Last week we looked at the Fourth Commandment and the respect and obedience we are to give to proper authorities. This week we will consider the prohibition to murder. “You shall not kill.” And once again we will reflect on Luther’s pithy explanation. He instructs, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not hurt our neighbor in any way, but help him in all his physical needs.”
This is a good point to be reminded that the Law not only curbs evil with the threat of punishment, but it also functions as a mirror so that we see the sin in our lives. And it is just here that many of us think that the reflected image shows no cracks. After all, I have not shot or stabbed my neighbor.
But Luther’s explanation demonstrates his familiarity with all of Scripture and its fulfillment in Christ. For our beloved Dr. Luther knows of our Lord’s warning of harboring hatred in our hearts. As Jesus so pointedly teaches in his Sermon on the Mount we can cause great harm to our neighbor with our tongues (cf. Mt. 5:21-22).
The great Reformer also knew of the sins of omission and the testimony of the John in his first letter, “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him” (1 Jn. 3:17; cf. Jas 2:15-16)? And so our reflection in the mirror of God’s perfect will shows us to be guilty here along with all the rest of the commands!
This all leads me to discuss how a reflection on the Commandments can guide us in our prayers. For an example with the 5th Commandment we might pray: Heavenly Father, through your dear Son have mercy on me for my maligning my neighbor with my speech and for my lack of charity to others less fortunate. By your grace and the help of your Spirit help me to assist my neighbor in all his physical needs. Amen.
Since You Asked…
What is an Alb? And why does our Pastor wear one?
Alb (from the Latin “white”): a white ankle-length vestment with sleeves, often gathered at the waist with a cincture, worn by all ranks of ministers, ordained and unordained. The classical tunic became a specific church vestment about the fifth century. One of the functions of an ordained minister in our tradition is for that person to represent Christ to the people. Christ is pictured in the Book of Revelation with a white robe. The white robe is also a symbol of his righteousness. For this reason, the alb is a proper covering for the presiding minister with the function of representing Christ to the people. (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)