Imagine a Church

Robin WilliamsonPosted on Monday, June 3, 2013 by Robin Williamson

The right persons, in the right places, for the right reasons, at the right time!

What are your feelings as you read the Ten Commandments from the book of Exodus?

As a boy of 10 (in the choir here in 1956), the first morning service I attended was that of Holy Communion: in those days, it was of course a Prayer Book Service, and the 10 Commandments were read in full – as they are on display on the ‘reredos’ behind the altar at St. Luke’s.

They sounded a bit archaic to me then, and I remember when I went to Confirmation classes at 14, when asked about them, I said I thought they were out of date! (Last Sunday at the 8am service at St. Andrew’s where they have the Prayer Book service in full, I read them all.)

Are they relevant today, and how seriously do we take them? Are they part of our lifestyle? How do we teach them to our children – do we, or should we?

Imagine a walkway around the top of a tall building, it has a fence, which serves 2 purposes – preventing people from falling off, but also giving sightseers a sense of security – they can lean against it and feel safe.

The 10 Commandments are like that. Within the confines of the fence, we can explore what it means to be a human being – made in the image of God. If we’re able to follow them, they prevent us from falling into lifestyles that are not helpful to human nature.

They also provide us with the security of knowing what God requires of us.

The Message version has them:

“God spoke all these words: I am GOD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery.
No other gods, only me.
No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am GOD, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days GOD made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore GOD blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.
Honour your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.
No murder.
No adultery.
No stealing.
No lies about your neighbour.
No lusting after your neighbour’s house — or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbour’s.”

If we are being serious, and we agree that these commandments are important; which ones do you have trouble with – or perhaps need help with?

Some of them seem straightforward and obvious and we wouldn’t argue with them (for example, “don’t murder or steal”) – but how about “Observe the Sabbath day to keep holy, don’t do any work”? Do we ever have a real rest – do we properly stop? I guess that is where I struggle.

I rest at night, asleep – but during the day? (For some of course, sport, or a good walk is rest if they are working in an office or some sedentary occupation.)

Yesterday, I went to the Diocesan Gathering at Canterbury in and around the cathedral. It is always brilliant to meet old friends and catch up, but there was also a worshipful Eucharist and some good speakers.

Will Lamb, the Vice Principal of Westcott House Theological College in Cambridge talked about the book of Revelation, not my favorite book of the Bible, but it really spoke to me.

He talked about chapter 8, verse 1 where we read there was silence in Heaven for half an hour! That is after there had been lots of angels praising and worshiping God on His throne. Will then posed the question, “how often are we quiet – and just adore God?”

Yes, it’s of course right to praise God and right to intercede, but we also need from time to time, just to stop and adore God quietly. I confess that often we are just too busy – so then it’s hard for us to be ‘the right persons, in the right places, for the right reasons, at the right time!’

But before we feel too condemned, Jesus reminds us (we read in Matthew 22: 37-40) that the most important thing is to love God, and our neighbour as ourselves.

If we do that, hopefully we will be people God is able to use – and we will indeed be in the right place both before God and others!

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