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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The Verbs of Lent: 4

Numbers 21:4-9The 4th Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, March 15, 2015

“The people became impatient on the road. The people spoke against God and Moses . . .” (Numbers 21:4-5)

The people spoke against God and Moses . . .

words_hurt_too
In the season of Lent, or in the mundane and mayhem of your regular life, what have you “spoke” that hurt another?

I didn’t have to read too many verses (though I did!) to seek a Lent-appropriate verb. This scene from Numbers was familiar, with the Children of Israel—free from the injustices of Egyptian slavery and sojourners in the wilderness—complaining to Moses. Like today’s kids (and adults) on a road trip with a destination that never seems to appear around the next curve or over the next hill, their protests included meals. The food’s bad! Not enough. Not the right kind. Not what you promised. Not what we’re used to eating.

It wasn’t only their stomachs that were growling!

I don’t have to read about the snakes God sent. I don’t have to read about how those wandering whiners were eventually contrite—after a multitude of nasty snakebites—and then spoke again to Moses. They would be good. They could be better.

Me? I got stuck on the verb spoke. Continue reading →

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God’s Go-To Guy

Exodus 33:12-23 – The 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, October 19, 2014

“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glorious presence.’” (Exodus 33:18)

There's a new sheriff, er Moses, in town . . . Christian Bale will soon play Moses in the movies.
There’s a new sheriff, er Moses, in town . . . Christian Bale will soon play Moses in the movies.

Near the end of the conversation with God at the burning bush, Moses moped about not being eloquent. “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,” claimed the guy (in Exodus 4:10) who’d soon lead the Children of Israel to freedom.

Really? (I can’t image Moses/Christian Bale, in the upcoming Ridley Scott film “Gods and Kings” being slow of speech! Charlton Heston’s Moses didn’t have a “slow tongue!”)

Much of Exodus depicted a whining, wondering, and willfull Moses. He cajoles, he vents, and he seethes. The precious child once plucked from a river’s bulrushes becomes the pushy man who persuades THE CREATOR OF THE WHOLE DARN UNIVERSE WHO IS CONTINUING TO CREATE AND ACCOMPLISH A WHOLE LOT MORE WHICH IS FAR BEYOND THE UNDERSTANDING OF MERE MORTALS to reveal the Holy name (which, in Hebrew, was gratefully shortened to Y-H-W-H instead of T-C-O-T-W-D-U-W-I-C-T-C-A-A-A-W-L-M-W-I-F-B-T-U-O-M-M.) Moses alone first received the radical and community-building commandments from God (and then the commandments again after some nasty idol business). Moses continually convinced God that the escaping, fake-deity-making, heartbreaking, and bellyaching Chosen People were worth saving.

Moses talked.

God listened.

God talked.

Moses listened. (Well, most of the time.)

Based on the various accounts of Exodus (including the chatty Exodus 33:12-23 example of the God and Moses dialogs) Y-H-W-H and Mister Moses were the Abbott and Costello (or Key and Peele for you moderns) of the Old Testament.

Moses, forever with one more request, requested in the thirty-third chapter of Exodus that God show God’s presence. Continue reading →

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