Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
October 27, 2020
“Ten Ways to Love”
Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20 – The Message
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.
3 No other gods, only me.
4 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim.
7 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.
8-11 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..
12 Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.
13 No murder.
14 No adultery.
15 No stealing.
16 No lies about your neighbor.
17 No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.
All the people, experiencing the thunder and lightning, the trumpet blast and the smoking mountain, were afraid - they pulled back and stood at a distance. They said to Moses, “You speak to us and we’ll listen, but don’t have God speak to us or we’ll die.”
20 Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. God has come to test you and instill a deep and reverent awe within you so that you won’t sin.”
Kathleen Norris said she hated hearing the Ten Commandments read aloud in church. Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not… so overwhelmingly negative. Not to mention, she said, in her small-town America, ten commandments became eleven – Thou shalt not play cards. Became twelve… Thou shalt not go dancing, and the list kept going. No makeup, no movies… Her father was raised in a very strict religious home that forbid him from going to the movies. When he left for college, on his first day of freedom, he went to three movies in a row!
He was a Methodist preacher in South Dakota in the 1920s and 30s and chewed his cigars to make sure none of his church members could smell smoke on him. He had reason to be careful. He had just been fired from a church in West Virginia for teaching hymns to the youth group on a banjo. 
Why must religion be confused with rules? Why especially Christianity when the one we follow said, all the law and prophets can be summed up in one word: Love. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
And not just Jesus, but we should never confuse the God of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, of being a judgmental authoritarian. Of just vengeance and punishment. Those stories certainly exist, but, for example, the Ten Commandments were not handed down as a form of punishment, but out of great love, God provided a framework for their relationship and responsibilities to one another. A way to live in the world now that they were free of Pharaoh’s commandments, in which they were his property.
The Ten Commandments were given while they were still in freedom training. Free from slavery, continuing to wander in the wilderness, their task was to still escape slavery – the one in their hearts and minds. You can take a people out of oppression and give them their freedom. But the harder task remains. Taking the oppression out of their minds.
The order of the commandments is very important. They start by establishing the relationship. I Am your God. It doesn’t say, do this and do that and then I’ll be your God. No, I am your God. I love you so much I led you out of slavery in Egypt. And this is how we are to be in relationship. The Ten Commandments is specifically a religious covenant with a particular people, which is why it makes no sense in places like courthouse lawns.
I don’t hear about it much anymore, but it once was such a big deal, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to hang a copy of the Ten Commandments in every courtroom and public classroom in the country. Congressman Lyn Westmoreland went on Steven Colbert to promote the idea. But when Colbert asked him to name them, he sat there like a deer in the headlights. Um, you want me to name them? Um, don’t steal, don’t kill… He had to admit he didn’t know the rest.
I’ll be totally honest, on an average day, I couldn’t either. In fact, I don’t even know if I could do it from memory right now, with all the pressure of trying to remember. Person, woman, man, camera, TV…
But I’ll also be honest with you and tell you, I don’t really care for the Ten Commandments. I don’t disagree with them – killing, stealing, coveting, resting. But as much as I agree that the commandments are not about punishment but a loving relationship, I still don’t find them particularly inspiring. As Kathleen Norris said, a little too much negativity. I’d prefer a list of dos.
For example, like the Prophet Micah: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.
In fact, if the commandments really are about love, then spell out 10 ways to love. And, I actually found exactly that – the Ten Commandments of Love. (Unattributed source) And they’re pretty good. We could all use these. Which one applies most to you?
Listen without interrupting
Speak without accusing
Answer without arguing
Forgive without punishing
Promise without forgetting
Wow! Food for thought. The final five are:
Share without pretending
Give without sparing
Trust without wavering
Pray without ceasing
Enjoy without complaining
Another option of positivity is the banner at our front door and at the front of the sanctuary:
Be the Church
Protect the environment
Care for the poor
Fight for the powerless
Share earthly and spiritual resources
Enjoy this life
I’d never noticed before that there are ten, but there could be so many more. What would you add? But I’d also like to put footnotes on the banner to clarify: We don’t need to just reject racism but to dismantle white supremacy. And not just care for the poor but to eliminate poverty. And not just embrace diversity but make sure diverse people can vote. Thou shalt vote!
Perhaps on World Communion Sunday we could add: Always seek unity. Recognize our oneness. Or, as our song we’re about to sing to prepare for communion says:
For everyone born, a place at the table.
For everyone born, clean water and bread, a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,
for everyone born, a star overhead.
And then, that’s when we will have fulfilled the Ten Commandments in their fullest and most loving form. When everyone born is free to live without fear and to simply be. And the God who first loved us, who established this relationship, will delight.
 Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Riverhead Books, 1998
I love being the