Devotional for August 3, 2014 – God is love                  

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background                                                                                                                                      This week we wrap up our series on 1 John with the familiar and comforting words that “God is love.”  Sometimes we take this wholly for granted.  In the atmosphere around the community of John, this would have been shocking.  To have this intimate relationship with God was out of the realm of possibility and yet so valuable and powerful in our faith.  God is love and therefore we are perfected when loving God and loving the other.  As in most cases, one of my favorite theologians writes about this love eloquently.  Frederick Buechner defines salvation in these terms, in terms of God’s love.

“Who knows how the awareness of God’s love first hits people. Every person has his own tale to tell, including the person who wouldn’t believe in God if you paid him. Some moment happens in your life that you say Yes to right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen. Laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. Waking up to the first snow. Being in bed with somebody you love. Whether you thank God for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to Business as Usual, it may lose you the ball game. If you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may save your soul. How about the person you know who as far as you can possibly tell has never had such a moment-the soreheads and slobs of the world, the ones the world has hopelessly crippled? Maybe for that person the moment that has to happen is you.”

When I read these words, I understand how then we must love because God is love.  If sin separates us from God, God’s love perfects us and brings us closer to the goal. God, who is love, opens us up by love (the whole abiding in God and God abiding in us).  We are confident because God is love.  If God was power, we would approach in fear.  And then how would we treat one another? Instead, if we are true followers of Christ, God’s love incarnate, then we can’t help but love and create more relationship.  We are that moment of love abiding in us.  The goal is to not forget, embrace, and pass that love along to one another.

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                          “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”  ― Robert A. Heinlein   

 “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ― Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

 

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?”  ― Mother Teresa

 

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert

 

“Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby- awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.” ― Lemony SnicketHorseradish

                                                                                                                             

1 John 4:7-21 (NRSV)

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.  God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters,[are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

Questions for the Week

When have you felt loved by God?

How do you show love to others?

When is it hard to love? Why?

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God in the Flesh

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

So, we have to “test the spirits”. What does that mean, exactly, and why is it necessary? Let’s start with the first. Not every idiot who says they are speaking for God is, in fact, speaking for God. (It’s one of the reasons I’m extremely glad I stopped watching any form of broadcast TV several years ago!) I don’t think we have to limit it to spirits, we can apply it to preachers, evangelists, and even friends. In the case of the community of John, the problem seems to have been Docetism. What is that? Here’s a quote from Christianity101.com:

Beginning with the apostle Paul, the leaders of the early church had to address wrong headed ideas that threatened the integrity of the gospel message. One of the first, Docetism, was mentioned in our discussion of the first century. Docetic, which comes from the Greek word meaning “to appear.” Those who proposed this heresy maintained that Jesus really did not possess, or inhabit a physical body, but only “appeared” to have a body. The basis of Docetism is that Jesus was truly a spiritual being, and as such, could not have had a true body.

Does this sound slightly familiar? There is a slow creep of Greek philosophy into the faith. It holds that all physical things (especially our bodies) are lesser, lower order spiritual natures. If this is the case, and if Jesus is the Son of God, it goes to figure that Jesus really could not have had a real, physical nature. It just appeared that he did. This idea goes against both the Jewish, and the early Christian spiritualties. God created the physical world and called it good. Jesus was famous for sitting and eating and drinking with a cagey group of people. The community of John was especially steeped in this tradition. The Gospel of John begins with a clear recalling of the Genesis creation text: “In the beginning was the word . . .”

So, what are the spirits we must be careful of now? Here is my top ten list–in no particular order. (Feel free to make create your own!)

  1. Anyone who says they know why a catastrophe has occurred. They don’t have a clue, and they should keep their mouths shut.
  2. Anyone who says God wants us all to be rich.       Dave Ramsay heads in this direction, Joel Osteen worships there.
  3. Anyone who says being a Christian will take away all of your problems, and that your life will be smooth sailing from that point on. Lie! Becoming a part of a Christian community will probably be one of the more challenging things you will ever do, and it won’t take away your problems (sorry about that!)
  4. Anyone who says that a guy named Joe Smith had some solid gold tablets, but, kind of, well, misplaced them.
  5. Anyone who won’t let you celebrate Christmas or your birthday. These folks also use Jehovah as their reference to God, which any Old Testament scholar will tell you was a clever tool to keep people from using God’s name, but never one which was used to refer to God in scripture.
  6. Anyone who uses a science fiction book on which to base their faith. They also will want to hook you up to a machine to discover the exact moments in your previous life where you messed up and need help. L Ron Hubbard thought this whole thing up.
  7. Anyone who can tell you exactly who Jesus hates. Jesus only seemed to have gotten really angry at religious officials who judged others. He said love your enemies. Go, and do likewise.
  8. Anyone who thinks the Bible is the literal word of God dictated to certain people in certain times.
  9. Anyone who ignores their brothers and sisters in need, or ignores global warming, but lives an opulent lifestyle. (Me, for example . . . )
  10. And, finally, anyone who makes a top ten list of other people’s faults, but doesn’t look at their own.

There are tests for all of these things. We must test them against the Biblical traditions, but that’s not enough. It’s also important to see where the Holy Spirit is leading us through our own faith traditions. This is one reason I think it is important that we continue to have ties to our Methodist and Lutheran historical churches. Oh, what the heck, let’s just complete the quad and include human reason and experience as well!

Quotes for the Week

“Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really want to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” L Ron Howard

“Make money. Make more money. Make other people make money.” Ibid

“Riches are such dangerous things . . . they are usually a curse. People are cursed by blessings, they are destroyed by riches.” John Piper

“I wonder: when a Jehovah’s Witness dies and goes to Heaven, does God hide behind the door and pretend He’s not home?” Brian Celio

Lesson: 1 John 4:1-6 (The Message)

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.

2-3 Here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God. This is the spirit of antichrist that you heard was coming. Well, here it is, sooner than we thought!

4-6 My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world’s language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.

Questions for the Week

  1. How do you “test the spirits?” How do you figure out what to believe, and what to reject?
  2. What current false teaching makes you the most upset? Why?
  3. What false beliefs would make your top 10 list?
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Devotional for July 20, 2014 –  If we say we have no sin…

Written by Jenn Richter

Bible Background          

The recipients of the first epistle of John were dealing with a serious division in their community, fueled by the infant cries of Gnosticism. This school of thought, which wouldn’t become fully fleshed out for another couple of centuries, declared, in essence, that spirit is good and matter is evil. Many believed that the Son of God could not have come in flesh because how could a good God inhabit an evil body? But by denying that God came to us in person, Jesus became once again just a man, with no power to change our hearts and lives, and God was once again The Spirit in the Sky, accessible only to those of superior enlightenment. They had tossed the central message of the Gospel out into the dust.

At the same time that they were declaring the body to be evil, the Gnostics were also using their beliefs to justify licentiousness. If only the spirit is important, they reasoned, what you do with your body doesn’t matter at all. When John writes this letter, he asks the people of the church to pause and back up a bit. There are three tests of a true Christian, he said. First, they believe that God became flesh and brought the message of God’s love to us in a sweaty, sometimes smelly body that was prone to bruise and bleed – just like us. Second, they acknowledge that Christ was a teacher and had plenty to say about what behavior is acceptable– and what is not. Because of their love for Christ and their recognition of what he went through to connect with us, they strive to follow his teachings. And third, they recognize that Christ’s most important lessons boil down to one tenet: Love your neighbor as yourself. If a person truly understands who Christ is, he will not use his connection with God to justify stealing from his neighbor, cheating on his spouse, lying to his boss … If a person claims to love God but continually mistreats God’s children, he is fooling himself; he doesn’t know God.

That said, John recognizes that we are all fallible human being. We make mistakes. Despite our best efforts, we all sin on occasion. John says, look, sin is real. And sin is destructive. Don’t go there. But if you do, remember … that’s why Jesus came in the first place – to pay the price for our sins and to set us right with the Father. But, he cautions, don’t get all high and mighty about this. Jesus came, not just for us, but for all of God’s children. None of us are so spiritual that we are exempt from Christ’s expectations, nor are any of us too human for his love to reach through and pick us up when we fall.                                                                                                                                           

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                      

“Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there’s all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.” – Arthur Gordon

“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher

“Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” ― Martin Luther

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

“We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.” ― Desmond Tutu

1 John 1:5-2:2 (NRSV)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Questions for the Week

In what ways does your life display your love for Christ?

Have you ever had a believer in Christ show you unconditional love in a time of personal weakness? What difference did it make in your life?

 

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Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

John and community seem to be linked together.  It is a Johanine community which writes the book of Revelation.  Obviously these letters of 1st 2nd and 3rd John are also written as a community effort. This one even begins with the words, “From the very first day we were there taking it all in . . .”  Eugene’s Peterson’s introduction to the three letters of John are helpful:

The two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God . . . The basic biblical Christian conviction is that the two subjects are intricately related.  If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way.  If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way. God and love can’t be separated.  John’s three letters provide wonderfully explicit directions in how this works.

I also like the motivation given for writing this letter.  It is not to make an argument to change your mind, or convert you.  It is to create joy.  We want you to enjoy this, because if you do, it will double our joy.  It turns out there is a lot of joy in the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  How do we capture that joy, experience it, take it in and wring it for all it’s worth?  Well, it turns out we have to get outside of ourselves.

First we are called to center our lives on the incredible news that God has been incarnated right in our own midst.  We must learn to see Christ in the other, in our neighbor (even the noisy, weird ones).  We don’t have to go out and find where Christ has appeared, Christ is already here in our midst.  We simply need new eyes in order to see where Christ already exists.

In the quotes today Wendell Berry state that affluence stands in opposition to community.  When we center our lives on how we can “get” more and more we seem to, in some way, cut ourselves off from having more of God.  Having more of God and entering more fully into community seems to mean finding a different focus in our lives.

This community of John has seen the transformative, joy-giving, life of Jesus in person.  We’re not so lucky.  In our lives it’s almost as though we go around with a Geiger counter finding traces of the power of the incarnation around us.  Or maybe you have had a personal experience of that power.  Jesus told Thomas that those who did not see and yet believed were especially blest.  Regardless of whether we see Jesus, we do see each other, and we can attempt to love one another as Christ loved us.  And, when we fail, we can forgive one another as Christ forgives us.

Quotes for the Week

“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”     Wendell Berry

“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” ibid

“The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life.” ibid

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”    Dorothy Day

“When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capple singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community.  That’s one of the great feelings–to stop being me for a little while and to become us.  That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.”  Brian Eno

“I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties.  Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.”  Dave Barry

Lesson 1st John 1:1-4  (The Message)

1-2 From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

3-4 We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!

Questions for the Week

Have you had a personal, powerful experience of Jesus in your life?  If yes, what was it?

What trace elements of Christ to you see at work in your own life, in this community?

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Devotional for July 6, 2014 – Just say no to coveting!     

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background                                                                                                                                                  We end the series on the Ten Commandments by spending a whole week on the last of the commandments, the one against coveting. It is the only commandment that is repeated twice.  Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s spouse.  It even ends with a wrap up of do not covet anything of your neighbor’s. I imagine God really emphasizing this final point.  Just don’t do it.  Do. Not. Covet. Anything. Period. 

So what is coveting if it is so important that we not do it?  To covet, according to the dictionary per Google, means, “to yearn to posses or have.” If we want something, yearning to posses or have, we are coveting.  This makes the commandment even more straightforward.  If your neighbor has something and you want it. You yearn to posses it instead of your neighbor having it.  You are coveting that object.

Dang. I thought it would be more elusive.  I thought I could call this one good because I thought to covet would be more dark in some ways.  But instead it is just wanting what the other person has.  Our culture seems to be built on this.  I won’t lie; I really want that outfit that so and so has.  Or I would love to live in their house.  Wow, I really want that piece in their garden.  Or that new piece of technology.  I think you get the idea.  We are called not to yearn to have what belongs to our neighbor.  And the reality is that we all do this.  Our heart desires things.

There are many biblical examples of this.  There is the extreme version of coveting when King David wants to have Bathsheba and gets rid of her husband to make it happen.  Then there is the example of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel who want the vineyard that someone else owns.  This is a struggle for humans regardless of what we think we can control.  In each of these examples, coveting leads to horrible situations.  There is a warning here from our storytellers.  When we want what our neighbor has and we do anything to get it, we are led astray.  We can develop all sorts of spiritual practices to help us curb this but it is part of being human.  This is how consumerism works!

We are love God.  Then we are to love our neighbor.  This commandment is very much a part of loving neighbor.  We are not to desire what our neighbor has.  A warning: our heart’s desires can be powerful.  Be aware.  Set yourself up with support and accountability.  Church is a good place for this.  Check in with your heart every once in a while about how it is going against coveting.  Take care of that heart.  We are all in the same boat.  We can call each other into life of community rather than a life of jealousy and yearning for what the other has.  May we be content with what we have and work towards providing necessities to others who don’t have it.

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                       “When I realize that God makes his gifts fit each person, there’s no way I can covet what you got because it just wouldn’t fit me.” ― William P. SmithLoving Well   

 

But if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive.” -William Shakespeare

 

“I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then?”

― Neil Gaiman  

 

A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s.

-Richard Whately
“Mortals are easily tempted to pinch the life out of their neighbor’s buzzing glory, and think that such killing is no murder.” ― George Eliot

 

“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.” ― Steve Martin

Exodus 20: 17 (NRSV)

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.

 Questions for the Week

What do you covet the most?

What do you do to combat wanting with the other has?

Why do you think this is the final commandment?

 

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Devotional for June 29, 2014 –  Will you be my neighbor?

 

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background 

Our work through the commandments continues on this week with a series of commandments that are directed at our work with our neighbors.  By setting up some perimeters around how we treat one another, we can truly be free people.  Freedom is not when the powerful people can take whatever they want. Freedom is when we respect the property and livelihoods of other people.  We help them maintain and retain what they have.  Then we aren’t preoccupied in survival mode.  Freedom is not when the strong dominate the weak but when we look out for one another.  Freedom is when everyone’s rights are respected and heard, especially the elderly, the poor, the marginalized.  Freedom is commitment between two people.  Freedom is neighbor-improvement.

This set of commandments is about turning our gaze toward our neighbor.  This way we can live fully into relationship with one another.  No longer are we protecting what we have but we are respecting what the other has.  We are building community. In essence, we are told not to look for our best life now but our neighbor’s best life now.

If we look toward our neighbor through these commandments, then we can be assured our neighbor is looking out for us as well. It creates reciprocal relationship with one another.  God knows this. God is a relational God.  Instead of God telling us to just love neighbor, God knows us so well to give us guidelines.  We sometimes miss the points as far as human beings go.

The commandments tell us important information. Family relationships are important.  Our elders are our grounding.  We need to honor and respect them.  Don’t kill each other. Don’t steal.  We all get to respect the other’s stuff. Don’t hurt your neighbor with your words.  Don’t have sex with someone else’s spouse.  These are important keys to loving your neighbor. If you break one of these rules, it hurts the whole community.  This is not about gaining or losing points, this is about maintaining relationship with one another.  The law isn’t about you it is about loving your neighbor after loving God. It isn’t about you.  Let’s not make it about you.

God loves your neighbor so much that God gives you law.  And God loves you so much that God gives your neighbor the law. It continues the covenant between us.  This is good news. This is good news of freedom and it is good news for help when we need a neighbor.  This is such good news that Jesus will take these exact same concepts to revise and teach later.  We are told that it is so important to keep relationship with neighbor by Jesus that is the second most important commandment, to love neighbor as self.  Jesus is directly dialoguing with Moses and God here.

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                       “People can learn as much about the ways of God from business deals gone bad or sparrows falling to the ground as they can from reciting the books of the Bible in order. They can learn as much from a love affair or a wildflower as they can from knowing the Ten Commandments by heart.” ― Barbara Brown Taylor

“All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.” – John Calvin

“When God wants to speak and deal with us, he does not avail himself of an angel but of parents, or the pastor, or of our neighbor.” – Martin Luther

“Why couldn’t Jesus command us to obsess over everything, to try to control and manipulate people, to try not to breathe at all, or to pay attention, stomp away to brood when people annoy us, and then eat a big bag of Hershey’s Kisses in bed?” ― Anne LamottPlan B: Further Thoughts on Faith 

“The only thing I know about Moses is him coming down from the mountain with the commandments and saying ‘The good news is I got him down to 10. The bad news is adultery is still in.” ― Steve KlugerLast Days of Summer    

Exodus 20:12-16 (NRSV)                                                                                                                                  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.

Questions for the Week

Who are your neighbors?

Out of this list, which commandment is the most difficult for you? Why?

How will you respect your neighbor this week?

 

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No other Gods

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

Interesting how many of these commandments I’ve broken trying to write this devotional.  First of all the battery on my new laptop isn’t working.  *&^%$^^%!  My NRSV Bible is not loaded to any of my computers right now.  So, I have to type the text into the document instead of cutting and pasting (Jenn, you can join me on this one if you like) $%%^%!  I spent about an hour and a half trying to download a version of it to my computer, but when I opened the book it was gibberish #@#%^$! And goodbye $20!  &^^&^%$!  But I am Lutheran so it is OK.  We can swear with impunity because Martin Luther did.  Human excrement, human copulation, male descendants of female canines, all fine and the first one frequently utilized by Luther himself.  But we can’t use God’s name in a way that is inappropriate.  God’s name is to be used in praise and thanksgiving and worship.  It’s also OK to use God’s name to curse someone as long as you have reason to believe that God would agree.  We are not to attribute ideas to God that are our own.  That’s a big part of not taking God’s name in vain.

But what about the Sabbath day?  It turns out that I also work quite a few.  Of course the Sabbath is really Saturday, but even if you say we have a new Holy day, the day of Christ’s resurrection, I work quite a few of those as well.  Thank God we are not going on to the whole honor your father and mother rules.  Of course, now that I’m older, (and that they are no longer alive) honoring them is a lot more simple than it use to be.

In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther explained over and over that we are to “fear and love” God.  For quite a while I’ve bucked at that.  How is that even possible?  How can we hold fear and love together in the same description?  It shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve grown to emphasize the “love” part a great deal more than the “fear” part.

The people of Israel are filled with fear.  Moses had previously brought God down on their heads.  There was a huge earthquake, clouds with lightning and thunder and a very loud trumpet.  I have a vision of the scene in “Close Encounters of a 3rd Kind” in my head when the mother ship arrives in a cloud of mystery, and some kind of horns that shatter all the glass windows in the area.  The people instruct Moses to keep God away from them.  Have him talk to YOU, and YOU talk to us.  Perhaps we can relate to not wanting God too close to us, to have some kind of insulation in place so that we don’t get burned.

I believe we still have idols around.  One way to get to your own personal idol is to ask Luther’s question, “Where does your heart cling, especially in times of trouble?”  Is it our money in the bank?  The violent force of our military?  Perhaps it is our family, or some substance that helps us to temporarily forget.  All of these are a poor substitute for the real thing.  The 10 commandments are intended to help us center our lives in God, and to trust in God’s never failing love for us.  This is, after all, the God who brought us out of slavery in Egypt, fed and gave us drink in the wilderness and promises us life in the Holy Land complete with milk and honey.

Quotes for the Week

 

“If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong.   You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge.  You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.”   Eugene Peterson

 

“Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.”          Alice Walker

 

“I’m a man of faith.  I only fear God, and my wife—sometimes.”  Lech Walesa

 

The biggest thrill a ballplayer can have is when your son takes after you. That happened when my Bobby was in his championship Little League game. He really showed me something. Struck out three times. Made an error that lost the game. Parents were throwing things at our car and swearing at us as we drove off. Gosh, I was proud.”                     Bob Uecker

 

“A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.”

Emo Phillips

 

 

Lesson Exodus 20:3-11 (The Message)

 

 No other gods, only me.

4-6 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am God, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.

No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.

8-11 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.

Questions for the Week

What devices do we use to keep God at a distance from us?

Which one of these commandments do you struggle with the most?

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