God Said…

June 15, 2014                        Exodus 19:1-6, 20:1-17

Dan_Bern_Head_Shot1A song that breaks my heart every time I hear it is by a guy called Dan Bern. The song is called God Said No and starts in wilderness:  (you can see & listen to it here.)

I met God On the edge of town 
Where the wind meets the stillness 
Where the darkness meets the light 
Where the ocean meets the sky 
Where the desert meets the rain
Where the earth meets the heavens 
On the edge of town I met God

Who knows – maybe Dan Bern was on Mt. Sinai with the Israelites.  They were on the edge, too. They’d been led out of slavery, out of the hand of Pharaoh, by Moses, who was led by God.  They’d been in the wilderness a while – long enough to have complained and wished for their old ways, their slavery, because at least they knew where their next meal was coming from.


Well, the song by Dan Bern has him asking God for various things in each verse:  He asks God to plunk him down into a place and time and story in history so he can change it.  He begins by asking God to send him to Seattle and Curt Cobain, a reluctant rock star who took his own life.  The next verse he asks to go to Berlin where he can meet Hitler.  The last verse he asks to go to Jerusalem so he can meet Jesus.

Each time, God responds basically saying, “yah, you’d forget why you were there when you got there. You’d get involved. It wouldn’t work.”  God says no, if you were there to see Jesus walking with the cross, you’d lose the ability to see or speak or act.  No. You’d forget the story.

IMG_0947Which is what we tend to do when we’re presented with the 10 commandments.  They are so isolated, so etched in stone, so permanently part of news stories and court and school yard battles.  We forget where they came from.  We forget their story.

The story is a story of freedom – freedom from slavery. Freedom from bondage. Freedom from tyranny. Freedom from unfair working conditions. Freedom from working all day, every day with no break. The Israelites are freed from this life and now are wandering in the wilderness, not yet to the promised land, but still free nonetheless.

And they are forgetting their own story. They are forgetting where they came from and the promises God made to them.

So God uses the 10 commandments to remind them just what kind of life God wants them to have.  In order for them to be free, to live a life of freedom, God gives them an outline.

But before we can get to those 10 bullet points, those 10 commandments, we have to start at the beginning.  We have to start with God.

God reminds them, and us, that God chose and chooses us. I brought you to myself, he reminds us in today’s scripture. Then God goes on to remind us that all of creation belongs to God and that we too are part of that creation.  God says you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation…” 

Then God spoke these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;

God locates the 10 commandments in God and in story – their story and God’s story. Our story and God’s story.  God reminds us what God has done for us – that God is the one who saved us, saves us! God is the one who brought us to God.  God is the one who created and re-creates the world and we are part of that creation! 


We tend to jump to the 10 commandments and isolate them from a story, from our story, from another person’s story.  So God reminds us.  We can’t read them apart from who God is and what God does.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;

So, I ask you, how have you experienced this God – the Lord your God?

How has God freed you?  How has God saved you? What has God done in your life?

Maybe in a relationship.  Maybe in your family.  Maybe God has shown up to give you another ounce of patience just when you needed it. Or assurance just as you hit rock bottom. Maybe God has brought incredible people into your life. Maybe God has comforted you when you didn’t think it was possible.  Maybe God showed you the possibility of a new day, a new life, a new path. Or maybe God has shown up and turned everything upside down.

Eliza and I attended the SWMN Synod gathering this weekend and heard the story of an Indian woman who was making a nice living as a computer programmer.  Then, she said, God showed up and destroyed my life.  Because now she works for the ELCA and travels around talking about how God is with us in all of life.

That’s the deal.  We remember that we belong to God, are claimed by God, are made holy and priestly not for our own sake but for the sake of the world. For whoever it is we meet.  That’s what God is reminding us – I am the Lord your God. This is what I have done for you – I freed you.

And what we’ll discover together is that the 10 commandments don’t exist for our own good. They don’t exist to shine up Christians for holy living inside a building.  They actually prepare us to love others.  They propel us toward other people.  They exist so that others can live freely, not just us.  They exist to protect our neighbor from our good intentions.

Bishop Jon Anderson preached at the opening worship of the assembly this weekend.  He preached on the story from the book of Luke when the disciples are sad that Jesus had been crucified and they had thought he was the one. They are lamenting this sad turn of events as they walk down a road toward Emmaus and Jesus joins them on the road and they don’t recognize him.  Bishop Anderson did not use this story to comfort us but instead to challenge us.  To challenge us to see that we are called into relationships in the name of Jesus right here in our own back yard, outside of church walls.  That we don’t exist to only be in relationship to each other but for the sake of other people.  Other people right in our own towns.

It’s just that we often forget our story. And we often forget God’s story. And we often fail to see that they are connected.  Many tend to see God as one who says “no.”  Many of us might look at the 10 commandments as a list of rules, as 10 divine “NO”s from God.

Instead, they are a way that God says yes to freedom. Yes to relationship. Yes to our loving each other.   They are a way that God reminds us that we belong to God, are loved completely, and that God will always work to free us .

It is incredible news. God says yes. I am the Lord your God.  I will always save you. I will always love you. You are precious.

And we say, thanks be to God.