Posted On My Heart

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9,12-20 – The 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for October 2, 2011

“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

In Mel Brooks’ History of the World-Part 1 Moses departs the mountain with three stone tablets. He announces the event with, “The Lord Jehovah has given us fifteen–”

Oops.

He dropped a tablet. Shattered. Hmmm?

“God has given us ten commandments!”

http://youtu.be/4TAtRCJIqnk

Once, at my United Methodist annual conference, with a thousand clergy and laity in tense debate over the values of faith, a pastor stood and declared all churches should have the Ten Commandments posted in the sanctuary. Every person, every Sunday, would be reminded of God’s laws. “It should be exactly as the Bible said!”

Another colleague took the floor and wondered if that meant the commandments would be written in Hebrew. After all, the English version of the commandments is rather Johnny-come-lately.

What commandment do you struggle with?

A character in a novel I’ve written, contemplating assisted suicide, mutters about a daughter-in-law who told him he would break the Ten Commandments if he acted out his wishes. She . . .  “lectured me that the Ten Commandments said Thou Shalt Not Kill. With her finger wagging at me, she said, ‘That means you killing yourself!’ He chuckled again, this time with a grimace. “I told her, ‘Which of the three versions of the Commandments is that?’ And I said, because I wanted to be a nasty geezer, ‘I prefer the Exodus 34 version where the last divine command is You Shall Not Boil A Kid In Its Mother’s Milk.’”

In a church I served, someone left a Bible in a classroom. No name anywhere. Week after week, it remained. Abandoned. I finally grabbed it and stayed alert to anyone who might claim his or her missing Bible. Eventually the Bible became part of my personal library. One of the first times I used it for sermon preparation, I discovered an odd thing. Continue reading →

Mathematics of Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35 – the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 11, 2011

“. . . how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)

In Matthew 18:21, the disciple Peter ponders forgiving another seven times. In Matthew 18:22*, Jesus challenged Peter—and therefore us—to forgive seventy-seven times.

Ah-oh. Note the asterisk by 22. Don’t race to the bottom of these words to find what it refers to . . . I’ll deal with it now. Almost every Bible has a footnote or asterisk linked to Matthew 18:22 because different ancient manuscripts, and different ways of interpreting Greek, lead to a different number. Instead of forgiving another seventy-seven times, Jesus may have exhorted Peter to forgive seven times seventy. Gulp. Take a breath. Now do the math. How many times should I be prepared to declare, “I forgive you?”

7 x 70 = 490

Iforgiveyou-Iforgiveyou-Iforgiveyou-Iforgiveyou-Iforgiveyou
Iforgiveyou-Iforgiveyou-Iforgiveyou-Iforgiveyou-Iforgiveyou

10 down, 480 to go.

Jesus must have been kidding, right? He exaggerated, used hyperbole. It’s all about shock value.

In the faithful mathematics of forgiveness, whether the answer to Peter’s question is 77 or 490, there’s always a crucial, single number at the start . . .

1

Me. You. One nation. A corporation. Every giving or receiving of forgiveness will begin because an individual or an institution steps forward and truthfully says, “I forgive you.”

And yet, if one person doesn’t begin . . . Continue reading →