I’ve Broken All Ten

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 – The 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, October 5, 2014

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must have no other gods before me…” (Exodus 20:2-3)

Moses with tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt, (1659)
Moses with tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt, (1659)

When teaching classes in churches, I occasionally tested students on the Ten Commandments.

Write ‘em down.

Right now.


No sneaking a peek at the twentieth chapter of Exodus. No furtive glances at your neighbor’s efforts. No searching the Internet. No asking leading questions of me, the guy giving the pop quiz.

The Ten Commandments are easy to remember. There’s only ten, and so you never exceed the need for the readily available opposable thumbs (2) and flexible fingers (8). Furthermore, even the most verbose of the commandments can be crash-dieted to a reasonable handful of words.

The post-quiz review was enlightening . . .

Which one(s) did you forget?

What order did you put them in?

Did you add a “new” commandment? (In my experience, youth and adults often substituted a variation of the golden rule—treat your neighbor as yourself—for one of the traditional Godly edicts in Exodus.

Isn’t #3 all about not using four-letter curses with God’s name at the beginning, middle, or end? (Nope, not at all . . . unless you disagree with me! What do you believe #3 means?) Continue reading →

Belief or Disbelief?

Exodus 17:1-7 – The 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 28, 2014

“The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” (Exodus 17:2)

The Children of Israel complained about the lack of available beverages. As usual, they were as petulant as they were parched.

The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

This was the time of the exodus. This was the reality between the memory of slavery in Egypt and the promised freedom in the land of milk and honey.

Forget milk. Forget honey.

Water. Now.

How precious water is . . .
How precious water is . . .

Without water, they’d wither. Moses rightly feared, as the people grumbled, that the last act his fellow desert sojourners had would have strength for would be used to cast stones at him.

Water is more crucial than food. If a body’s fluid isn’t replenished, the kidneys will be compromised; there will be days, at most a week or two, until death. The weak and sick will likely die first. Then the children and elderly will perish. The strong won’t stay strong for long.

As someone who has spent time backpacking, I know the importance of access to water. I’ve tramped extra miles to camp by a creek or pond. H2O weighs about eight pounds per gallon—one of the heaviest items in my pack—but the water filter and bottle would be one of the last things I’d discard in an emergency. Forget the tent. Forget the change of underwear. Forget the dehydrated food (just add water!). I’d abandon much to keep the final drops of life. Continue reading →

At the Bush that Kept Burning

Exodus 3:1-15 – The 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, August 31, 2014

“But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

After Moses was raised in luxury within the house of pharaoh, after he attacked and murdered an Egyptian, after he secretly buried the body in the sand, after he was frightened for his life, after he became a fugitive from justice, after he hid in a faraway country, after he strong-armed some shepherds and flexed his muscles for seven frightened (but impressed) women, after he was married and touted as a hero even as he continued to live a lie, Moses had a life-changing “and yet” moment.

burning-bush1A bush burned and yet was not consumed.

After the Creator, the One above all others, the One given many names and without a name had created the world, after calling Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after declaring those who would be the chosen people, after triumphant glory and troubling disappointments from those God created, after the time of Joseph and abundance, after forgetting the creation, after the years and decades and generations of slavery and oppression that the chosen experienced, the Creator had a divine and decisive “and yet” moment.

A bush burned and yet was not consumed.

And yet.

That simple phrase informs my understanding of how God works. For me, “and yet” is a reminder that “there’s more to come, more to learn and more to be surprised by.”* Each week, as with these musings on the encounter in the wilderness between God and Moses, I find a way to work “and yet” into my Biblical wonderings. It’s a gimmick. It’s my so-called (laugh out loud here) brand. Sometimes, when revising an essay, I’ll discover I didn’t use it in the first draft! When that happens, I’ll make sure to find a spot to put it into a sentence. In other words, the two-word conjunction wasn’t crucial for conveying my message, but I felt I had to try to force it in.

That’s the burden of gimmicks. Continue reading →