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Thank you to Paul Toner for sharing the gift of music with us. Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection for this week. In these exceptional times, please do stay in touch, with us and with each other. The peace of Christ be with you all.
World Communion Sunday
Scripture: Exodus 20: 1-17
Music: All Who Are Thirsty; All Things in Common
As I was thinking about the reading for today, I remember wandering around the sanctuary one Sunday and quizzing you folks to see if you could get all 10 Commandments. You did! I was pleased. I was also surprised.
I had watched a comedian in the US interview a politician who was pushing to have them posted in all court rooms and at the end of the interview Stephen Colbert asked him to recite them, I think he got four. He didn’t even come close. It was ironic and funny.
So as I was sitting in the backyard, I wondered, could I name them? As I ran through them in my mind, I came up with nine. So, what did I miss? “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, they God in vain.”. . . It was ironic. May I remind you, I play golf.
It strikes me, in these days and during this time that people can be divided in two basic lots; those who really like rules and those who really dislike them. It shows up in the great mask debate. The anti-maskers are saying it is an infringement on their rights and freedoms. The pro-mask crowd point to the need for everyone to wear one whenever they are out in public and if they refuse they should be punished.
There was a stunning video that went viral this week of a fist fight that broke out on a bus between someone who refused to put on a mask and the guy who offered him one. I don’t know all of the background but it seems like people are forgetting basic decency.
That seems to be the way that our societies are unfolding these days. Watching the Presidential debate was very disturbing. It was as CNN reporter, Jake Tapper, described it, “A hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.”
I admired Jack Layton, the late leader of the NDP, who often talked about being hard on issues and soft on people. Layton was known for pushing hard on issues in the House of Commons. But, in the back corridors, he was known for stopping other MP’s and asking them about their families and how they were really doing. In these days, as we cope with a pandemic, it strikes me we need less victorial and a little more patience and courtesy – no matter what you believe.
You may be like me and the American politician, not able to recite all of the commandments but at some level I suspect you know what they are. Love God, don’t have any false God’s, honour the Sabbath, love your neighbour don’t take things that are yours. And, oh yes, “Don’t take the name of the Lord they God in vain”, – even when you hit another shank on the golf course. I also suspect you are like me and you may have broken one or two of them over time – even if you don’t play golf.
Sometimes, breaking a Commandment may be for a very good reason. I think of a caregiver saying to an agitated Alzheimer’s patient that the person they have been asking for is on their way soon even though they are long deceased. It may not be honest but it is loving and compassionate.
The 10 commandments are at the foundation of our social contract. The social contract merely means I will give up some of my freedom so that I can live in peace and harmony with others. That is what the great political philosophers Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau were all pointing towards. The 10 Commandments seek to create some boundaries for what kind of behaviour is and isn’t acceptable. They lend order and create balance in society.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters often talk about the love for God’s law. They don’t see the Commandments as a set of rules that restricts them. Instead they see the Torah, the Law, as a friend, a brother, a sister, one with whom they can enter into a relationship. They see the Commandments as a way of deepening their relationship with God. They understand that they are meant to help free people to live in a good way with others.
What the Commandments are trying to do is to focus on our relationship with God and with one another. They are the basis of how we treat each other with decency and civility – and we need that right now.
It strikes me that the other thing that we need is a way of coming together to celebrate what is important. Jesus offered us, his followers, communion. A simple meal that reminds us what we have in common is more important than what divides us. Today with our brothers and sisters around the world, we remember the love that Jesus came to offer us as we celebrate World Wide Communion Sunday; a meal that reminds us of the power and strength of God’s love. A love so strong it can help us bridge divides. A love so powerful, it can help us bring about peace with justice. A love so potent it can help bind up all wounds. A love so immense it can help heal creation. Love is the only thing that has the power to change the world.
Dr King was right: we must discover love – the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world, a new world.