Monday, March 9, 2009

Day Twelve- March 9

Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation* of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

You undoubtedly remember the controversy from a few years back of an Alabama judge and others who wanted to display the ten commandments in public buildings and the state supreme court ruling to remove them.
There are a hundred ways to think about this text for the third Sunday in Lent. What does it mean to honor our loved ones? How can faithful 21st century people observe and keep the sabbath holy?
When political candidates portray their opponents in less than truthful manner, is that bearing false witness? Is there a way for to attend to the ten commandments, in all of their simplicity and cultural complexity, so that they provide not only a window into understanding Moses' era, but our own as well? Ten's a pretty simple, manageable number, yet these commandments remind us that our lives can get pretty complicated very quickly, and we should guard against trivializing something simply stated that represents a great deal of moral and cultural complexity.

Bruce Gillette, a Presbyterian pastor in Delaware and the spouse of the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, a writer of new words for familiar hymns, has written these words, to recall the ten commandments in verse:

Above all else love God alone;
Bow down to neither wood nor stone.
God's name refuse to take in vain;
The Sabbath rest with care maintain.
Respect your parents all your days;
Hold sacred human life always.
Be loyal to your chosen mate;
Steal nothing, neither small nor great.
Report, with truth, your neighbor's deed;
And rid your mind of selfish greed.

They have also written a wonderful guide to teaching the ten commandments to children. It can be found here:

Enjoy these simple guides, while also remembering that the history of our faith is not simplistic.


Guide our feet and our thoughts and actions, O God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
Guide us in your ways and help us always to be mindful, respectful and engaged int he world around us as we seek to do your work and your will. Amen.

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