At the beginning of my church service yesterday, and perhaps in many other Episcopal churches, we read the Decalogue (the 10 Commandments). Our officiant said them, line by link, and we followed with “Amen. Lord, have mercy.”
As I joined in with the congregation, I started to think about what these might look like in a more reflective, rather than a prescriptive, or proscriptive form. So, underneath the original lines, are my own.
Hear the commandments of God to his people:
I am the Lord your God who brought you out of bondage. You shall have no other gods but me.
So often, powers greater than we have been instrumental in freeing us. Yes, our cooperation is an essential element. But, our resources alone are insufficient in many cases.
You shall not make for yourself any idol.
To what do we give our time, our resources, our inherent gifts? We can do many things “religiously”. We can mistakenly hope for redemption in the most fleeting of things.
You shall not invoke with malice the Name of the Lord your God.
Invoke god’s name to bless and bestow goodness; to wish bounty and fruitfulness; to inspire awe.
Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
Can we set aside a time to be mindful that, beneath the daily reality, there is ‘more’? Can we put daily concerns in their proper place, knowing that they will pass away?
Honor your father and your mother.
Thank your parents, even if they are not alive, for all they have given. Forgive them for all they could not. Bless their perfectly imperfect humanity.
You shall not commit murder.
Do you know the anger of which you are capable? Recognize its source…is it fear? Sadness? Self-righteousness? And, what has anger done when directed at you?
You shall not commit adultery.
Bonds between true lovers can be based on great trust and great vulnerability. Willing vulnerability, given and received in trust, is powerful and fragile. Creating vulnerability by breaking trust is devastating.
You shall not steal.
Believe that the world is abundant in good things, and that you are worthy to receive them. Can you ask for what you need, rather than take it?
You shall not be a false witness.
Truth is eternal, but can seem fleeting if undefended. Truth relies on us to make it known. Do not underestimate the power of one voice, raised for truth. Or, one voice, raised to twist it.
You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Rejoice in the good fortune of others. If envy moves you to look over the fence, is there something overlooked on your own side? Entitlement can be the enemy of gratitude.
Amen. Lord, have mercy.