As progressive Christians we spend a lot of our time emphasizing the relationships of scripture. We have a relational God, a God of covenant, a Christ who ate with sinners and declared the unholy clean. When we talk about commandment we talk about the attempt to trick Jesus and loving saying “Love God and Neighbor” those are the only two commandments we need.
So when the Narrative Lectionary, just a few weeks in it’s first year pulls out the actual commandments, it’s enough to make us throw up our hands. What else can we say? On one hand, are these that hard? On the other, how does one decide what honoring your father and mother look like?
We have the epic scene of Charlton Heston, no, not the one with the rifle, the other one.
We use it as easy rule following to give to children. Love God, your parents, don’t murder or steal, keep hands, feet, and all other objects to yourself. I mean, what’s wrong with rules?
There’s a 10 commandments for just about everything. Here’s a short list: The 10 Commandments of….
Typography (no… for real)
Zappos (yes, the shoe place)
Some of these are “cute”, some absurd, and the last two… well, they clearly haven’t read the actual 10th commandment.
We should be careful to never reduce the Israelites wandering in the desert to a group of whinny toddlers or teenagers, but I do have to say, Moses has a little bit of a “Lord of the Flies” situation on his hands. They need some guidance, some order, some civility or things are going to get out of hand real quick.
Opps! Too Late.
For a seasoned preacher this text might be so familiar that it would be temping to not even read the scripture before writing the sermon (*sarcastic font* WHAT?? We would never!) Reading the (actual) 10 commandments could get a little mundane, kind of like when the Lord’s prayer comes up in the scripture text. So here are a few suggestions:
- Write on a paper from 1-10. Name the commandments without looking. Now write them in order (if you have a creative congregation you can do this with them as well).
- Group them together:
- First 4 are about our relationship God
- Obeying Parents and not committing adultery are about intimate relationships
- Stealing, false witness and coveting are about our relationships with our neighbors
- Rewrite them. I do an exercise with my leadership, about once every few years where we re-write a piece of scripture, we turn negatives into positives and positives into negatives. For example the first line of the 23rd psalm in it’s mirrored version would read: The Lord is not my Shepherd, I will want.
- So why the need for the rules in the first place? take each commandment and imagine a scenario in which these rules are needed. Shouldn’t be too hard, just open up facebook.
The Narrative Lectionary secondary text is Matthew 5:17.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
If you want to deal with the 10 Commandments indirectly, you can combine it with this text. Does that mean the rules are negated? What does it mean to fulfill this law?
In the preface to the actual commandment God tells Moses that we (the people) shall be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. What would fulfilling (not just following) the law look like then and today?
If you want to focus on one commandment, may I suggest #4. Take the Sabbath day and keep it Holy. We all need a break now and then, from media, from life. Let’s not forget this was a highly spiritual experience, so much so that Moses has to veil his face it shone so brightly. This is not a trite list of rules for toddlers, but a spiritual and life nurturing guide for humanity and relationship.
Good luck out there preachers. We’re going to need it.
The Reverend Shannon Meacham currently serves Ashland Presbyterian Church in the Baltimore suburbs. She lives there with her husband Reverend Derrick Weston and together they raise their four children. You can find her musings about any and all subjects on her personal blog pulpitshenanigans.com or listen to Pub Theology Live podcast, of which she is a co-host.
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