St Mary’s Church Coddenham

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From The Rectory – The Twelve Commandments

by | Apr 18, 2024 | Coddenham Church

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From The Rectory – The Twelve Commandments?[1]

Freed from slavery in Egypt, as the Israelites set out for the Promised Land, they quickly discovered that freedom comes at a price.  As slaves the rule was simple, do as you are told or else, now they were responsible for their own existence.  And so we see, as they set out they descend into squabbling, and complaints.  Soon Moses is spending all his time resolving quarrels and complaints: where do we find water, why is his tent bigger then mine, he’s been seeing my wife.

Unbeknown to the humans, God had appointed a team of angels, headed by the Archangel Oriel, to care for his people.  Seeing this unfold, together round their angelic campfires while the humans rested, they agreed on the need for a simple-to-follow set of guiding principles – rules for community living; but what?  After much discussion they came up with Twelve Commandments one for each tribe.  Stage 1, a right attitude to God; have no other gods but me, no idols, no taking the Lord’s name in vain, keep the Sabbath.  That settled the principles of their relationship with God.

They then turned to the catalogue of squabbles they saw Moses dealing with; how might they counter these?  ‘Do not kill’ seemed obvious, and ‘no adultery’ would address several of the ongoing disputes; then one angel said ‘You know, at the heart of most of their squabbles is the fact that they want what someone else has got’.  Thou shalt not covet.

They could see that controlling human behaviour was going to be difficult.   What about a different approach; what if we say ‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbour’, surely that covers it all.  At this point God dropped in to see how they were getting on.  The angels told him their plan but as they started to list their top 12, God stopped them.  ‘Take out the first two’ he said  ‘you can’t include those’.  ‘Why not’, Oriel replied, ‘surely that is what you created humans for?’  ‘It is’, said God  ‘But these are commandments, love cannot be a command, only an invite.  I cannot command people to love me’, then after a pause he added – ‘not yet’.  With the first two erased, Moses came down the mountain with just 10 Commandments.

Centuries later Jesus said to his disciples, ‘A new commandment I give you, love one another as I have loved you’[2]Was this God’s ‘Not Yet’ from all those centuries ago?  A call to respond to a love so painfully shared?  And what of us?  Are our relationships with God and our neighbours circumscribed by Commandments; or are we animated by the invitation to love, love as He loves us?

Rev’d Philip Payne                                                                                   Easter 4  The Notice Sheet for 21st April can be found here

Morning Worship at St Mary’s at 9.30 on Sunday 21st April

[1] Drawn and heavily abridged from ‘Oriel in the Desert’ by Robert Harrison

[2] John 13:34-35


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