Showing posts from September, 2015

Ten Words #4: Rest & Remember

"Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy." If there was a reason for why we discarded the Ten Commandments in the church of my youth, this fourth word was it. We don’t keep sabbath. In support of this, we quoted verses such as Col 2:16, "Do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons or sabbaths." Christians in our tribe took this to mean that we should celebrate no religious days: no Christmas, no Easter & certainly no sabbath. We also explained away sabbath by contrasting the old "Mosaic dispensation" with the new "Christian dispensation." Sabbath, or so it was told, was part of the old while Sunday church services were part of the new. It was all very matter-of-fact with a single, clear conclusion: We don’t observe sabbath! But this simplistic view of sabbath misses the point. Sabbath is not a useless relic of the Mosaic law. Sabbath is not a holiday with pagan roots, not a

Ten Words #3: Don't Misuse My Name

"Don’t make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God." Rules are subject to many interpretations and applications. If laws were easy to understand and follow, we’d have no need for a Supreme Court. For ancient Jews and modern Christians alike, it’s not easy to apply commandments such as this one. Many Jews believed that God’s actual name was so sacred that they dared not misspeak it. They went to such great lengths that they refused to even speak or in some cases write the divine name YHWH. They believed this was a way of honoring the third commandment. When I was a kid, folks interpreted this in a similar manner. We got in trouble for saying the name of Jesus or God in a flippant manner. Combining God’s name with a curse word was a horrendous sin! Even speaking replacement words like geez or gosh was cause for harsh rebuke from my parents. This is how we took care to not make wrongful use of God’s name. While I still believe it’s a good idea to sp

Ten Words #2: Don't Box Me In

The second commandment is “Do not make for yourself an idol.” Idols. If any commandment is a slam dunk for us, this should be it. I mean, how many church members have an idol sitting around their house, office or school locker? And even if they did, would they actually worship such a thing? This word doesn’t seem much different from the previous one. Some religious listings of the Ten Words combine the first two into a single command. So what’s the deal with idols, and how does this apply to us today? Idols are symbols of divine power. They point to and remind people of infinite & imperishable things. Symbols come in different forms. They are powerful reminders of bigger realities. It’s natural to want to create & collect them. Companies create logos. Travelers collect mementos. Parents make scrapbooks and picture albums. These symbols remind us of bigger realities. But there’s a fundamental flaw with symbols. They allow us to control things that are too big to

Ten Words #1: No Other Gods

The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod 20:3). As we plow into the Ten Commandments or 10 Words (in Hebrew), we arrive at this very simple statement. What does it mean? Don’t we already know that there are no gods but God? Is this word even relevant for us? This begs a very important question: Are there other gods? I’m guessing that not many of us worship Baal or Molech or Ra or Artemis or Zeus. Most of us have come to believe that there is no other god. We are not like “primitive pagans” or animists who believe in various spirit gods or who worship the earth as if it were a god. Are we off the hook? Is it possible to say that this is remedial territory for us and that we have progressed far beyond this first command? “Not so fast,” says the apostle Paul! In Romans 6, Paul discusses the tension between being a slave to sin versus being a slave to righteousness. The two are incompatible, Paul writes, yet some Christians apparently misunder

Ten Words for Today, Intro

I'm starting a new sermon series on the Ten Commandments (or "Ten Words" in Hebrew). This week is the intro. After that, I’ll take the commandments from Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy 5 one by one. I’ll flesh out their meaning for the church & for us today. Culture wars are ripping through our country. It’s not hard to feel the partisan anger. Some politicians & presidential hopefuls are feeding off the feelings of many disgruntled people. This is a season of discontent for many who think that the country has “gone to the dogs.” For some groups, the symbols of unrest & protest are things like the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in schools, the flag and—think of it—the Ten Commandments. Yes, I said the Ten Commandments. As hard as it may be to fathom, the ability (or lack thereof) to post the Ten Commandments has become a litmus test to many people in our country: > Do you love what America stands for? If yes, then post the Ten Commandments! >