By Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

“Exodus: An Obedient People” by Rev. Cody Sandahl – October 9, 2016

Rev. Cody Sandahl
Rev. Cody Sandahl
"Exodus: An Obedient People" by Rev. Cody Sandahl - October 9, 2016
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Introduction

We are still looking at how God shaped the Israelites in the book of Exodus and how God is shaping us today as well. Last week Carol talked about the Covenant. This week we’re getting into everyone’s favorite passage from the Bible – the Ten Commandments. One of the best-known and best-understood parts of the whole Bible, right? Straightforward, no controversy, right?

But did you know there are actually fourteen statements in the Ten Commandments? Did you know that they are actually called the Ten Words, meaning they don’t necessarily have to be commandments? And because of that Rabbis, Catholics, and Protestants divide up the fourteen statements differently, starting with the very first one? Did you know there is a big controversy because some translations say “thou shalt not kill” and others “thou shalt not murder?” That might make a difference to a Christian soldier or police officer. Did you know that in Judaism, they aren’t seen as individual commandments? They are instead seen as the ten categories under which the other 613 commandments from the Old Testament can be placed? Not quite as straightforward as we might think.

Of course, when you take all those controversies and add them together, my conclusion is that people have too much time on their hands. I don’t personally care which verses get assigned to Commandment #1 and which ones go to Commandment #2. Kill versus murder matters, but in the Hebrew it’s pretty clear – it says don’t murder. Should these be seen as specific instructions or general categories? That doesn’t keep me up at night either – it’s probably both.

So now you know about the controversies, and now you know that I recommend ignoring them. So let’s hear the Ten Words of the Lord.

Exodus 20:1-21

Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13You shall not murder.14You shall not commit adultery. 15You shall not steal. 16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

18When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, 19and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” 21Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Obedience

The year was 1949. America was riding high after its victory in World War II. Much of the developed world was smashed to bits, but we were still intact. But a pressing issue arose: what should we do about the millions of Displaced Persons from around the world? Christians knew that their Bibles said “cursed be anyone who deprives the alien…of justice” (Deut 27:19). They remembered Jesus saying, “whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none” (Luke 3:11). They knew that the letter to the Hebrews says, “show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:1-2). But there was a problem. Those refugees from Eastern Europe? What if they had been Nazis? What if they wanted to prosecute their lost war after being invited to our shores? What if we beat them over there only to get hurt once we let them over here?

So what did First Pres Littleton do?

Earlier this year I sat down with our own Carolyn Wilkins, who was in high school during that time, and she told me the story of “The Friendship House.” Starting in 1949, Rev. Chandler rallied the church and the community to build a house and setup a support network to help those Displaced Persons find a new life here in Littleton. And from 1949 to 1979, from Hungarians to H’Mong, this church helped ten refugee families find love and friendship right here in our town.

This month we’re focusing our prayer on refugees from around the world, so we’re featuring Carolyn’s story all month. As you leave the Sanctuary today, take a look on the windows of the office and you’ll see some pictures, and you can take a transcript of the interview OR you can go on our website and listen to it or read it as well.

After she told me her story I asked her a few questions, and her last answer blew me away. I asked if she thought there were any lessons or parallels today, and here’s what she said: “I am really amazed at the fact that the atmosphere in the United States is much the same as it was after the war, World War II. “Let’s not bring refugees into our country. They may be Nazis! And they may undermine our young ones. And how can we trust them? How can we know?” Well they’re doing the same thing today. You hear it every day on the news. And it’s not true. We have so much more technology today at our fingertips that we can go through and OK the people to come. And even some might slip through, but I would like to hope that through our Christian endeavors we can help these people and give them the American Dream.”

That last part is what blew me away. Even if some Nazis slipped through the screening system, she would rather do what she thought was her Christian duty. That willingness to accept risk to do what’s right – that’s the definition of obedience in my mind.

Because it’s easy to obey when there isn’t risk. If I commanded you to accept a $100 gift, not too hard to obey, right? But what if I said you needed to hand out a $100 gift – that’s a little harder. Of course, God’s commandments aren’t as easy as just handing out a few Benjamins, so obedience isn’t an easy task.

Obedience Springs from Confidence in Who You Are

So what made Carolyn, and Rev. Chandler, and the rest of the church and the community, willing to risk their security, risk undermining their young ones, risk their very way of life for the sake of a few strangers? They thought it was part of being Christian. It was a way of expressing who they were.

Their “doing” was a result of their “being.”

And that’s how these Ten Words from God start off, too. “2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;3you shall have no other gods before me.” It starts off with God saying “I am God.” Then it quickly moves to reminding them that they are no longer slaves – “I am God…you are free.”

Remember – they’re already out of Egypt at this point. They’ve already been saved. God didn’t wait for them to figure all these things out before he would save them. They were already free. They were already chosen. They were already loved. Obedience was supposed to be a byproduct of their freedom. Their “doing” was supposed to flow from their “being.”

Jesus reinforces that in John 15:9 – “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me.” We are loved. You are loved. It’s not based on you checking off all the boxes on the Ten Commandments – however you divide them up. It’s not based on you fulfilling your life’s purpose. It’s not based on getting straight A’s or picking the perfect major or nabbing the perfect job or finding the perfect spouse or raising the perfect children – thank you Jesus on that last one. You are loved. It’s who you are. “Loved” is part of your “being” regardless of your “doing.”

This is how I see it. We are kind of like my toddler, Caleb. He’s walking around now, but like a lot of kids early in their ambulation, he’ll toddle off somewhere and suddenly realize that he doesn’t know where Mom is. And so he’ll stop, cry, run back, or do all three. He needs the security of Mama. But in a little while he’ll figure out that Mom is still there even if he goes off to play.

We are loved. But if we’re constantly wondering, “Am I good enough?” “Does God really love me?” “Did I blow it?” “Can I really do this?” Then we’re like Caleb needing to run back to safety. We all do it. It’s OK. But there’s a whole world out there if we develop a strong sense of who we are. If we can really own, deep down, the fact that we’re loved, we can toddle off to play knowing that God is still there.

So obedience isn’t how you earn God’s love. Obedience is what happens when you’re secure in God’s love. Because obedience requires faith enough to take a risk – like Carolyn said with those potential Nazis.

Summary

Sisters and brothers, you are loved. You are loved! You are loved. It’s true. You don’t have to wonder. You are loved. You can move on. You can go off and play – God’s still there. You can go take a risk in obedience – God’s still there. You can let go of God’s leg and toddle off in a God-honoring direction. Even if you don’t get there, you are loved. It’s who you are.

So what does obedience look like for you? It’s not about checking off ten boxes. It’s not about checking off 613 boxes if you want to include everything from the Old Testament. It’s about doing what you think is right because of who you are. Obedience is taking a risk because of what you believe.

What does obedience look like for you this week? What could you do in God’s name if you had the confidence to let go and walk over? What could you do in God’s name if you had the confidence to let go and love someone else? What could you do if you had confidence in who God says you are? Amen.