By Lette Valeska – Lette Valeska Collection, CC BY-SA 3.0,

This Sunday’s text is the second telling of the Ten Commandments, the telling of the commandments just before the Israelites enter the land of milk and honey. So this is not the generation that left Egypt, most of them are dead, but the next generation, the ones who will inherit the land.

You can find the text here, and the commentary from Working Preacher here (and here, if you want to look at the last cycle of the lectionary).

I wonder, what are the Ten Commandments by which you order your life? Are they Love Your Father and Mother? Or are they more like, “Love your family, even at their worst?” Are they “You shall not make an idol?” Or are they, “Go to church and try to acknowledge God at least once every day?”

I have to be honest and say that the Ten Commandments seem old fashioned to me. I mean, I keep Sabbath, but not technically on the Friday/Saturday Shabbat of my Jewish friends, and I totally work on Sundays. I keep Sabbath a few minutes here and a few minutes there, often from a yoga mat or while I’m on a long walk.

So how can we make them more relevant today? I mean, I haven’t coveted my neighbor’s ass, because he doesn’t have one! Kathryn Schifferdecker, over at WorkingPreacher says that these same words are to be kept today, that we are the audience, according to verse 3, “Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.”

 I believe these words are as relevant as ever, in a time where Black lives are lost (thou shall not murder), where infidelity in marriage is common (neither shall you commit adultery), where the almighty dollar is god (you shall have no other gods before me). They are no more difficult to keep that they were in Moses’ time.

How will you preach?

  • Pick just one commandment, and preach from it.
  • Preach the first four, as they relate with our relationship with God.
  • Preach the final six, as they relate with our relationship with one another.
  • Or talk about who they are for–for us, these peculiar people of the covenant with God, as our part of the bargain, what makes us different than others, or even as what piety looks like.

Let us know where you’re heading in the comments, so that it may go well with you!

Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers(Chalice Press, 2013).

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2 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: The Law and the Shema (Deut 5:1-21 and 6:4-9)

  1. Thanks for this.

    In reading the NL commentary by Schifferdecker, my heart tugged at reading that “Moses’ concern is not history; it’s transformation.” It’s Saturday afternoon and I am CLEARLY not succeeding in my goal to keep today as a Sabbath, so maybe that’s where I should be preaching (to myself, if no one else), but instead I am sitting with the idea of transformation as the goal of our faith. The laws, the rules, the reminders, the challenges, the showing-up-even-when-one-might-rather-not … the goal of it all is transformation. The meal ~ we’re celebrating Communion, both because it’s our monthly habit and because of World Communion Sunday ~ is for transformation. Our prayers are for transformation. Our fellowship is for transformation.

    But, yeah … not a sermon quite yet. Alas.



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