Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Interim Pastor

Rev. Millie Myren, Support Minister

Morgan Park

 Baptist Church

11024 S. Bell Avenue 

Chicago, IL 60643


Reflection September 13, 2015

Commandments: Seven & Eight
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth

     While my sermons on placed on our website shortly after being preached, I realize not everyone has access to our web site. For this reason, I’ve been placing some “snippets” from my preaching series in theAdvance. Today I offer some points from my sermons on the Seventh Commandment (“The Marriage Vow”) and the Eighth Commandment (“Keep Your Hands Off My Stuff!”).

     Human sexuality is a sacred energy, but its sacredness is neither applauded nor appreciated in our culture. Is this not so? Sex is used to sell everything under the sun. Many of our movies for decades seem obsessed with sex. A recent example would be the movie, Trainwreck, which devalues long-term commitment for any sexual relationship.

     Yet as the English commentator Henry Fairlie notes in The Seven Deadly Sins Today: “The fact that one may go to bed with a lot of people is, in itself, less Lust’s offense than the fact that one goes to bed with people for whom there is never any intention that one will care (about them).”

     Our young people’s culture is sometimes spoken of as “the hook-up culture.“ We know that binge-drinking on our college campuses is one of the factors that leads to many misguided sexual “hook ups.“ Something is amiss. Yet because most of our churches have failed to seriously and realistically talk about the power of human sexuality many of our young disregard any church’s ethical teaching.

     Many people live together before marriage – more than half of couples who eventually marry. But statistics clearly point out that living together before marriage makes divorce more likely. I need to say something here even though it might be misunderstood: I believe living-together, cohabitating without the legal and protective safeguards of marriage is, frankly, a cowardly choice.

     I believe living together before marriage reveals a lack of courage to truly and deeply commit to another person. But the truths that really matter often can’t be grasped without hard learning involved. My beloved Beth and I took our marriage vows before we became one flesh. We did not have sex until we were married. This was truly the best possible decision for us.

     Sex sells because we are all – no matter how happily married – no matter how satisfied we are in our families and in our other relationships – we are all in varying degrees lonely. This loneliness is part of what it means to live in an imperfect world. And I believe sexuality and loneliness are deeply connected.

     Now we don’t usually hear this truth. We don’t usually share this truth with our young. This truth is not often proclaimed from our pulpits. I don’t believe we can unravel the reality of human sexuality without understanding the dynamics of human loneliness.

     As the French spiritual authority, Jean Vanier, notes in his classic bestseller, Becoming Human: “Loneliness is part of being human, because there is nothing in existence that can completely fulfill the needs of the human heart … (but) Loneliness can become a source of creative energy, the energy that drives us down new paths to create new things or to seek more truth and justice in the world.

     “Artists, poets, mystics, prophets, those who do not seem to fit into the world or the ways of society, are frequently lonely. They feel themselves … dissatisfied with the status quo and with mediocrity; dissatisfied with our competitive world where so much energy goes into things (that truly don’t matter) ... Loneliness opens up mystics to a desire to love each and every human being as God loves them.’

     This and this alone, is the ultimate point of human sexuality: to love each and every human being as God loves them. This is what human sexuality and loneliness are trying to teach us. From The Marriage Vow

     “We live in a greed-saturated world that fuels the temptation to steal! Wherever we look – we see people trying to take our hard-earned money dishonestly. We shudder when we get phone calls from supposed grandchildren who are apparently stuck somewhere in jail. If we want them to be released, we must send money to the jailers. How evil and sinful this is!

     We shudder when we get phone calls from people pretending to be IRS agents who tell us agents are on the way to arrest us unless we pay what we owe - over the phone right now. We shudder when we get phone calls from people pretending to be computer specialists who will fix whatever ails our computers if we let them have access to our computers. It goes on and on!

     I want to say that the Eighth Commandment may be the one most broken by more people than any other. And the breaking of this commandment prevents us from living in a decent and safe world. Are not many of us afraid to go out at night? Do we not fear someone breaking into our own homes?        

     There are, of course, many ways of stealing from others. Property can be stolen. But also one’s reputation can be stolen. This can happen when people engage in malicious gossip. Such people are stealing someone’s reputation – someone’s good name. The problem with stealing someone’s good name is that it is nigh unto impossible for the person to reclaim, to regain, his or her good name.

     Gossip fills every corner of our world. Too much of our news is just thinly disguised gossip. Look at the tabloids whose headlines scream out to us as we wait to buy groceries. Too often politics runs more on gossip than it does on honest dialogue and debate. Gossip can contaminate any church, any school, any business, and any organization …

     One can also steal someone’s intellectual property. We call this plagiarism. This means taking someone else’s thoughts and ideas and pretending them to be your own. I recall vividly the time I was sitting in a church in St. Louis. The preacher gave his sermon – word for word a sermon I had written for a sermon service.

     I used to be paid to write sermons for a service that would then send them out to subscribers. But the idea was to use such a sermon as a reflection – as a way to jumpstart the writing of one’s own sermon. These sermons were not to be used word-for-word.

     But that day in St. Louis the minister read my sermon – word for word – from the pulpit. He didn’t know I was there. After the worship, I approached him and said: “Nice sermon!” He blanched – we knew each other – and he knew I had written the sermon he had just preached. This, unfortunately, is not uncommon. I estimate that – at best – only half of all sermons preached in our country are actually written by the person delivering the sermon. (From Keep Your Hands Off My Stuff! )