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“The Tenth Commandment”
Exodus 20:17


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Midweek Vespers—November 5, 2008

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

People who grew up in the 70’s like I did might remember these groovy things: an 8-track tape.  They were the latest technology and all the rage back when I was in high school.  It’s a little embarrassing to admit I bought this one at an antique store!

The really neat, revolutionarily thing that made 8-track tapes so popular for a while is that they are a continuous loop.  You don’t ever have to flip them over like a regular tape.  When an 8-track gets to the end, it just starts over again.  It works that way because inside is a configuration called a mobius strip.  You can make one yourself by twisting a strip of paper and taping it together to form a continuous loop.

You could call the Ten Commandments God’s 8-track, or perhaps 10-track, tape, God’s mobius strip.  Because, when you get to the end of the Ten Commandments, they really start over again, back at the beginning.

God began in the First Commandment with, “You shall have no other gods before me,” which means, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”  By the time he gets to the Ninth and Tenth Commandments, God comes full circle BACK to this theme with, “You shall not covet.”  Because, coveting is a sinful desire for what belongs to someone else.  If you succeed in getting what you covet, whatever it is, that has become your IDOL, something more important to you than God.  As Paul says in Colossians, “Greed, which is idolatry.”

So, the Ten Commandments form a logical, repeating circle, like a mobius strip.  COVETING, violating the Ninth and Tenth Commandments, will lead you right back to the beginning, IDOLATRY, violating the First Commandment.

This circle of the Law is not only like a mobius strip, it is also like a NOOSE, strangling, condemning, killing you.  Like condemned prisoners chained in shackles, this endless circle of the Law has you trapped, pulling you down to hell.

But, in Romans, Paul tells us the wonderful Good News, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  God’s own Son took the noose of the Law for you.  Peter says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.”  He suffered in your place all the punishment for your sins.  By his sacrifice, your sins are all forgiven.  As Paul says in Ephesians, “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as an offering and sacrifice to God. . .  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

That is the Gospel, which means the “Good News,” the essence of our Christian faith.  As Paul says in Romans, “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law . . .  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known. . .  For what the law was powerless to do . . .  God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. . .  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”

Martin Luther expresses the Gospel this way in the Small Catechism in his explanation of the Apostles Creed:  “[He] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true.”

Amen.

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