Sunday’s sermon: Divided We Fall

divided united

Text used – 1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29





  • Okay, all … pop quiz this morning. Let me know if you can tell where these statements come from.
    • When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
    • It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
    • The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.
    • Give up? Those statements are four of the 95 theses that Martin Luther nailed to the door of Wittenberg Castle church on Oct. 31, 1517. Friends, today is Reformation Sunday.
      • Quick church history lesson
        • Luther = German priest turned theology professor → grew to reject a number of Roman Catholic teachings of the day[1]
          • Salvation through grace, not salvation through works
          • Importance of making Scripture accessible to regular people → translated the Bible into German (only in Latin up to that point = only priests could read it)
          • Flat out rejection of selling of indulgences – practice of people basically buying their deceased loved ones’ way into heaven (skip the punishment and postponement of Purgatory)
          • Wrote 95 theses (vast majority of which were counterpoints against indulgences) in 1517 → refused to renounce that and all the rest of his writings/views despite the demands of both Pope Leo X and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor → both excommunicated and declared an outlaw in 1521
        • Luther’s actions that day were the flashpoint for what we call the Great Reformation → spurned the development of a number of different theologies and Protestant traditions
          • Today: upwards of 200 different Protestant denominations just in the United States … and that doesn’t include all the individual churches that designate themselves as “non-denomination” or “Bible churches”[2] → dividing lines between those denominations are many and varied
            • Divided along cultural/heritage lines (e.g. –German Lutheran vs. Norwegian Lutheran)
            • Divided along polity lines (episcopal vs. congregational vs. presbyterian)
            • Divided along theological lines
              • What’s a sacrament and what’s not?
              • Who can participate at the Table and who can’t?
              • Baptism – age? dunking or sprinkling? efficacy of rebaptism or “once baptized, always baptized”?
              • Probably most recent split happened in the Presbyterian Church (USA) = development of ECO (Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians) → splintered along lines pertaining to LGBTQ issues among others
    • As we well know, the Church is no stranger to division, is it? By this point, our shared Family Tree as Christians is a pretty gnarled, complicated, crazy-looking mess. But this division is far from the exception in the history of faith as well.
      • Phyllis Tickle: church “cleans out its attic and has a rummage sale” every 500 yrs.[3] → massive shift in the life and structure and theology of the Church every 500 yrs.
        • Roughly 500 yrs. after Jesus = era of the councils (Council of Nicaea, Council of Constantinople, etc.) → set what books would be considered Scripture and what wouldn’t, set what was acceptable (orthodox) theology and what wasn’t (heresy), laid out some of the creeds we use even today (Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed)
        • Roughly 500 yrs. after the council = the Great Schism → divided the Western Church (Roman Catholicism) with the Eastern Church (today: various Orthodox traditions – Russian, Greek, etc.)
        • Roughly 500 yrs. after the Great Schism = the Reformation with Luther and all those who came after him
        • Roughly 500 yrs. after the Reformation … TODAY → We are indeed overdue for another vast and sweeping change in the way and life of the Church. Or maybe we’re in the midst of it.
  • Going back even further = division in our Scripture reading this morning
    • Some explanation
      • Rehoboam = son of King Solomon, grandson of King David
      • Jeroboam = placed in position of regional power by King Solomon → led a revolt (hence the reason our text said he “returned from Egypt where he had fled from King Solomon”[4]
      • Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about the rise of first King Saul and then King David as the monarchy of Israel and how the establishment of that monarchy was against God’s wishes and counsel for the people of Israel. Through the reign of Saul, David, and David’s son, Solomon, the people of Israel remained a single kingdom – the 12 tribes (descended from the 12 sons of Jacob excluding Joseph) all united today. Today’s Scripture is the end of that union. → today’s Scripture = the division of the kingdom into the Northern Kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (2 tribes)
    • Sub-title of today’s section: “How Rehoboam lost the kingdom” → And what does that loss boil down to today? How did Rehoboam lose the kingdom that his father and grandfather had worked so hard to build up and maintain? Through division.
      • Story breakdown
        • People (along with Jeroboam) come to King Rehoboam and say, “Your father made our workload very hard for us. If you will lessen the demands your father made of us and lighten the heavy workload he demanded from us, then we will serve you.”[5]
        • King Rehoboam unsure of what to do → tells the people to come back in 3 days and consults his advisors
          • 2 sets of advisors: the older ones who served his father, Solomon, before him VS. the younger ones (King Rehoboam’s contemporaries)
          • Older advisors: “If you will be a servant to this people by answering them and speaking good words today, then they will be your servants forever.”[6]
            • Response born out of experience
            • Response born of out wisdom
            • Response born out of respect for the people
          • Younger advisors: “If my father made your workload heavy, I’ll make it even heavier! If my father disciplined you with whips, I’ll do it with scorpions!”[7]
            • Response born out of ambition
            • Response born out of pride
            • Response born out of elitism
        • King Rehoboam decides to listen to his younger advisors → text: The king then answered the people harshly. … When all Israel saw that the king wouldn’t listen to them, the people answered the king: “Why should we care about David? We have no stake in Jesse’s son! Go back to your homes, Israel! You better look after your own house now, David!” Then the Israelites went back to their homes, and Rehoboam ruled over only the Israelites who lived in the cities of Judah.[8]
          • The rest of the Israelites turn to Jeroboam to rule them → Jeroboam, in fear that their allegiance will once again flip and they will return to King Rehoboam, sets up golden calves for them to worship in Bethel and in Dan (foreshadowing for more trouble to come!)
        • Division, plain and simple, right?
  • But I want to go back to the middle of the story today and focus on the advice of King Rehoboam’s older advisors. – older advisors in the text: “If you will be a servant to this people by answering them and speaking good words today, then they will be your servants forever.”[9] → “If you will be a servant to this people … If you will be a servant.” This, friends, is the key.
    • Outright divisiveness we’re facing in America today
      • Neighbor against neighbor
      • Friend against friend
      • Family against family
      • Divisiveness born of intolerance and an unwillingness to listen – truly listen! – to the “other side”
        • Not half-listen while I try to think of the next thing to say
        • Not pretend-listen so they think I’m listening and will, in turn, listen to me
        • Not ambush-listen so I can pounce on something they say and demolish it with my clearly superior argument/talking point
    • Certainly not the first time we’ve faced strong, deep divisions as a country
      • Just a couple examples:
        • 1960s & 1970s → Civil Rights, Vietnam War, McCarthyism and communism
        • Civil War and the decades that surrounded it
    • But it cannot be denied that we are living in a highly contentious, combative, and toxically polarized time. “If you will be a servant to this people by answering them and speaking good words today, then they will be your servants forever.” Jesus talked a lot about what it meant to be a servant.
      • John: This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved one. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.[10]
      • Mark: Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be first among you will be the servant of all.[11]
      • Luke: But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.[12]
      • Matthew: You should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you.[13]
    • Archibald Macleish (American poet and former Librarian of Congress): Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worse when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answer for everybody else. → Friends, let us take the hard questions from Scripture this morning – the questions about how we divide amongst ourselves and what that division is doing to our souls as individuals and as the church, as the human race and as Americans. Let us take those hard questions and sit with them, wrestle with them, ask them of ourselves. We have seen what division brings time and time again. Maybe it’s time to give a servant’s heart a try. Amen.[14]



[3] Phyllis Tickle. The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books), 2008.

[4] 1 Kgs 12:2.

[5] 1 Kgs 12:4.

[6] 1 Kgs 12:7.

[7] 1 Kgs 12:11.

[8] 1 Kgs 12:13a, 16-17.

[9] 1 Kgs 12:7.

[10] Jn 15:12-13.

[11] Mk 10:43-44.

[12] Lk 6:27-28.

[13] Mt 7:12.


Sunday’s sermon: Making My ‘Messy’ Magnificent

dancing before God

Text used – 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5





  • [PLAY A FEW BARS OF “Footloose[1]”] → Classic, right? The wildly-popular 1980s movie[2] about the new boy in town going toe-to-toe with the staunch and stodgy town minister over the issue of what?
    • Kevin Bacon = Ren McCormick, new boy in town who lives his life through dance
      • Dances when he’s happy
      • Dances when he mad
      • Dances when he wants to have fun
      • Dances to “get the girl”
    • John Lithgow = Rev. Shaw Moore, local minister who believes there’s something inherently inappropriate and wicked about dancing → does everything in his power to keep Ren and all the rest of the local youth from dancing (especially since Ren’s dance to “get the girl” is aimed at Rev. Moore’s oldest daughter)
    • Classic scene = the city council meeting
      • Ren takes his place at the microphone to address the city council as well as the gathered crowd → argue to allow high school dance within city limits
      • And what book does he quote from in support of his argument for the power and value of dance? He quotes from the Bible. He read Psalm 149, and he speaks of King David leaping and dancing before God.
        • Ps 149: 1 Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song; sing God’s praise in the assembly of the faithful! 2 Let Israel celebrate its maker; let Zion’s children rejoice in their king! 3 Let them praise God’s name with dance; let them sing God’s praise with the drum and lyre! 4 Because the LORD is pleased with his people, God will beautify the poor with saving help. 5 Let the faithful celebrate with glory; let them shout for joy on their beds. 6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, 7 to get revenge against the nations and punishment on the peoples, 8 binding their rulers in chains and their officials in iron shackles, 9 achieving the justice written against them. That will be an honor for all God’s faithful people. Praise the LORD!
    • And with our Scripture reading this morning, we got a little taste of David’s story, both the political side and the dancing side.
  • So let’s talk about David. As we make our way through the Narrative Lectionary, our goal is to take in the whole, overarching scope of the Story of faith, right? Well, we certainly can’t do that without talking about King David, can we?
    • David’s thread in the Story of faith is a long, colorful, and complicated thread → probably takes up the most space within the entirety of Scripture (possible exception: Paul’s travels as they’re recounted in Acts)
      • Begins when prophet Samuel goes in search of a king to replace Saul
        • REMINDER: Saul = anointed king by Samuel when the people of Israel demanded a king (against God’s wishes) → Saul does a good job ruling for a little while (following God and God’s commandments) → eventually stopped listening to God and is rejected as king[3]
        • Samuel goes in search of a new king à finds David in the field tending his father Jesse’s sheep à Samuel anoints David[4]
      • David is taken into Saul’s service as a musician and armor-bearer (though Saul is unaware that this boy has already been anointed as his replacement)[5]
      • David defeats Goliath[6] and befriends Saul’s son, Jonathan[7]
      • Saul becomes suspicious and jealous of David → Saul pursues David and tries to kill him multiple times → David escapes time and again through various means[8]
        • This part of David’s life – when he’s running from Saul and trying to avoid being captured and killed but is also still functioning as a soldier for the people of Israel and going into battle for his people – is a really complicated and fascinating part of the story of faith. We don’t have time to go into it in detail today, but if you’re looking for an interesting read, delve into 1 Samuel 18-31.
      • Eventually, Saul is killed in battle[9] → David is anointed king for a 2nd time – anointed as king of Judah[10] → But because of conflict between the house of Judah and the house of Israel (different tribes under the greater umbrella of “people of Israel”), David only ruled over the people of Judah for the first seven and a half years of his monarchy.[11]
    • 1st part of today’s Scripture reading (from 2 Sam 5) = David finally being anointed as king over people of Israel as well
      • Moment of powerful unity
      • Moment of dynamic hopefulness
      • Text: All the Israelite tribes came to David at Hebron and said, “Listen: We are your very own flesh and bone. In the past, when Saul ruled over us, you were the one who led Israel out to war and back. What’s more, the Lord told you, You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will be Israel’s leader.” So all the Israelite elders came to the king at Hebron. King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.[12] → Anointing number three … third time’s the charm, right? With the first anointing (in the fields with just Samuel and the sheep as witnesses), David was accepted by God as king. With the second anointing, David was accepted by – the house of Judah – by a faction of the people as king. And with this third anointing, David is finally accepted by all the people as king. And how does David celebrate? Probably not the way you think.
        • Part of Scripture that we didn’t read today (part that fills in between 2 Sam 5 and 2 Sam 6) = David leading the army of Israel to capture Jerusalem and defeat the Philistines → Granted, there’s a lot of battling and conquering that happens throughout the Old Testament. This is just a small part of it. With this battle and this conquering, David does something that becomes incredibly culturally, religiously, and politically impactful: he establishes Jerusalem as the Holy City for the people of Israel.
          • Certainly an action that continues to have cultural, religious, and political ramifications even today, right?
    • 2nd part of today’s reading = David calling to have God’s chest brought to the city
      • “God’s chest” = “the Ark of the Covenant” → special chest that was created[13] to house sacred articles of the covenant with God (most notably the tablets containing the 10 commandments) → But it was more than just a special, fancy box. The lid of the box was known as the kaporet or the “mercy seat. Two gold cherubim on either end of the lid created a space with their wings which was believed to be the space in which God would appear. So bringing God’s chest into the city was a powerful, sacred, and highly significant act because it establishes Jerusalem as the place where God lived.
        • Scholar: The ark, a large box, functions as God’s throne; a visible place for God’s invisible presence. The ark went ahead of the Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness.[14]
        • See in the text just how significant and moving this act was: David and the entire house of Israel celebrated in the Lord’s presence with all their strength, with songs, zithers, harps, tambourines, rattles, and cymbals. → different translation (NRSV): David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.[15]
  • So here’s the thing: we’ve talked about all the ups and downs that David has already been through in this short life. Remember, our Scripture reading this morning said that he was only 30 when he was anointed king of the house of Judah (2nd anointing) and 37 when he was anointed king over all Israel. So in his relatively short life up to that point, he had been through a lot. He had gone from a simple shepherd boy to a secretly-anointed king to an armor-bearer for the king to a national hero to the best friend of the king’s son to a fugitive and a battle commander … to the king. And in the face of all of that … maybe because of all of that … David danced.
    • Danced because he was happy
    • Danced because he was relieved
    • Danced as a release
    • Danced to honor God
    • [PLAY SAME FEW BARS OF “Footloose” AGAIN]
    • Even though he was probably exhausted … even though he probably had a lot on his mind … even though he probably had worries and uncertainties and fears and a to-do list a mile long (being a king and a conqueror, after all) … even though he had been through some terrible thing, some scary things, some dark and painful things … David danced.
      • Brings to mind words from Ps 30: You changed my mourning into dancing. You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up in joy so that my whole being might sing praises to you and never stop. Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.[16]
        • Many psalms traditionally attributed to King David à this is one of those psalms
        • Now, I hesitate a little to say this because I know that sometimes, when you’re down in the depths of whatever you’re facing and people tell you things like, “It’s bound to get better” or “There’s always a silver lining” or any of those other sunshine-and-roses-everything-is-happy platitudes, it can actually have the opposite effect. It can make you more frustrated, more anxious, more depressed, more angry, more discouraged. But even after everything that he had been through, David danced before God. David let God take that mess that he had been in – mess of political intrigue, mess of war, mess of leadership thrust upon him, mess of grief and exhaustion and fear. David let God take that mess and change his mourning into dancing. David let God bring light to his darkness. David let God bring love to his loss. David let God bring passion to his pain. David let God bring the Holy to his hopelessness.
    • That’s why the words of our next hymn[17] are so powerful → convey dancing in the face of some pretty awful things
      • “I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee, but they would not dance and they would not follow me …”
      • “I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black. It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back …”
      • “They cut me down and I leapt up high. I am the life that will never, never die …”
  • And remember … not all dancing has to look the same.
    • Maybe your dancing looks vibrant and effusive and energetic like David and the people of Israel dancing “with all their might”
      • Movement that conveys joy
      • Movement that conveys passion
      • Movement that conveys celebration
    • Maybe your dancing is slower, more measured, more contemplative à more “movement with a purpose” than anything
      • Movement that conveys belief
      • Movement that conveys intention
      • Movement that conveys resolve
    • Maybe your dancing is simply moving your finger or tapping your foot
      • Movement that conveys faith even in fear
      • Movement that conveys courage even in pain
      • Movement that conveys hope even in uncertainty
    • In the midst of his mess, David let God move him. David let God bring out the magnificent in the midst of that mess because that is the nature of God: goodness, mercy, love, and hope above all else. These are the things about God that will not change. These are the things about God that reach into our hearts and our souls no matter what we’re facing. So friends, let me ask you: How is God moving you? What will your dance be? Amen.


[1] Kenny Loggins and Dean Pitchford. “Footloose,” released Jan. 1984 by Columbia Records.

[2] Footloose, written by Dean Pitchford, released Feb. 17, 1984 by Phoenix Pictures and Paramount Pictures.

[3] 1 Sam 8-15.

[4] 1 Sam 16:1-13.

[5] 1 Sam 16:14-23.

[6] 1 Sam 17.

[7] 1 Sam 18:1-5; 20:1-42.

[8] 1 Sam 18:6-30:31.

[9] 1 Sam 31.

[10] 2 Sam 2:1-7.

[11] 2 Sam 2:8-11.

[12] 2 Sam 5:1-3 (emphasis added).

[13] Ex 37:1-9.

[14] Elna K. Solvang. “Commentary on 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5” from Working Preacher,, accessed Oct. 20, 2019.

[15] 2 Sam 6:5 (first CEB, then NRSV, emphasis added).

[16] Ps 30:11-12.

[17] “I Danced in the Morning,” Glory to God (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), hymn #157.

Sunday’s sermon: A Word for the World

Words I love you in different languages. Vector greeting card

Text used – Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9





  • I want to introduce you to an idea this morning: the concept known as the Mere Exposure Effect.[1]
    • Basic idea: the more you hear something, the more likely you are to like it and believe it → In other words, we tend to like things more when they’re familiar to us.
      • Also called the Familiarity Principle
      • Coined/proposed by the late Robert Zajonc, Polish-born social psychologist who immigrated to America after the end of WWII
    • Examples
      • First time you hear a song on the radio: “Meh” → find yourself enthusiastically singing along after hearing it over and over again for a few weeks
      • Pretty central thought process behind advertising, especially TV advertising → same commercial over and over and over again is supposed to work its way into your brain and make you want to buy whatever it is they’re trying to sell you
        • Extreme e.g.: Home Shopping Network – talk about the same object for an hour → talk at you and talk at you and talk at you until you finally give in (for 4 easy payments of $29.95!)
      • Darker side of mere exposure effect = the more often you hear a lie (no matter the source), the more likely you are to believe that lie … Even when you know it’s a lie. Even when it’s a lie that you’re telling yourself.
    • Fascinating. BUT … what does that have to do with the 10 commandments? What does that have to do with faith? “Lisa, why are you telling us about this?!” I’m so glad you asked. J
  • Today’s Scripture = probably one of the most universally-recognized Scriptures out there: the 10 Commandments → Scriptural narrative with quite the circuitous, sordid story behind it (not quite the simple “up and down the mountain” that the various movie versions of this story like to portray)
    • Today’s passage from Deut is actually the 2nd iteration of the 10 commandments that Moses gives to the people → 10 commandments 2.0
    • Backstory
      • (Last week: read beginning of Moses’ story up to the point where God called Moses from the burning bush)
      • Next: Moses returns to Egypt, tries to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go → 10 plagues of Egypt → finally convinces Pharaoh to let the Israelites go[2]
      • Moses leads the entire nation of Israel to the banks of the Red Sea → they discover that Pharaoh has once again changed his mind and is coming after them with the full force of the Egyptian army → parting of the Red Sea → people of Israel cross safely to the other side while Pharaoh’s army is obliterated by the waters crashing back together[3]
      • Finally safe from Pharaoh for good, the people begin their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land → But the people start complaining[4]
        • Complaining about lack of water
        • Complaining about lack of food
        • Complaining about lack of leadership
        • Complaining about lack of a plan
        • Complaining about how much they have to walk
        • Every time they complain, God responds with a provision … but every time, the Israelites find something new to complain about. There’s always something that they’re dissatisfied with.
      • 3 mos. after leaving Egypt, they reach Mt. Sinai → Moses goes up on the mountain to commune with God → receives the first set of the 10 commandments[5] → That’s in chapter 20 of Exodus. What follows is a lot more instruction from God about how things should be done – festivals, offerings, justice, worship, owning property, Sabbath, priestly duties and vestments, how to build a proper lampstand, and so on and so on … 11 chapters worth of instructions … which means Moses was up on that mountain with God for a long time, and the people started getting antsy, and nervous, and frustrated. And they started complaining … again.
      • People surrounded Moses’ brother, Aaron (right-hand man) and started demanding that he make a “new god” for them out of gold → collect all the gold throughout the camp → melt it down → fashion it into a gold calf → start worshipping the golden calf while Moses is still up on the mountain[6]
      • God warns Moses about what is happening at the camp → Moses returns to find them worshiping this false god → Moses is so angry with the people that he hurls down the first set of tablets containing the 10 commandments and shatters them[7]
      • And because of the people’s disobedience and lack of faith, God causes the Israelites to wander around in the wilderness for 40 yrs. before they can set foot in the Promised Land. The entire first generations of Israelites that Moses led out of Egypt died during the wandering before God finally led them back to the banks of the Jordan River – the border of the Promised Land.
    • And it’s on that border that we find ourselves with the first part of our reading this morning. The wandering is over. The Promised Land is literally in sight. The people have demonstrated their faithfulness to the God that has wandered with them these 40 years. And it’s time to move forward. So God says, “You’re ready. So let’s try again.” And Moses says, “Let me remind you of what’s most important.” – text: Moses called out to all Israel, saying to them: “Israel! Listen to the regulations and the case laws that I’m recounting in your hearing right now. Learn them and carefully do them.”[8] = God’s version of the Mere Exposure Effect
      • Repeating important words so that Israel could hear them again
      • Repeating important words so Israel could internalize them again
      • Repeating important words so Israel could believe them again
      • Repeating important words so they could become a more integrated, tightly-woven part of the fabric of Israel’s story again
      • Critical nature of this is backed up by the 2nd half of our passage this morning: These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates.[9] → This is Moses giving the people the words of God once again, imparting them and entrusting them to the people in hopes that in hearing them again – in hearing them once and exhorting them to repeat them again and again and again – that those words of obedience and reverence and righteousness and compassion would become more and more a part of the people’s identity the more they heard them.
        • Mere Exposure Effect: the more the more you hear something, the more likely you are to like it and believe it → In other words, we tend to like things more when they’re familiar to us. And Moses was doing everything he could to make these words emphatically, unrelentingly, sacredly familiar for the people.
  • Interesting because, while they’re specific, they’re also incredibly universal
    • Words spoken into a specific context at a specific time
      • E.g. – description about keeping the Sabbath[10] is long and speaks of oxen and donkeys and God leading the people out of slavery in Egypt → clearly words for a specific time and specifically for the people of Israel
    • And yet they’re words that have stood the test of time. They’re words that echo throughout generations down to us today. – Kathryn Schifferdecker (prof. and chair of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul): This passage – and what follows it – also speaks to us, the umpteenth generation removed from Sinai. We are addressed by these words! We, “all of us here alive today,” are called upon even now to enter into and recommit to that relationship with the God of Israel. That is the rhetorical force of this passage. That is the rhetorical force of all Scripture, really. Scripture seeks to inform, but even more, to transform, to invite us to enter into the story of God and Israel, and the story of Christ and the church, and therein to find our own story.[11] → This was a word of faith and hope and transformation and relationship for the people of Israel millennia ago, yes. But it is still a word of faith and hope and transformation and relationship for us today.
    • Actual break-down of the 10 commandments = 5 for God, 5 for people
      • First 5[12]:
        • I am the Lord your God
        • No other gods before the Lord
        • No idols
        • Don’t use God’s name “as if it were of no significance”[13]
        • Honor/keep the Sabbath day
        • They’re all about honoring God – about paying reverence and respect to God, about keeping a special place for God in our hearts and minds and days.
      • Next 5[14]:
        • Honor your parents
        • Don’t kill
        • Don’t commit adultery
        • Don’t steal
        • Don’t “testify falsely” about others[15]
        • Don’t desire after and try to take others’ relationships/possessions
        • They’re similar to the first set in that they’re also about respecting and holding as sacred the lives and dignity of others.
      • Common thread between the first 5 and the second 5 = relationship
        • First 5 = invitation to right relationship with God
        • Second 5 = guidance for healthy, gracious relationships with others
    • They both set out parameters for what a considerate, compassionate, sincere, sacred relationship can and should look like – respectful, loving, valued, and honored.
    • Reaffirmed in a similar way by Jesus = the Greatest Commandment (Luke’s version): A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”[16]
      • Echoes the words of the 2nd half of our passage today
      • Echoes the sentiment of the 10 commandments (first 5 = love God, second 5 = love others)
    • And friends, not only are these words that are still relevant in our world today, they are words that are desperately needed in our world today – a world in which we seem to have forgotten the value of those who don’t look-like-me-sound-like-me-live-like-me-pray-like-me … a world in which we have more people in need than ever before … a world in which people are degraded and discriminated against every single day for the color of their skin, the language that the speak, the person that they are, the level of their bank account, the person that they love, and on and on and on … a world in which basic human dignities are denied to people every single day … a world in which we cannot seem to disagree anymore without fighting and finger-pointing and name-calling and threats … a world calling out for genuine, loving, sacred relationships between neighbors with every fiber of its being. Today is World Communion Sunday, y’all. All around this country and more importantly all around this world today, people who don’t look-like-me-sound-like-me-live-like-me-pray-like-me are gathering at the Lord’s Table to be in and celebrate right relationship and sacred community with God and with one another. We’re all sharing the same loaf. We’re all passing the same cup. We’re all lifting up prayers of confession and adoration, praise and petition to a God that hears all, no matter the language or accent or wording. Today we come together around this table with one another and with the whole world. So let us come with the love and reverence and compassion and desire of God written on our hearts and on our minds. And when we leave this table, let us leave as God’s ever-present, ever-powerful, ever-relevant, ever-needed word to the world: LOVE. Amen.


[2] Ex 4-12.

[3] Ex 13-15.

[4] Ex 16-18.

[5] Ex 19-20.

[6] Ex 32.

[7] Ex 32:19.

[8] Deut 5:1.

[9] Deut 6:6-9.

[10] Deut 5:12-15.

[11] Kathryn M. Schifferdecker. “Commentary on Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9” from Working Preacher,

[12] Deut 5:6-15.

[13] Deut 5:11.

[14] Deut 5:16-21.

[15] Deut 5:20.

[16] Lk 10:25-28 (also Mt 22:34-40 and Mk 12:28-34).