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Sunday, May 29, 2016

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)

As a society, we appreciate rules and structure to help organize our lives and maintain order and safety for those around us. As individuals, however, we often feel bogged down and restricted by rules, however logical they might be. And the Ten Commandments? No one feels particularly happy after reading the scripture recounting the epic interaction between God and Moses. Being told everything we can’t do or say or think sounds rather oppressive, and God just rescued Moses and the Israelites from their slavery and captivity under the Egyptians. It almost seems counterproductive.

But if we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, we see God providing the Israelites with guidelines on how to live fully and genuinely, by highlighting two relationships: the relationship with God, and the relationship with neighbor. These relationships are at the core of Christianity.

Being a Christian (in biblical times or in present day) does not mean focusing your time solely on your own needs, wants, and responsibilities. It means giving of your time, sharing your spirit, and cultivating your faith to grow and learn as you build relationships. God did rescue the Israelites from oppressive leadership, but they were not simply given God’s blessings. These blessings would have to be earned through remaining faithful to God and to one another.

This challenge and offer of autonomy is a greater gift than simply handing over blessings and miracles. It allows us to truly experience the human journey and share God’s unlimited love and grace with one another as we both fail to meet this challenge as well as surpass our own expectations.

God, help me to focus my energy and spirit in relationship with you and among my neighbors. Remind me my outward love fosters a true Christian community and centers around your grace. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens, Director,
Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

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