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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Today’s Reading | Exodus 20:1–21

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. Six days you shall labor 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.

Honor 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 neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (NRSV)      

“You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” In one little verse, tucked away in all the “Do this, don’t do that,” hidden by all the thunder and lightning, the people of God reveal themselves: “You tell us what to do, Moses. God is too big.”

People are easy to deal with. They have authority or they don’t. You agree with them or you don’t, or you agree with them on some things and not others. There’s generally a limited amount of power that they have over you (if any), and you get to weigh how important the things they say are, depending on what you want to do at the time.

“You speak to us, Moses, and we will listen.” Of course, we’ll also whine and accuse and harangue you over things we find uncomfortable about the changes you’ve brought to our lives and yes, there was that thing with the golden calf and all, but hey, we’ll listen to you. Just keep that God fellow out of this. That guy is Mister No Slack, and we can’t work under those conditions.

Things are not fuzzy with God. They are or they aren’t. “Thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” There’s no “maybe,” no “sort of,” no “kinda.” Jesus said, “I come not to bring peace but a sword.” One cut, one line is drawn, and then you’re on one side or the other. There’s no middle ground, and the standards are so high that everyone is on the wrong side, none righteous, not one.

Moses said, “God’s doing all that thunder and lightning so you’ll have some respect.” Respect for God comes with a deep and constant awareness of our continual need for grace. We can’t survive in the no-slack world of the dos and don’ts on tablets of stone. Without the grace of God to sustain us, the weight of those tablets would crush us.

Lord, thank you for the gift of your grace, which makes up for all of our inevitable shortcomings. Remind us that in wielding the law against others, we place ourselves beneath its weight. Let us show mercy to others as you have shown to us. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator for Fine Arts

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