Monday, April 10, 2006

Sermon - "Dropping the G-Bomb" - Exodus 20:7

The following homily is an adaptation of an article I wrote for the Spring 2006 issue of Higher Things, a Lutheran youth magazine. This homily was preached at Racine Lutheran High School's regular Wednesday chapel, January 25th, 2006.

You can also listen to my discussion of the article on "Issues, Etc." radio program, archived here.

Exodus 20:7
“Dropping the G-Bomb”

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name”
Ex 20:7

This, for most of us, is the commandment that reminds us not to swear or use curse words. It is perhaps a commandment which is broken quite frequently, especially when our teachers and parents aren’t listening. We often have a different way of talking amongst our friends. We use different words.

Then there’s the mother of all curse words. The foulest, most potent, most explosive word in our language. The F-Bomb. You know what it is, I don’t have to spell it out.

But would you believe me if I said this: That as a pastor, I am more offended by someone taking the Lord’s name in vain? I am. I call it “dropping the G-Bomb”. You might call it, breaking the Second Commandment:

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”

“What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, lie, or deceive by his name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.”

God’s name is one of the most precious gifts we have. But we sinners like to abuse our gifts, don’t we? Just like we dirty up the language about sexuality – we drag God’s name through the mud too.

One way to misuse His name is purposely. Like when we “curse, swear, lie, or deceive”. Oh, but there are other ways…

The one I notice most, is the phrase, “Oh my God!”. Now really, is this necessary? It’s just a careless use of a precious thing. Throwing around God’s name just to express our excitement, disgust, surprise or whatever… We do it so much we even have an abbreviation for it now: “OMG!”

Now, that’s what I call “dropping the G-bomb”. But it’s a bomb people drop with reckless abandon. Carelessly, thoughtlessly. God’s name is to be kept holy! We pray that every time we utter the Lord’s prayer, don’t we?

And don’t try to tell me “OMG” is used as a prayer. I don’t think so. Not unless you are finishing the thought with something remotely prayer oriented. Otherwise it’s like calling up your friend and hanging up as soon as they say hello.

Here’s a game to play. While watching TV sometime see how many times people drop the G-Bomb. Or even better – count the number of times your friends use it in casual conversation. Or even better- catch yourself when you are about to say it – and STOP!

It’s not easy to break a habit like this. It takes time, practice, and most of all, repentance! But know that God forgives your thoughtless words and your disrespect of his name just as he forgives all our sins in Christ.

The flip side of the coin, is that God DOES want us to use his name. How? “…call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.” This is Gospel. That we get to use, to speak, to even know the name of God is a blessing and a privilege.

Back to the phone analogy. Having God’s name is like having his phone number. I don’t know about you, but I don’t give out my phone number to just anyone – only those people I want to talk to. Likewise with God. He wants us to call him, to pray, to ask for what we need, and to thank him for our blessings.

That’s why that whole burning-bush “thing” was so important in the Old Testament. God was sharing his name with Moses and the Israelites. But it was more than that. It was – “Hey – give me a call sometime. I’m here for you!” And God says the same to us.

Maybe you’ve seen that poster with all the different names for God – there must be dozens. Each name tells us something different about God. And almost always, the name tells us something good he does for us. Redeemer. Father. Savior. Teacher. Friend.

Perhaps the most important name God tells us is the name of his Son, “Jesus” (which means, “God Saves”). What an appropriate name for the one who died and rose and lives and reigns – and truly does save us. In fact, only Jesus Christ gets us to the Father – which is why even our prayers are offered, “in Jesus’ name”. Perhaps we could call this name, “the J-Bomb” that God dropped on Satan, and ruined his day.

And then there’s the three-fold name of God that you carry around with you – you who are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s a name which means something, a name with has power, and a name with a promise of salvation for you. It identifies you as belonging to him.

In the movie Toy Story, which my 4 year old daughter watches 50 times a day and I can now, unfortunately recite backwards, the Toys are quite pleased when the boy they belong to writes his name, “Andy” on them. We bear the name of God, and that means we belong to him forever – no one can steal us away. His Name is on us.

So think about it. Next time you go to drop the “G-Bomb” instead, why not keep God’s name holy? It’s a precious gift. Let’s use it the right way! And we will be blessed, in HIS Name. Amen.

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