It’s really March. I’m still a bit in denial that the calendar has flipped another page. I love new pages. I love fresh starts, but as I’ve said a lot recently, this year is different. Yesterday, we honored the one year anniversary of the tornado that hit Nashville and destroyed many homes and businesses in the neighborhoods of North Nashville, East Nashville and in counties beyond. People are still recovering and some businesses are still trying to open again. Then Covid-19 hit and it made clean up and recovery even more difficult. For many of us, the wilderness is still very present, very live with lock downs in place, restrictions that we don’t like. We still need to wear masks and social distance even as more people are able to be vaccinated. We are still walking through the wilderness, the desert, of the pandemic. We all need reminders that we are not alone on this journey. We need to remember that others have gone into the wilderness before us and provided wisdom and ways to journey there. Last week, we looked at how the Spirit compelled Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism. This week we are invited to look at how God led the children of Israel into the wilderness and then gave them a guidebook on how to live as a community, even when everything was unfamiliar. Even though their lives were now totally different from their lives in Egypt. The Old Testament reading for this Sunday is Exodus 20: 1-17, God giving Moses the Ten Commandments. This guidebook was a new way to live for people who had been slaves for 400 years! They no longer had to be afraid of each other. They were invited to worship only ONE GOD, not the many like the Egyptians had to please. They were given the amazing GIFT OF SABBATH, a day of rest which no other people had even thought of before! And this was a gift from GOD, the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE!
Before you read the passage, pause and consider what it would feel like to hear these commandments for the first time. We sometimes have baggage with them. Some of us have been slammed or even shamed by the “Shalt Nots.” My pastor, in my Seattle days, Rev. Earl Palmer calls the Ten Commandments: THE GRAND POSITIVES. And rather than reading them as negatives, or as “shalt nots,” he invites us to put them into the positive. Seeing each commandment as a GIFT and a GET TO! So take a breath, put away your memories of Sunday School and Charlton Heston and
READ THE PASSAGE with fresh ears.
EXODUS 20:1-17 NRSV
Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no
other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 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 of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 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.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 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. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 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.
What do you notice that you haven’t noticed before?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER and Journal from this week: Feel free to use these passage and respond in writing, art, collage, or poetry some time this week.
What is God speaking to you about TODAY as you read/listen to these passage? Take time to read them again, use different translations to hear it in fresh ways.
What questions do you have? What questions come up as you read the passage? Talk to Jesus about these things.
Guidance in the Wilderness
- We are approaching the year anniversary of the pandemic shut down. How are you feeling as this date approaches? How are you processing this wilderness anniversary? What would you like to do to process or acknowledge this anniversary?
- Consider the wilderness of that the children of Israel were wandering through as a large group of slaves. What were some of the issues they had?
- God used a pillar of fire and cloud to guide the children of Israel on their way through the wilderness. Moses had lived in this part of the wilderness for a long time as a shepherd. He knew where he was and wasn’t afraid of the desert. How have you been guided through the wilderness of 2020 and 2021? What has given you guidance? Who have been your guides?
- Which of the commandments are you needing to be reminded of in your life right now?
- Pastor Earl Palmer calls the Ten Commandments “The Grand Positives” putting each one into a positive phrase. Rather than a “shalt not. “
What is the gift in this to you? Which gift do you need to open?
- The ten commandments are a GUIDEBOOK to help us journey through the wilderness. They are tools to help us live in community. They are not just the “I shalt nots,” but rather the gifts of “I get to”…. I get to receive the gift:
- That THE God of all Gods chose relationship with me!
God has delivered me out of slavery!
I have been set free from all the other gods! I am not required to worship… the Pharaoh, the crocodile, the cat, the serpent, the Nile, the Sun, the Moon, etc. or any modern day equivalent!
I get to rest! God is giving me permission to rest and loves me beyond my performance and productivity!
I get to honor myself and others.
I get to show love rather than hate or contempt.
I get to live in compassion and sharing rather than competition and conflict.
I get to choose to have enough.
I get to live out love because our community has concepts in place to honor each other and I no longer have to live a life of fear.
- Write out the 10 commandments as grand positives for yourself/your life.
- You are no longer slaves, you are chosen people! Why do we forget the love and care of God? Why do we forget that we are chosen?
- Many people don’t get just 40 days in the wilderness, or even only a year of a desert experience. Many people experience the wilderness for much longer due to illness, war, injustice, persecution, divorce, abuse, etc. Take some time to consider people and places you know who are in long term wilderness or desert experiences. Pray for them to have hope & healing.
- God provides good things for the children of Israel even in the wilderness: Manna, Quail, Water, their clothes didn’t wear out…. How has God provided for you lately? How has God provided you Manna in the wilderness of the pandemic and this crazy year? Take time to thank Jesus for providing for you this past year!
Exodus 3:7-10 The Message (MSG)
7-8 God said, “I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them, pry them loose from the grip of Egypt, get them out of that country and bring them to a good land with wide-open spaces, a land lush with milk and honey, the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
What does your wilderness look like right now? Draw a picture or create a collage.
What does the land of milk and honey look like? What do you find hope in as you look ahead? Create a collage or write a story of what you hope for going forward in your journey towards Easter and the rest of 2021.
Remember that the Creator of the entire universe is with you in the midst of the wilderness! Jesus is with you and sees exactly where you are and how you are doing and knows what you are feeling. He suffered in the wilderness too. Receive the gift of Sabbath. It really is a gift we all need to open this Lent! Sit down somewhere outside and allow the Creator to enfold you in the beauty of nature. Watch a sunset or a sunrise. Bake some bread or some cookies and be reminded of the provision of Manna in the wilderness and how God is providing even when we don’t know the way or how long the wilderness will last!
Give us grace today to love as you love
Help us to love with extravagance.
Give us hope today for ourselves and others.
Heal our hurts and our hearts today
So we can serve and help those around us.
Help us to know that you are enough.
And help us live today and everyday in thankfulness.
For all you’ve done and for all you bless us with.
In the Name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. AMEN
IT”S NOT TO LATE TO JOIN US to reflect on the wilderness and reboot your Journey towards Easter! Retreat happening SATURDAY, MARCH 6th 10:00-12:30pm pacific time REGISTER HERE. Registration closes at 9am Pacific time Saturday, March 6th.