1st Scripture Reading: Exodus 20:1-17 & Psalm 19
We talked last week about covenants – agreements between two parties about the terms of their relationship going forward in time. We saw that the covenant had two parts – two parties contributing to the agreement or contract, and then a sign to signify the ongoing nature of the deal.
Last week the covenant was between Noah and God, and the sign or seal on the agreement was to be the rainbow in the sky. When we see a rainbow, we are reminded that God will not destroy the earth by massive flooding ever again. We are also reminded that we are not to kill other humans – that’s our part of the deal.
We are moving ahead now to the escape of the Jewish people from Egypt – God’s saving grace in the success of this event (the Passover and Exodus) is God’s part in this new covenant. The agreement to the Ten Commandents is the expected response of the people, and the great Feast of the Passover is the ongoing sign and reminder of this covenant.
But let’s talk about the Ten Commandments. The newly freed people of God, who had been surviving under brutal oppression, needed guidance as to how to live as a community now that they were no longer in servitude. How do we live in peace with our neighbours? What does the Lord expect of us at this stage of our spiritual evolution?
Can we live in peace with our neighbours if we lust after another man’s spouse? If we steal a child’s bicycle? If we kill another person in anger or revenge? What about if we lie about another person in order to get them in trouble?
The Ten Commandments are the basic rules for living together in peace. We didn’t always know this. We had to be taught. Moses had to teach the people these precepts, and then set up a vast system of judges to adjudicate disputes.
We still need these guidelines. We have only to look to many other places in the world where conflict and violence destroy the fabric of community life to see what happens when they are forgotten or disregarded. I think of Syria and Somalia, Nigeria and North Korea. What seems so basic to us as to be common sense is nonsense to many autocratic world leaders.
Hymn # 678 VU “For the Healing of the Nations”
2nd Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 & John 2: 13-22
Jesus was a man, and a Jewish man. His faith was deeply grounded in Judaism and nowhere in his teaching is there any suggestion of pagan beliefs such as were found in the Roman and Greek mythologies of the time.
His finger always pointed beyond himself to the God of his understanding – the Father. He did not, as far as I can see, consider himself to be a man-God. But paradoxically he did believe that God or the Divine was in him, and he was in God, and his followers were in him and all part of the God who is the Creator of all that is.
And so we see in the reading from the Gospel of John, that Jesus was indeed a man – a man capable of anger, or disappointment, or frustration. Here we see a man so steeped in his vision of what could or should be in the manifestation of God’s kingdom, that he lost it. Sugar-coat it any way you like, folks, but this violent outpouring of anger and frustration is the stuff that fanaticism is made of. This is the justification for holy wars, the Inquisition, the abuse of children in religious schools, and the oppression of women and members of the LGBT community. Jesus was a man. As a human he made mistakes. As an amazing teacher, his strengths far surpassed his moments of weakness.
But let’s not be too hard on him, or on the many great leaders, teachers, and prophets who came before and after him. We are all human. We make mistakes. What brings us hope is that we can learn from our mistakes and evolve in our spiritual knowledge.
The “me too” movement is a huge moment in our spiritual evolution. We are moving rapidly away from a systemic cultural agreement that the exploitation of women by powerful men is OK, to a revelation that women are equally as deserving of respect as men are. The emphasis in Canada right now on achieving reconciliation with our First Nations peoples is bringing to the Light of our understanding that systemic racism based on colonialism is real, and must be addressed.
The mass shootings of school children in the USA has finally reached a tipping point, where the adolescent students are forming a powerful movement to push for changes in gun laws to make their schools safer.
So what seems foolish in the eyes of the world, is probably God’s wisdom working out through the Spirit’s inspiration in ordinary people – human beings just like Paul, and Moses, and Miriam, and Mary, yes, and even Jesus.
It is worthy of note that none of the movements mentioned above has descended into the abyss of violence and murder. We are capable of learning. We are capable of great change and enlightenment. Jesus knew that, and he demonstrated it to us again and again. A big part of his mission was to strip the scales from our eyes, to be a light in the darkness of our ignorance, and to bless us with the peace that surpasses all understanding.
And so I remind us once again of what the great prophet Micah told us that God requires of us as part of our great and ongoing covenant with our Creator: “To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” And the ten commandents of God have not been written out of the covenant last time I looked. We have a responsibility to teach them to each new generation – so that there can be peace in our communities, and peace on earth.
Hymn #684 VU “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace”