Boiling Down the Commandments

In Mel Brooks’ 1981 film History of the World-Part 1, Moses strides down the mountain with three stone tablets.

“God gave us fifteen—”

Oops! Moses (played of course by Brooks) dropped one. It shattered. Hmmm?

“God gives us ten commandments.”

Charlton Heston, surely closer to Moses’ appearance than Mel Brooks, witnessed the commandments being created, word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase. A holy fire blazed and cut each rock-bound letter. How many people are more familiar with Cecille B. DeMille’s 1956 The Ten Commandments than the Bible’s top ten list? I mean, isn’t DeMille’s film really a documentary?

Long ago, at my regional United Methodist annual conference, with a thousand clergy and laity in a tense debate over the values of faith, a young pastor stood and declared that all churches should have the Ten Commandments visibly posted in the sanctuary. Every parishioner, every Sunday, would be reminded of God’s laws.

With loudspeakers amplifying his voice, he declared, “It should be exactly as the Bible said!” Continue reading →

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Waking Up to Another (and Another) Death in America

From 1992’s Unforgiven.*

It was a week of bullets.

Like last week. Like last year. Like last decade. And the decade before that. Like when a Democrat was president. Like when a Republican was president.

A person about my age,

In his sixties, on the playing fields of youth,

On a bright blue early morning in Virginia,

Started shooting.

And shooting. Were the early reports really true? Was the man with two guns and hundreds of bullets targeting Republicans serving in Congress?

The bright blue bruise of a day had just begun, for on the west coast a solitary man in a UPS uniform entered his former employers in San Francisco and opened fire. He shot and killed three. Wounded two. And then he squeezed the trigger one last time. He won’t be answering any questions about why he took this gruesome action.

Two lone men. Right coast. Left coast. Two “mass shootings.”

And yet not alone.

For no reason other than seeking a city that infrequently makes the national media—and a city I’ve visited—I searched the news about Albuquerque, New Mexico. On June 5, I learned that two men had been shot. Another “mass shooting”—meaning multiple victims. But I could’ve found others wounded or killed elsewhere. In the last 72 hours (I started these words on June 16, 2017), there were 29 mass shootings in America. Continue reading →

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Don’t Samaritan Lives Matter?

Luke 17:11-19 – The 21st Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, October 9, 2016

“No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18)

ten-lepersFirst it was ten men in Luke 17:11-19

Then, as Luke continued the account of this healing, the reader’s informed that the ten men had skin diseases. “Skin diseases” is how the Common English Bible translates leproi from the New Testament Greek. Other translations use leper or leprosy. We now know anyone with a “skin disease” could be labeled as a leper during Biblical times. Regardless of accuracy, they were considered unclean; to be avoided, scorned, and isolated. Their outward appearance served as an obvious clue to their inner sins.

Next in the passage, after instructions from Jesus, and after departing to become clean—healed and acceptable to society—one of the ten returned. He was a Samaritan.

How could Jesus do that!

Why would Jesus do that?

Those two phrases would likely describe the first century listener’s reaction to this tale when one of the healed men is revealed as . . .

The enemy.

The hated.

The other. Continue reading →

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