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Sunday 8:15 a.m. Holy Eucharist Rite I
Sunday 10:45 a.m. Holy Eucharist Rite II
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Tuesday 8:00 p.m. Compline
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Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Eucharist

Sunday, September 15
ONE service at 10:00 a.m.

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The Grace Church nave is located at the corner of Washington Street and Boulevard in Gainesville, Georgia.

The parish office, open Monday through Thursday from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, is located at 422 Brenau Avenue. Come to the red door that faces Brenau Avenue and ring the bell for access.

Mailing Address: 422 Brenau Avenue, Gainesville, GA 30501
Phone: 770-536-0126

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From the Clergy

Date Posted: January 20, 2021

Love Letters Known as Law Then and Now

Love Letters Known as Law Then and Now: Biblical law as an inspiration for the modern law

By The Reverend Edgar Otero

In our current time, we are used to the division between the church and state.  When we use the word law, it most likely refers to our civil law.  The respect of the law many times relates to fear of the consequences if we break the law. For instance, speed limits are more respected due to the fear of the possible fines more than human lives’ respect if an accident occurs.  The biblical authors did not have our same divisions of church and state, and when someone is referring to respect of the law, in the biblical sense, it more likely refers to how one expresses respect for God.  That respect is presented in the way of being faithful to the law that Moses received and the development of those laws throughout the Hebrew Bible’s history.   

During one class, Dr. Jacob Wright, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Emory University, made an argument that resonated with me.  He indicated that in the Thou should not statement part of the commandments, which are often interpreted as a negative statement, which is a positive statement. After this class, this statement brought me to a meditation of those law statements.  Thou should not statement at the beginning of each commandment is a positive reality that encapsulates the world of possibilities. Thou shall not eat of it, in Genesis 2:17 implies that the entire garden’s fruits were available and fair game. Just one was out of the limit. This way of thinking resonates with me, and I see how even those sacred authors saw the need for order that this law provided. Working with these narratives of the scriptures is essential to point out that the law or way of living is a way of organizing their ordinary life.  The sacred authors saw the need for us to understand our sinful humanity by breaking a small law that singles out one tree out of the Garden of Eden’s abundance.           

We live in a society where understanding the word law means privation in more instances than for other generations. It is fascinating that our modern lives dictate the insurrection rules and norms due to our false sense of freedom that has tread us to many errors.  We believe that we have the right to decide what rule or law applies to us. In a way, this is attractive and the rhetoric of many, but in reality, it is an internal insurrection that could lead one to see the world selfishly.  We have been witnesses in our modern times many examples of this internal insurrection that has to lead us to wars and fights between peoples. 

Laws exist to prevent future errors—most of the rules-laws that we see in the Mosaic law result from mistakes from the human race. Let’s look at all the laws starting in Exodus 20, including the ten commandments, moral laws, social laws, food laws, purity laws, feast laws, sacrifices/offerings laws. It is noticeable that all of these laws inspired by YHWH’s relationship with the people and are an external witness of the internal relationship with YHWH and the people.  The relational God that has guided God’s people out of Egypt is perpetuating that relationship by Moses’s teachings on expressing that love, which we call laws.    

“Throughout the biblical corpus, we can study how scribes applied standard diplomatic parlance of states to their project of creating a form of peoplehood that is capable of withstanding the loss of statehood.” ( War, Memory, and National Identity in the Hebrew Bible, Jacob L. Wright p. 98)

This quote shows that the time’s diplomatic language provided a canvas for developing the sacred word. This sentiment of belonging in a deep sense of being in a faithful relationship was the center’s people and not a specific figure. This union could be a strong union that goes beyond words; it is almost a stronger spiritual connection than blood.  It is a relationship that is not center on a king or a center person, and it is the people who are the protagonist of this relationship.  Being a people that enjoy that relationship in which YHWH provides a love letter with our vows as God’s people.  A God that emphasizes that being a people, kinship, is more important than being under a state/country.  This opens the door to the community’s growth that can quickly follow the laws of that communal philosophy of life, a rule, and love letter with the Divine.   

Narrative, kinship, and law are presented as the glue that keeps the people together but not necessarily in that order. There are moments in which these are separated, but the people continue to accomplish that union.  In the book of Judges, we see this repeatedly, and even when the people made mistakes and have no king, they continue to rise stronger when the unexpected hero arise, and the people grow. I think a special connection was in the scribes’ mind to underline that the glue that keeps all of this together is the divine law that has been the center of the Hebrew Scriptures.   

In a video of a lecture given by Professor Aziz Rana, Associate professor of Law at Cornell University, Should Americans Love the Constitution (6:27) points out that the constitution might be interpreted differently by either party (referring to both political parties in the USA). Still, there is a significant amount of consensus in the end. This point is critical to underline a more robust sense of union that unites people. In the case of the United States, the constitution brings that backbone that connects a people. In the recent event of January 6th, 2021, our eyes were in disbelieve; our hearts were looking to find the words to unite us and say that these groups did not represent the essence or the backbone of the United States’ constitution. We witness people from all backgrounds and parties stating the need to condemn this dishonor to the constitution.  

The love letter that unites us as a nation is the Constitution of the United States.  In this document, we see the way of life that we are bound to do and to live.  Our document of love starts by:

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Introduction of the Constitution of the United States

Our constitution starts by stressing the people’s point as the center and more critical part of the document.  Peoplehood is the reason for the constitutional document that regulates that way of living or course of loving those that are part of this peoplehood.  There is no mention of color, race, age, etc., at the beginning of this document.  This is a mirror effect of Genesis 28:3 “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may become a company of peoples.” Company of peoples that interpreted as the way of living in a land, the United States of America is a company of people who share the constitution’s beautiful document.  Peoplehood is a goal that we still have to accomplish.  In the last few weeks, we saw how the loss of focus of peoplehood in our land brought us to Cain and Abel moment on January 6th, 2021. 

Our work is not done; we are on the most critical mission of our lives.  We now need to return to the words that unite us—looking to live in our country a Seth moment.  In the same way that Seth brought hope for a new beginning, we hope to have the same sentiment soon.  The story has taught us that when we move far from YHWH, far from being brethren, is when we experience tragedy and pain.  The hope that unites us today more than ever is the hope of returning to the love of understanding what “We the people” means that we are a people that share the same dignity, respect, and responsibilities. Our responsibility today is capture in the Hebrew Scriptures, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 18:2). Our job is to speak to the people, so the spirit of unity resurrects as our laws and constitution suggest.