My children heard today’s passages and I asked them, “What do you think it means to disobey God?” “To break the Ten Commandments?” ventured twelve-year old Benedict. Teenage Hannah jumped in, “How can you honor your mother and father all the time? How can anyone keep all those commandments? Why bother?”
All three passages tell us why to bother. In each we hear that no good comes when “hearts go astray,” to use the psalmist’s words. Jeremiah’s people are taken into exile; the first generation out of Egypt who grumbled against Moses and God in the desert did not get to cross into the Promised Land; Jesus told the crowd that if they were not for him, they were against him. It is not so much about keeping every detail of the law as it is about being oriented to God, bothering, even when we are likely to fall short.
I am reminded of a prayer by Thomas Merton, the noted Trappist monk: “My Lord God,…I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end….and the fact that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road… Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone” (Thoughts in Solitude).
The Rev. Heather Warren