-4, 11, 12)
Homily on Commandments 1-3
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Whoever wishes to be a Christian and serve God with his whole heart and soul needs to know what his duty is towards God. This is taught and revealed to us in the first three commandments. Say them with me, if you can: “You shall have no other gods.” “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.”
In the First Commandment, God says to us: I am your God. I have created you and all things. I have given you everything you need to survive. I have even redeemed you from everlasting death and punishment by sending my Son to save you from your sins. Now, then, look to me and trust in me above all things. Let your hearts be completely devoted in love to me. Let not the love of created things get in the way of your love for me. You should fear, love, and trust in me above all things.
The rich man in today’s Scripture lesson is a good example of what happens to those who have “other gods.” He feared, loved, and trusted in his wealth and riches instead of God alone. And so, he ended up in torments in hell. Lazarus, on the other hand, was comforted in heaven when he died. Clearly, his God was not the things of this world, but God Himself.
In the Second Commandment, God says to us: My name is holy. It is sacred. Wherever my name is, there I am. For this reason, it is not to be used for unholy purposes like cursing, swearing, using satanic arts, lying or deceiving. It is not to be used carelessly. Instead, God wants us to use His name for holy purposes. “Call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” When we are in trouble, we should by all means call upon Him for help. God wants us to use His name to pray, to bless, and to give thanks. He is pleased when we do this, when we pray whether in church, at home, or anywhere.
In the Third Commandment, God says to us: My Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. Without this Word you are not able to live and believe as you ought. Like medicine for an illness, you need My Word to live. Therefore I forbid you to despise preaching and My Word. If you will not hear my Words, then you will not have me. Instead, all those who would live as Christians should hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it. As the Scripture says: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”
Our duty towards God, then, consists of these three things: believing and trusting in Him alone as our God; using his name to pray and call on him in trouble and in thanksgiving; and hearing and learning His Word when it is taught and preached in the Church.
As with all the commandments, there are wonderful promises given for those who keep them, but terrible consequences and threats for breaking them. As God Himself says: “I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me; but showing love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
We will never, in this life, be able to keep these commandments perfectly. We will always struggle with sinful and unholy desires, even as Christians. We won’t always want to hear God’s Word or come to church. We will be lazy in praying and calling upon His name; we will allow our hearts to become attached to things other than God.
When we do break any of these commandments, though, we should at once repent of our sin, that is, we should immediately turn from it, and look to the cross, where God has taken away our sins through the death of His Son. There, and there alone will we find the God who is also merciful and forgiving. In the cross God says to us: “Come, now, little children, and take refuge in my wounds. For with these stripes, by these wounds, by my suffering and dying, you are healed and forgiven.” Amen.