Anyone ever seen Mel Brooks' "History of the World? Its funny, in an inappropriate kinda way, the same kind of way that farting is funny, or belching, or poop jokes...you know...that kind of funny. I'm not one to watch Monty Python, or any of those other British humor movies (I think British humor sucks!), but I did enjoy the fun that was made out of human history in this movie. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the beginning of a set called "Old Testament". This scene opens with Moses, a very Jewish, New Yorker sounding Moses, he's even heard muttering in Yiddish! Ok, here's the scene, Moses is on Mount Sinai asking what God wants done, God replies, "Moses give the people my commands." Moses says, "OK LORD." God says, "Did you hear me?" Moses says. "Oie Vay, a deaf man could hear you." God says. "WHAT!?" Moses says, "Nothing Lord, just clearing my throat." Moses then proceeds up the Mountain further, the screen blacks out and Moses is seen coming down the the same side of the mountain carrying three stone tables of five commandments each for a total of 15 commandments. Ok, this is where the humor gets good. Moses steps up and says to the people, "Listen, the LORD God Jehovah has given you theses fiftee.... (drops a tablet)...ten commandments." Ha ha ha ha...right? I though it was funny :)
You and I know there are not 15 commandments, there is no missing tablet and Moses did not drop one tablet giving us only ten commandments, but it's still funny. So what if there was 5 commandments missing? What if it really did happen that way? What do you suppose those missing 5 commandment might be? Perhaps they would have prohibited gay marriage, maybe they would have told us point blank that life begins at conception and abortion is murder...one can only speculate so your guess is as good as mine. I have this idea that perhaps these missing commandments might have to do with piles. I know, it sounds silly, what prohibition could God have against piles. We love piles, piles of snow, piles of leaves, dog piles....piles of CASH!!! There are some piles we don't appreciate as much, piles of poop, piles of trash, and piles of bills, but for the most part we are a piling people. With this in mind it makes sense that God's missing commandments to humanity might have to do with piles. Really the piling phenomena in American culture is a symptom of a deeper, more heart felt illness....GREED. To much is never enough. All one has to do is turn on the tube to see that americans have a piling issue, with such programs as "Hoarders" and "Storage Wars" we can see just how much we love to pile.
Our passage this week deals with the piles that the pharisees like to heap upon the people...and according to Jesus they were piles of...well, you get the idea. The Pharisees pile laws upon laws on the people, they piled burdens in the form false religious piety upon the people, all while they acquired piles of wealth, piles of prestige, piles of favors, and piles fancy clothes and goods. Jesus said that they "devoured the houses of widow's". They did this by requiring them to pay for scarifies and by not allowing them to be seen outside their homes without a male family member. All this heaps piles of burden on them so greatly that they eventually lost everything, even their homes. They robbed from the poor all so that they could have beautifully adorned prayer shawls, which Jesus calls robes, made of the best linen and with the longest tassels. Their piling was a burden to an all ready over burdened people, but their additudes were not much different than the attitudes of todays power brokers.
Any of this sound familiar? The guys at the top, the wall-street bankers, CEO's, international investors, and capital venturist all make it rich, all receive bailouts and gold parachutes while the average guy, or even worse, the poor suffer. This is a pile of BS according to Jesus and this piling needs to stop. So, here they are, the "thou shalt not's" of piling, my opinion as to what those lost 5 commandments MIGHT have been.
I. Thou Shalt Not Pile Up
It is not, nor has it ever been the will of God for some to get rich, while others suffer in poverty. God calls us to share all that we have as if it's not ours, but God's. This is a viture of Methodism that has been "miss placed" over the years. John Wesley advocated for the redistribution of wealth, not in some "communist" or "socialist" way, but in an Acts 2 kind of way, "The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 44 All the believers were united and shared everything. 45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved."...That kind of way.
II. Thou Shalt Not Pile On
It's not ok to judge and condemn others, especially when they are down. We live in a society that just can't wait to see a celebrity, a politician, an athlete and especially a religious leader fall from grace and when they fall we pile it on insult after insult. We dig for more mistakes and more life errors until we have piled so much crap on top of them they can't dig out and are lost forever and branded a liar, a drug addict, a wife beater, a sexual deviant. Truth is God changes lives and if we would give people time to learn from their mistakes and perhaps help them find God, they might come out of their "fall from grace" a better person. You Christian folks of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist persuasion are the worst at this....you know who you are.
III.Thou Shalt Not Pile In
Just because someone else is doing it, doesn't mean it's ok. Ever heard grandma or mom say those words? Well it's true. We have a tendency to be mob thinkers. We do whats cool, whats trending on yahoo, twitter or what the most recent post on Facebook is. Companies relay on this behavior, politicians relay on this behavior and Satan relies on this behavior. We are called to be holy, this means set apart, we are the church, ecc-lasia, called-out, but how can we be called out or separate when we do everything everyone else does. I'm guilty of this. I want to be a trendy, cool and relevant young pastor, with hopes that I might reach my generation or be promoted to the top church. I want to write books, tweet cool tweets, blog a popular and well read blog. I want my iPhone 5, iPad mini and MacBook Pro all so I can have the same stuff the cool trendy pastors have and post on the go and use Four Square to tell everyone how much fun I had eating at Taco Bell, but it's not ok. It cost money, takes time and even aids to the disconnect of my generation. Time to stop going with the "in" crowd and stick with Jesus.
IV. Thou Shalt Not Pile Higher or Deeper
Just because an idea, or a thought is popular does not make it good. We are often guilty of piling higher and deeper the crap that makes church stupid and irrelevant and which also makes our world unjust. We ought not be afraid to stand up and put an end to the crap. When something is not working, or some idea is not fair or it happens to be the idea of the majority and you know it's wrong...it's ok to call Bull shit on that (thought it would be ok to say "Bull Shit" this week since we are talking about piles). Take a stand for righteousness, Jesus says you'll be blessed.
V. Thou Shalt Not Pile Under
We are all to busy, to committed, life is to noisy, to cluttered, to full...so we just miss out on life. We pile ourselves under so much stuff that the weight of all those commitments, all those sports teams practices, all those committee meetings, all those TV shows we have to DVR and make sure we watch gets in the way of living the way Jesus has called us to live. Depression an anxiety are up amongst adults and teens because we are so busy we don't have time to unwind. Don't get piled under by all life's stuff and have your life end up like an episode of "Hoarders"
With all that, isn't it great to know that Jesus says, "The whole of the law is summed up in two commands; love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself." I bet that no matter how many stone tablets Moses might have dropped, Jesus' message of love God and others would still be enough to insure that we stop with the piling and start with the serving.
Have a great week and remember to go vote!