My most powerful experiences of knowing God have all come through relationship. In extending love, grace, or mercy to my very human self, people reveal God to me in a way that is nearly impossible to receive alone. Similarly, some of my most painful moments have been when others have denied or abused my God-given dignity.
As I read the stories of God, I get the impression that God knew the power and fragility of relationship. Today’s readings enforce this idea: they contain a small section of the laws the Hebrew people believed God offered them a way of staying in right-relationship with one another. These laws orient the people towards following God, respecting one another’s dignity, welcoming the stranger, and honoring the land.
I was struck by the repeated command to honor Sabbath in three of the readings today. One of my most respected mentors, Pam Werntz, taught me that the two imperative commandments in the ten commandments are honor your parents and honor the Sabbath. The rest of the commandments are conditional, in effect they say, “If you love God, you will not kill or commit adultery.”
These two principles, honoring the Sabbath and the people who came before us, are the foundation of all right-relationship. When we remember we are not our own, that we came from our ancestors and are accountable to our decedents, we live in a way that is mindful of the impact on others and the creation we all share. When we learn to rest in the complete nature of God, we can reduce our striving to always be improving and outdoing one another. We choose life, not just for ourselves, but for the whole community into which we have been called.
It is worth saying that throughout time people have created laws that, like in the story of Sarah and Hagar, use power to oppress other people. Clearly these laws oppose the notion that we are all God’s children, and they need to be dismantled. This dismantling will only be inspired by an indwelling of God’s commands that move us away from self-oriented behavior and towards communal responsibility. When we understand these truths, not only in our minds but in our hearts, they will compel us to “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live (Deut 30:19).”
Prayer: May I choose life today.
Reflection: How am I currently practicing Sabbath, or not? What might I do to better honor those who came before and will come after me?
Art: The art today is Joseph Binder’s Ten Commandments.