Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
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.”
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.
7 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?