Margaret E. was back in town from Nashville where she is finishing her last year at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
She jumped right into our Lenten sermon series on “Covenant,” tackling the 10 Commandments. I thank her for preaching for us: she did a wonderful job, doing something that I often worry we don’t do enough, or well enough in progressive church circles — tying the progressive social and political positions we take to the theology and biblical teaching that could be their deepest roots for us, our activism and the positions we take. If you want to read the whole sermon, “No God But A Liberating God,” here it is on Margaret’s blog plantedmoredeeply.
Below is a sample of what she teased out of the 10 Commandments, a challenge to faithfully living up to a liberating God (and to read the whole sermon!):
“…What if we sweared to worship no God
but a God we can conceive of as a drag queen
sitting a dinner table with a gay child who has been kicked out of the house
and out of the church.
What if we said no God
but God who marched through swamps alongside Harriet Tubman,
escorting people out of slavery,
but the God who gave strength to the voice of Sojourner Truth.
What if we too, like the Israelites at Sinai,
committed to follow no God but a liberating God.
And what if everything else about how we are together, stems from that commitment.
If we let our understanding of covenant and accountability emerge from these images of God, from the location of God as delivering us from systems and practices of death…we can maybe understand a little better the place of the 10 commandments in Exodus, and learn about the true meaning of freedom. Freedom is rooted in commitment, in practices that help us honor the image of God in ourselves and others.
Remembering freedom in that vein, perhaps it’s important to expand with a bit more specificity what the Ten Commandments might look like with some clarifications for our particular place, our time and location.
Forgive me for the embellishment.
- And God said all these words: I am the Lord, took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the prison-house. That means I freed you from incarceration and from working for the benefit of others without fair pay. You are to have no other gods but me. That means you are to have no other gods but a Liberating God.
- You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything. You are not to make idols of institutions, or money, not church, not nation, not a flag. Not convenience, not your career, not whiteness or maleness, and not of abusive power.
- You are not to make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God; You are not to use God’s name for colonization, or conquest or war, for slavery, or sexism, or homophobia. Whoever takes the Lord’s name on their lips for an evil purpose such as these will be judged a sinner by the Lord.
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. That means on six days do all your work for the flourishing of yourself and all people. But at least one day a week the whole community rests. Everyone. Including people living and working in your country without documentation.
- Honor your mother or father, or, give honor to where you came from, to the people that formed you, so that your life may be long on the earth which is sacred and precious [inspired by No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments].
- Do not murder. Do not murder children in schools. Do not murder by taking money from the gun lobby or investing in war. Do not murder people in Syria. Do not murder people in Yemen. Do not murder black people. Do not murder black people for selling untaxed cigarettes. Do not murder black people for a broken tail-light, or for being black. Do not murder people for crossing a border. Do not murder gay people or trans people. Do not outsource your murder to the police [inspired by: Resipicence: A Lenten Devotional for Dismantling White Supremacy].
- Do not commit adultery, means do not intentionally break your commitments to anyone that you love.
- Do not steal. Do not take the property of your neighbor through foreclosing on their homes on or displacing people from neighborhoods, or invading others’ lands, or investing on the backs of others.
- Do not give false testimony against your neighbor. That means do not call your neighbor anything except what they are: a child of God, a unique gift to this universe who can never be replaced. Do not tell or believe in lies that say other people are worth less.
- Do not covet. Remember, you already have everything you need.”