By grace not law

It can seem a long time, a morning spent on legislation. But in fact it didn’t seem as long as in fact it had been when we finally emerged from the Chamber ready for lunch. Not that I would have wanted the Session any longer!

It was interesting that the Archbishop of York began the day with his Presidential Address and choosing to speak about that fundamental choice that each of us has to make. He took us back to Moses and Deuteronomy 30.19.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

It is a passage that I love – the stark choices. Why would anyone not choose life and blessing rather than death and curses? But it is a free choice. I set this alongside what Jesus says in St John’s Gospel

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10.10)

With Jesus it is gift, abundant gift, and looking into the face of Jesus, the graceful face of Jesus, who could refuse what he brings to us, abundant life. The choice that Moses gives seems to be in the context of so much law and regulation but Jesus’ gift seems to be in the context of love and freedom and relationship – because it is.

So I was grateful that the Archbishop, in speaking of the Ten Commandments, said that they should be read as promise and not command. If you choose life you will live like this because life, true life, abundant life means that you will live like this, is manifested in a life that has the ‘high bar of the kingdom’ to use his phrase. We are called to live differently because that is true living, true and abundant life that exists in that kingdom context of love, freedom and relationship that we find in Jesus.

Nice friendly Moses

Nice friendly Moses

The rest of the morning though was not so much about grace but law. It is wrong though easy to be harsh and critical about the amount of time we spend on legislation. For a complex body, with its variety of responsibilities and the requirement placed on us of justice and care, we have to do things orderly and well. So law is required – but only as long as it does not squeeze out life, otherwise we end up with Moses’ only other options – death and curses!

As it says in the liturgy of our church

Lord, have mercy upon us,
and write all these thy laws in our hearts,
we beseech thee.
Amen.

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