Monday, September 10, 2012

Labor Day - Licentiousness


Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

Moses said: So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God with which I am charging you.


You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!" For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?


But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children's children.

Psalm 15 Page 599, BCP

Domine, quis habitabit?

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? *
who may abide upon your holy hill?

2 Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, *
who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend; *
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

4 In his sight the wicked is rejected, *
but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong *
and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain, *
nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

7 Whoever does these things *
shall never be overthrown.

James 1:17-27

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

'This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.'
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person



I'll wager you, like me, did not have occasion to use "licentiousness" in a sentence this week.

It is clearly something naughty. Since it is in a list of naughty things. 

"fornication, - definitely naughty
 theft, - naughty
murder, - naughty
adultery, - very naughty
avarice, - naughty
wickedness, - naughty (& maybe redundant)
deceit - naughty,
envy, - naughty
slander, - naughty
pride, - naughty
folly- naughty

So... Licentiousness must be naughty too. But what particular naughtiness is this? And why focus on it today?

First let's look at the "what" question. What is licentiousness?

The root of the word is the same one that gives us the word "license."
As in "Ma'm, may I see your license and proof of insurance please."

A license is a privilege granted by a greater authority. You have to work hard to get it ( ask the parents of any teenager) and you can loose it too.

But there is nothing naughty about having a Drivers License, or a Medical License, or even a license to cut hair, and if you do something naughty with your license, they take it away.

So Licentiousness must be something different than having a license, and it is.

Licentiousness is behaving as if you have a license, when you do not.

Practicing Law or Medicine without a license, Driving while license suspended, these are examples of secular Licentiousness.

Spiritual Licentiousness is behaving as if God has given us permission to do something that, in truth He has forbidden.

That is the answer to the "why" question. Why are we focusing on Licentiousness?

We are focusing on Licentiousness for the simple reason that we live in a culture that has made Licentiousness its core value.

Think about it.

All around us we see a world of wounded, damaged and broken people.

Not wounded by war or accident.
Not damaged by crime or starvation.
Not broken by slavery or oppression.

Instead these people are victims of - getting exactly what they wanted.

"Do whatsoever thou desireith." is Satan's sales pitch from the beginning of time.

Parts of our culture have adopted this as their Battle Cry.

"victimless crime"
"you're not the boss of me." and
"Who are you to tell me what to do?"

Are the hall marks of Licentiousness.

It does us little good to reply "it isn't me telling you, but God!"

That might have worked in 1549, although I doubt it. It certainly doesn't work today.

Today we can only watch for the casualties of Licentiousness to fall, and when they do we need to be there. Not with an "I told you so." but with a kind word, a hot meal, a helping hand.

And most of all with an example of a life being lived in the glorious freedom to be found within the boundaries of God's will and love.

The culture may shout "I can do whatever I want!"

We must answer softly, "We will be here for you when you discover you didn't want that after all."

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