The Narrative Lectionary commentary from Rolf Jacobson is here. Please note that there is one long commentary the entirety of the Ten Commandments series.


Who among us has not been tempted to respond, “Because I said so” to a repeated “Whyyyyyyy?” from a child or other adult? That shorthand response stems from frustration. We resort to it because it feels like establishing authority and ending the discussion. In reality, it often provokes annoyance and further stubbornness from the other party. The quick, aggravated response does not explain the relationship between the one giving direction and the one receiving, nor does it establish a reason for the directions.

When we discuss the Ten Commandments, then, it is of the utmost importance to eradicate the idea that God gave “rules” to people to be followed “because he said so”. Rather, we can and should lift up the idea that God established a relationship with the Israelites, demonstrated through the covenant with Abraham, the saving work of Shiphrah and Puah, and the hard-won freedom from Egyptian slavery. God’s repeated actions affirm God’s desire for relationship, life, and well-being. It is out of that relationship that the commandments are born.

Before preaching this week, it behooves each of us to think about what the commandments mean to us. What is our own thought pattern or gut reaction to this famous list? Are these:

– simply rules to be followed?

– guidelines inspired by God, but set forth by leaders to make community living easier?

– a list of instructions, by which we are revealed to be totally depraved due to our inability to follow them?

– part of the mythology of ancient Scriptures, with only a nominal tie to what it means to follow Jesus?

– a piece of the whole life of faith, enlightening us as to our relationship with God and our dependency on that relationship?

– a way of revealing God’s love for our neighbors, by commanding us to treat them well (thus also showing God’s love for us)?

It is hard to preach on a topic about which one feels ambivalent. The Narrative Lectionary outline suggests that the first week be devoted, in part, to the why and what of the Ten Commandments. What is their context? How does the Israelites’ story pivot around this text? What is their relationship to the entire arch of God’s narrative, as revealed in the written word?

This would be a good Sunday to have some conversation, either within the pews or between you and the congregation.

– Why do the commandments matter?

– If we have Jesus, do we still need them?

– How can we know if we are keeping the commandments?


Of course, there is one other question for the discerning preacher: Do you connect the relationship and the law to Holy Trinity Sunday? If so, how so?


Please share freely in the comments your plans, frustrations, heresies, worship resources, and sermon notes for the coming week. +

4 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: The Rules of Engagement Edition

  1. very helpful to consider…all the different possibilities. Much spiritual food for thought. Thank you. I find myself questioning and questing…this is a good thing. Good to ponder for this week…


  2. Julia, my belated thanks for this. I’m a week behind, due to our particular church calendar. This is a really excellent opening of the door/ conversation!


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