The Eleventh Commandment
By Charles Rush
October 9, 2011
I Corinthians 13: 1-13 and John 13: 34, 35
(mp3, .9Mb) ]
want to commend Julie and the Education committee for putting together an Art exhibit on the 11th commandment. We asked our children the same question I’ll ask you. You know the 10 commandments. “Thou Shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not have any other gods before me.” If God asked you to name the 11th commandment, to guide all of us, what would that be?
Some of our
kids, it appears, are seeking to establish a firm minimum standard of decorum,
not a bad way in. One of our first graders, Juliana Schickel,
suggests “Don’t bite other people.” Who could disagree with that?
struck by the thoughtfulness our children exhibit. One of our third graders, James McCollugh had this,
Two of our
second graders, Christopher Nelson and Michael Speer, both said “Be Nice”, not
entirely clear whether they struggle with niceness or live it. Knowing 2nd
grade boys, it is probably a struggle, suggested by the more realistic maxim of
another 2nd grader Charlie Guida, “Be nice to animals”, consistent
niceness to one’s sister say, being a bit of a stretch for ordinary mortals.
We have some
budding environmentalists as well. Christen Taylor, a
fourth grader has a wonderful picture of our world and the maxim, “Use all your
And some Kennedy idealists as well. 1st grader
Adam Witkowski tell us, “Be a Citizen of the world”.
If you listen
closely, you can still hear the echo of the 60’s being passed down the
generations. One of our 5th graders, Russell Cook has “Respect the
Rules” (no littering). We should all do our part for the civic order. And, adds
Coral Briber, “Plant more Flowers in the world.” Or putting it all together,
this from another 5th grader, Bridgett Bowen, “Treat Others the Way
you want to be treated.” You see the sun beaming hope and light.
I close with
one I would have written at age 7, “Always give somebody a second chance” says
Dylan Sebastian, written like a man whose probably needed a second chance
It is curious
that our kids, unwittingly followed the lead of Jesus.
The original 10 commandments were mostly prohibitions. Jesus, transcending
tradition in such a wonderfully positive direction says, “A new commandment I
give you, that you love one another.” Not so many don’ts but one big ‘do’.
It is hard to
overestimate how much this has shaped all of us when we think morally. Jesus
opened our minds morally and spiritually that at the end of the day, it is not
a problem that we have to solve, it is a person that
we have to love and grow. All of our little rules and maxims, important and
necessary as they are, have to be shaped by the fact
that our goal is to love and be loved… Our product is community.
You probably saw
the obit for Steve Jobs this week. Even with all of his simply astounding
accomplishments, one of his good friends asked him about his children and he
said they were “10,000 times more important.” He was privileged to love and to
pour out himself in love. That is what was most important to him at the end.
Jesus showed us that this is the point of our spiritual lives, to love and be
something like this each and every time we have a baptism, usually in a
So many of us learn our elementary lessons about the spiritual life
of love through the chase of romance. God has a way of using that primal
energy to direct us towards the deeper lessons that we will learn about love as
When I met my
wife in college there was a lot of snap, crackle and pop from the get go. We
dated for a few months but there always comes this moment in these
relationships where you step back and reflect before you get into the deep
water. Kate was about to graduate and she needed some space.
This being the
70’s, we were all about freedom, so it seemed like a good idea to me, not
really but whatever...
I called my
construction firm, they were happy to offer me the big money job at home, so I
decided that I would go back to Westport. Maybe this was a good time to part
ways. Maybe I should work for a bit, get a motorcycle and make that trip across
Africa, meet some interesting people, live the
adventure. My mother was elated, the economy then being what it is now for
young people, any job was welcome, the big paying job better.
I went over to
Kate’s mother’s house for a farewell dinner for the summer. We are cleaning up
the dishes after dinner and her mother wends into the kitchen, stands next to
me, and says, “If you give her enough rope, she’ll hang herself.” I didn’t know
then that Kate’s mother had been handicapping her boyfriends and she liked me
better than the rest of the field. Mildly good news to think she was in my
I get home, go
to work at big paying job, lots of opportunites, everything
is great, but the only problem is… I’m miserable. It gets worse every day-
lonely, sad, feeling sorry for myself. Every College
Professor has seen this. About this time in the semester, I would have some
co-ed come to me after class, “Professor Rush, I can’t take the test this week
because I’m so sick.” (cough cough, so sick)
“Ms. Bonadano” I would say, “trust me, he is going to call”.
would say, “The boy that you are pining over will call. Trust me. The exam is
on Wednesday.” They really were sick because they were that involved in the
whole chase. But I had discipline and I didn’t call except to leave a message
that everything was fine.
My mother told
me that Kate left a message a couple times, with that worried look on her face
that Mother’s get when something is brewing they can’t control. This went on
for two years, but I think it was only two weeks. My the
phone. “It’s her”.
“Hey”, I say,
“So how’s your freedom?”
liberating. How’s your independence?”
it individually” I say… On and on the shadow boxing until personal discipline
began to break down and we were both hinting that freedom wasn’t all it was
cracked up to be. I hung up. This is either the time for a bold move or a bold
So I started to
envision the future. Maybe go to Greece. Maybe Africa.
Maybe learn to sail in Australia. Images of adventure right after college. Great visions. But there was one problem. And it just hit me
with a crushing certainty. If I let her go, I just knew in my gut, this would
be the biggest mistake of my life.
needs boldness which was a little difficult because I had no idea what the
future held. I had no real idea what to do. It was that vulnerable unto dizzy
sensation, kind of elated, like opening your parachute for the first time.
Next thing you
know, you are teased out into a faith space, a real faith space. In the midst
of not knowing, you know. You have to actually act.
I went to
dinner that night. My father was there. It must have been the weekend because
we never saw Dad’s during the week in the era of ‘Mad Men’. I announce to my
mother that I’m thinking of quitting my big job, moving to North Carolina,
where I have no work because of this girl.
“When are you
planning on leaving?”
“I don’t know”
I say, “Probably in the morning.”
My mother is
not happy. She says, ‘what are you going to do for a car since you and your brother own that rat trap together?’ Good point, I
hadn’t thought about quite yet. So I say, “No problem, I’ve already talked it
over with Andy. He’s cool with me taking the car for the summer and we’ll
figure out a plan after that.”
I look down the
table. My brother looks at me like, “whaaaa?”
My mother lists
all of the sound reasons this is a nutty idea, finally turns to my father and
says, “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
My Dad, echoing
father’s for thousands of generations, says, “What do you want me to say?”
Thank you Dad!
walks out front, helping me load some clothes in the car, and he is like, “Hey
when were you going to tell me, you are taking my wheels, like as you were
leaving town?” I stood there shaking my head in agreement. Then my brother
says, “I can’t wait to meet her.”
I drove all
night and got to Kate’s mother’s house at about 7 in the morning. This is a
little nerve wracking. There was nothing in my background that encouraged a
young man to put himself out there like that. It is pathetically obvious that I
drove all night. Oh man, how vulnerable do you feel, sitting out front of her
house barely dawn, like an idiot? What if she teases me? What if I read the
wrong thing into one exchange? What if she’s changed her mind?
I get up to the
door and Kate’s mother sees me, heading towards Kate’s bedroom window like
Romeo to Juliet’s balcony and simply says, “Oh my”.
Like most young
people, I tumbled over the privilege of taking care of one other person. A
short thirty years later, with the addition of four children, five dogs, 3
cats, 2 foster children, 3 children by marriage, 20 nieces and nephews, 6
grandchildren and a 7th in the oven, our community, I’m just
grateful in a very complex way.
I asked my
mother-in-law, now 86 at a family wedding this summer, what it was like to look
out on her 5 children and their spouses, her 18 grandchildren and her 6 great
grandchildren. She said, “it is a rich tapestry of
love.” Jesus taught us that this way of love is the most spiritually fulfilling
way we can live.
“If you abide
in love, you abide in me.” One time the crowds gathered about Jesus and the bible
story says ‘he had compassion upon them’. So, he took such fish and bread as
the disciples had among them and he blessed it, passed it out to all the
people, and somehow everyone had enough to eat and there was even some food
Love is one of those
things that when you share it, it just miraculously multiplies itself, and
there is more to go around. St. Paul hoped that through the life of love, our
families would all be made stronger. He hoped that our churches would be
extended families of strong families, making our congregations stronger. He
hoped that our churches would join together to make neighbors stronger
literally around the world. The Spirit of Love doesn’t deplete itself, it
Jesus lived a
life so focused on giving to others, even to the point that the criminals who
died on his left and his right felt blessed by being around him, that people
later said of him, ‘He poured out his life’ for us. Love is the blessed way.
I had a chance
this year to stop for just a couple minutes at the apartment Kate and I lived
in when we had our first two children. I looked up into the bedroom where we
lived and I wished for just a moment that I could talk to that kid.
I think I would
tell him that all the frustrations that he was experiencing because of his
personal limitations, all of the hardships that he would have to overcome, even
the repair he would have to do over mistakes made with those he loved, all the
warmth and tenderness, all the sorrow too, it is all part of the plan for you
and you will hardly be the same person thirty years later and that will be okay
too. And you will never regret the life of love. That will persist through
I was talking
to one of our Senior Citizens that is now living in
Florida. He accidentally made the same point in a kind of poignant way. His
wife died a couple years earlier, so I was asking him about his love life,
having read a humorous article that men in retirement places in South Florida
have 4 or 5 women for every one of them. So, I asked him, what is the dating
He says, “Eh
Chuck, the girls are always asking me to a dance but I have no interest.”
“Really, why not?”
“They’re old ladies”
I’m puzzled. I
said, “but your wife who died a couple years ago was
the same age as your neighbors.”
“Ah”, he said,
“She was different. I always could see her young.” Over the years, the love
force started to shine brighter than the physical force and the love itself
manifested eternity in the midst of decline. We are given the miraculous power
of blessing like that.
And in baptism,
we pass that on to the next generation. We light a candle of blessing and hope.
We pray that it spreads and that an effulgent glow will one day guide you
humanely and authentically into the fullest blessing of the life of love.
My brothers and sisters, from my heart to yours. Amen.