Archive for the ‘Exodus 20’ Category

Humility Before God, Part III   1 comment

Jethro's Visit

Above:  Jethro’s Visit, by Gerard Jollain

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.

Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence,

that we may treasure your word above all else,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 18:1-12

Psalm 119:97-104

Colossians 1:27-2:7


From your precepts I learn wisdom,

so I hate all deceptive ways.

–Psalm 119:104, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The liberation of the Israelites from Egypt had occurred in Exodus 14.  (The departure of Abram and Sarai from Egypt in Genesis 12 had foreshadowed that event.)  In Exodus 18 Moses reunited with his father-in-law (Jethro), and his wife (Zipporah), his two sons (Gershom and Eliezer), who left Midian to meet him.  Jethro acknowledged the superiority of YHWH to other deities.  He did not, however, become a monotheist.

This was not unusual.  As the notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) inform me,

The Torah does not expect Gentiles to become monotheists (see Deut. 4.19), only to recognize the LORD’s superiority when he asserts it, as in the case of Egypt.  The idea of universal monotheism first appears in the later classical prophets (Jer. 16.19-20; Zech. 14.9).  Neither the prophets nor Jewish tradition call for Gentiles, even monotheistic ones, to convert to Judaism, though later Jewish tradition–characteristically reading the Bible through the prism of the prophets–believed that Jethro did abandon idolatry (Exod. Rab. 1.32) and, going even further, became a Jew (Tg. Ps.-J. Exod. 18.6, 27; Tanh. Buber Yitro, 5).

–Page 135

St. Paul the Apostle, himself a Jew, expected that Gentile converts to Christianity (A) need not become Jews first, and (B) renounce any allegiances to deities other than God (YHWH).  He recognized no compatibility of Christianity (then a small and young Jewish sect) and idolatry.

Psalm 119 speaks of the Law of Moses, something which did not exist at the time of Exodus 18.  (The Law of Moses began Chapter 20.)  Nevertheless, the timeless principles of the Law of Moses existed prior to that code.  Among these principles was acknowledging the greatness of YHWH then acting accordingly, that is, humbly before God.  That is possible via grace.






Adapted from this post:


This is post #1500 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.


The Old and the New   1 comment

High Priest and Levite

Above:  A Jewish High Priest and a Levite

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have taught us in your Son that love fulfills the law.

Inspire us to love you with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength,

and teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 22:1-15

Psalm 119:1-8

Hebrews 9:1-12


Blessed are those whose way is blameless:

who walk in the law of the Lord.

Blessed are those who keep his commands:

and seek him with their whole heart;

those who do no wrong:

but walk in the ways of our God.

For you, Lord, have commanded us:

to persevere in all your precepts.

If only my ways were unerring:

towards the keeping of your statutes!

Then I should not be ashamed:

when I looked on all your commandments.

I will praise you with sincerity of heart:

as I learn your righteous judgements.

I will keep your statutes:

O forsake me not utterly.

–Psalm 119:1-8, The Alternative Service Book 1980


The pericope from Exodus 22 comes from a section of the Law of Moses regarding offenses against property.  One reads of restitution again and again.  Unfortunately, women count as property, as they do in the Ten Commandments, just two chapters earlier.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews argued that the new covenant in Jesus, simultaneously blameless victim and eternal high priest, is superior to the old system, with its animal sacrifices.  The new covenant, the author wrote, is available to Jews and Gentiles alike, for, as St. Simon Peter said in Acts 10:34b-35 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Women are people, not property.  Jesus, simultaneously spotless victim and eternal high priest, does what mortal priests cannot do.  Sometimes the new is superior to the old.





Adapted from this post:


Wrestling With Biblical Texts   1 comment


Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

Matthew 5:


Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.








Adapted from this post:


Grace and Mutual Responsibility, Part II   1 comment


Above:  A Cornfield, Hardin County, Iowa, September 1939

Photographer = Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985)

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = LC-USF34-028069-D


The Collect:

O God, the strength of all who hope in you,

because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing without you.

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 23:21-24:4, 10-15 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 2:1-15 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:9-16 (All Days)

James 1:2-8 (Monday)

James 2:1-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:1-12 (Wednesday)


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

Deuteronomy 23-24:

James 1:

James 2:

Matthew 19:


I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

–Psalm 119:15-16, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)


The Law of Moses is a complex code.  In one breath it speaks of responsibilities people have to each other in community, such as not to exploit each other.  Yet the same law code classes women and servants with inanimate property in the Ten Commandments, has a negative view of female biology, and contains many offenses which end with death by stoning.  I join with my fellow Christians since the earliest years of Christianity in applying parts of the Law of Moses literally while not keeping other sections thereof.  There are, of course, the letter and the spirit of the law, with much of the letter consisting of culturally-specific principles.  So one might identify contemporary applications in lieu of examples from the Bible.  Yet I refuse to execute or condone the execution of a child who disrespects his or her parents severely, for example.

Thus I pick and choose amid the provisions of the Law of Moses, as I should.  I focus on mutual responsibilities, for all of us are responsible to and for each other.  This is a timeless truth, the keeping of which builds up communities, nations, societies, and the human species.  We ought never to exploit or seek to exploit one another.  To exclude another person wrongly or seek to do so is sinful.  To fail to recognize the Image of God in another is to sin.

That can be advice difficult to follow.  And the following counsel is really hard for me:

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and completely lacking in nothing.

–James 2:2-4, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition

I do not welcome

various trials (RSV-SCE)


friends (James 2:2, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972).

Rather, I prefer the absence of

various trials (James 2:2, RSV-SCE).

Yet I recognize that

various trials

in my past have resulted in more mature faith.  I examine myself spiritually and recognize benefits I have gained from adversity.  Yet I do not wish to repeat the experiences.  I interpret the good results of

various trials

as evidence of abundant divine grace and rejoice in that.

May we, by divine grace, extend such grace to others as we have opportunity to do so.





Adapted from this post:


Exodus and Luke, Part I: The Path to Life Itself   1 comment


Above:  A Trail in the Woods

Image Source = Daniel Case


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-24

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 4:1-15


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

Luke 4:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


I Do Not Ask, O Lord:

O Jesus, I Have Promised:

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:


Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray.”

–Exodus 20:17, TANAKH:  the Holy Scriptures


But Jesus answered him, “Scripture days:

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

–Luke 4:12, The New Jerusalem Bible


Do not try the LORD your God, as you did at Massah.

Be sure to keep the commandments, decrees, and laws that the LORD your God has enjoined upon you….

–Deuteronomy 6:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Much of the Hebrews Scriptures, written in Hebrew and translated in other languages many times, was originally oral tradition.  It was part of the oral tradition for a long time, so, when people began to write it down, they knew how the stories ended.  The pledge to obey God’s commandments in Exodus 20 is something one reads in context of the rest of the story.  The people will disobey, of course.  So the ending helps define the meaning of earlier parts of the story.

With this post the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary of 2006 I am following  leaves the the Letter to the Hebrews behind.  Now we find the Gospel of Luke paired with the Book of Exodus.  We pick up in Luke 4, after the Advent and Christmas material, the baptism of Jesus, and the arrest of St. John the Baptist.  So we begin with the temptation of Jesus–classic Lenten material in most lectionaries.  The common thread here between the two main readings is testing, so the choice of Luke 4:1-15 works well.

God can test the people’s loyalty–that is the divine right–so that a sense of fear–awe and respect, really–will be in the people, who will then not go astray.  But when people go astray, they put God to the test–try God.  And Jesus passes his test with flying colors; he obeys God.

I have commented on the Ten Commandments in other posts to which I have provided links.  There is far more to write about the Ten Commandments, of course.  Foster R. McCurley, Jr., in Exodus, a 1969 adult Christian education resource, offered this summary germane to this point:

These Ten Commandments were given  to Israel by Yahweh to guide her in her life of covenant.  They were the expression of the Lord’s will for the way the redeemed people should live.  But it happened that the very commandments which were given as a guide turned out to accuse the people of their sin against God and their breach of covenant responsibilities.  Thus, the law, including these commandments, convicted and accused Israel–just as it accuses us–and drives all sinners to the need for a savior.  In the Lutheran tradition this accusing element is the chief use of the Ten Commandments in the life of the Christian.

–Philadelphia, PA:  Lutheran Church Press, 1969, pages 94-95

This prompted me to recall St. Paul the Apostle’s passage in Romans 4:13-17, in which he wrote of Abraham, the Law, faith, and justification with God.  In particular I thought of this part:

…law can bring only retribution, and where there is no law there can be no breach of law.  The promise was made on the ground of faith in order that it might be a matter of sheer grace.

–Romans 4:15-16a, Revised English Bible

So the reality of law, and therefore of violation thereof, convicts us of our sinfulness.  Fortunately, we have a Savior–not a mere martyr or hero of whom to make flattering statements–but a Savior to follow.  How each of us ought to do that is different, for we come to God in varying circumstances, with different gifts and societal issues and barriers, and at a variety of times and places.  My path of discipleship as an educated white male in the State of Georgia in 2012 is not that of an illiterate female in a traditional and chauvinistic culture at this time or that of a highly educated male in previous times.  So, regardless of the particulars of what your path ought to be, O reader, I encourage you to follow it.  It is the path to life itself.  Meanwhile, I try to follow my path.  If we both succeed, we will arrive at the same destination.






Adapted from this post:


Expectations, Realities, and Consequences   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Expectations, Realities, and Consequences

The Sunday Closest to October 5

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 2, 2011



Exodus 20:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up 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 in the earth beneath, or that is in 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 to 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 on 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.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.


Isaiah 5:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let me sing for my beloved

my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem

and people of Judah,

judge between me

and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard

that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;


but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:7-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

8  You have brought a vine out of Egypt;

you cast out the nations and planted it.

9  You prepared the ground for it;

it took root and filled the land.

10  The mountains were covered by its shadow

and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11  You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea

and its branches to the River.

12  Why have you broken down its wall,

so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13  The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it,

and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14  Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;

behold and tend this vine;

preserve what your right hand has planted.


Philippians 3:4b-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.


Matthew 21:33-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.

Jesus said to them,

Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders have rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

Mark 12 (Parallel to Matthew 21):


These readings seem familiar, do they not?  Thus they are the kind of lections we need to read very carefully again, if not for the first time.  I have dealt with the Ten Commandments and the parable already within this blog network, so I refer you, O reader to the links above for certain thoughts while I pursue another thread.

…he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;

[he expected] righteousness,

but heard a cry!

Isaiah 5:7c-d reads.  Thus, in Isaiah 5:1-7, God vows to make the vineyard a “waste.”  The vineyard in that reading is the people of Israel, and the laying waste refers to the Babylonian Exile.

The vineyard theme recurs in the reading from Matthew.  The writing of the Gospels took place in the shadow of the Jewish War, which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  So my historical-critical eyes detect animosity toward the mainstream Jewish community from the marginalized Christian Jews in Matthew’s audience.

Nevertheless, I also detect a universal and timeless lesson:  The wages of sin is death.  Yet, as Paul reminds us, keeping the Law scrupulously is insufficient, lest we boast in what we have done.  Rather, the

surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus

makes the difference.  ”Knowing” is about far more than acknowledging him intellectually; it is about following him–as individuals and as faith communities.  Jesus is the trump card.

I write these words on Easter Sunday 2011, so this is an especially opportune time to quote the motto of the Moravian Church:

Our lamb has conquered; let us follow him.








Adapted from this post:


Great Wisdom, Combined With Troubling Insensitivity   1 comment

Above:  The Ten Commandments in Hebrew


Exodus 20:1-17 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And God spoke all these words, saying:

I am YHWH, your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from a house of slaves.

You shall have no other gods before my face.

You shall not make a statue or any form that is in the skies above, or that is in the earth below or that is in the water below the earth.  You shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them.  Because I, YHWH, your God, am a jealous God, counting parents’ crime on children, on the third generation, and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, but practicing kindness thousands for those who observe my commandments.

You shall not bring up the name of YHWH your God, for a falsehood, because YHWH will not make one innocent, who will bring up His name for a falsehood.

Remember the Sabbath day, to make it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, and the seventh day is a Sabbath to YHWH, your God.  You shall not do any work, you and your son and your daughter, your servant and your maid and your animal and your alien who is in your gates.  Because for six days YHWH made the skies and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day.  On account of this, YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be extended on the land that YHWH, your God, is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not testify against your neighbor as a lying witness.

You shall not covet your neighbors’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his servant or his maid or his ox or his ass or anything that your neighbor has.

Psalm 19:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

Matthew 13:18-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Now listen to the parable of the sower.  When a man hears the message of the kingdom and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is like the seed sown by the road-side.  The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it.  But it has not taken root in him and does not last long–the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message he gives up his faith at once.  The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then the worries of this life choke it to death and so it produces no ‘crop’ in his life.  But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message.  His life shows a good crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.


The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


I write these words on the First Sunday After Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord, Year A.  This morning, in church, the liturgy entailed the reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant found on pages 304-305 in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  One question stands out in my mind this day, in light of news of the January 8, 2011, shooting in Tucson, Arizona:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

The reply is,

I will, with God’s help.

The Ten Commandments begin with YHWH saying that the Israelites shall have no other gods.  This statement does not deny the existence of other gods, for polytheism was nearly universal at the time.  It means that YHWH shall be the only deity for the Hebrews.  They did not obey this command for centuries, and successive prophets railed against the people due to their continued polytheism.

These commandments mean more than many people think.  The prohibition against swearing refers to attempts to manipulate God, for example, and the Sabbath is meant as a gift, not a burden.  The Hebrews did not get a day off when they were slaves in Egypt.  A free man or woman is one with a day off from work.

Obviously, murdering, bearing false witness, and stealing hurt others.  How much better would the U.S. economy be in January 2011 if many people had not coveted what belonged to another, if they had been content with a simpler lifestyle?  Also, within the previous week, I heard a news story about a man in Texas who served thirty years in prison on a charge of rape.  DNA evidence has proved his evidence.  The jury convicted him on the basis of erroneous eyewitness testimony.  In another case, a man in Tucson killed people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, yesterday, and shot a member of Congress in the head.

Yet the Ten Commandments catalog women and slaves–human beings all–as property, along with livestock and inanimate objects.  Many Antebellum U.S. advocates of slavery quoted the Ten Commandments to justify the damnable Peculiar Institution when using the Bible to make their case.  And I am sufficiently liberal to object to thinking of women as anything less than equal to men.

I challenge all of us–beginning with myself–to look around and ponder those we dislike, those with whom we disagree profoundly, and those we do not understand because they are so different from us.  Do we, in the words of the Prayer Book, respect their dignity?  This can be hard, especially when members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, protest funerals for people ranging from soldiers to Elizabeth Edwards, but even these individuals, who deny the dignity of the mourners and the deceased, have human dignity.

Earlier this day, when updating my GATHERED PRAYERS blog, I focused on basic human decency and grief with regard to the victims of the Tucson shootings.  Basic compassion has guided my response.  I do not care about being right or wrong, only about being kind.  So I typed in parts of the Prayer Book related to death.  The URLs are here:

May we love one another, and seek to live at peace with each other and God.

Pax vobiscum,








Adapted from this post: