Last week we heard of the living Water of God that flows into every nook and cranny, this week the central image is the Law, and on how some are excluded from God’s life because they have allowed the Law to become stagnant, repressive and legalistic.
In the Exodus reading, the Moses journey continues, with the Israelites receiving God’s Law. But, because of their fear, they choose a lifeless Law, passed on to them second-hand through Moses, over a relationship to which the Law is simply a doorway. Here the Law ends up being an end in itself, rather than a means to an end – intimacy with God.
In Philippians Paul, who could celebrate his righteousness under the law, express his disregard for legalistic purity, and embraces, rather, the life of Christ – both his resurrection and his suffering – for it is in Christ that he knows true life, and true connection with God and others.
In Jesus’ parable, it is the people of the law – the religious leaders, who are represented by the wicked tenants. Their inability to recognise their place as custodians of God’s vineyard, and their unwillingness to receive the “farmer’s son” reveals how their devotion to the law has robbed them and others of life, and has led them into a destructive legalism.
In response to this, the Psalm offer us a son that is helpful in our expressions of our longing for God, and our desire to keep God’s law in its rightful place. In Psalm 19 God’s law, like creation, is shown to be simply a way that God is revealed, and is a gift that brings life – which is as it should be.
So, here at last, we recognise that this week is not a contradiction of last week, but a development of it. The only ones who end up excluded are those who use the law to exclude others. The result is less a judgement than a consequence. When Christ seeks to include all, those who insist on excluding some, end up only excluding themselves. What a tragedy that the Law, which is designed to bring life, should become such a destructive idol for some – and what a warning against any tendency to legalism we might find in ourselves.
May we our worship lead us beyond legalism into a life that clearly demonstrates the power of the law of love. In prayer, Rev Tania