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When our story begins it has been 40 years since Moses and the Hebrew people have left Egypt. We have met with Pharaoh, seen some plagues, and crossed the waters. It wasn’t perfect, nothing ever is when you step into the unknown, and the Hebrew people who were liberated were often desperate for the certainty that Egypt had given them, even if it was at the expense of their full humanity. So, the generation that left Egypt walked and camped for 40 years, until a new generation stood at Mt Horeb, also called Sinai.
Moses is coming to the end of his time in leadership of this community and the end of his life. He would not be crossing into the land that was promised, so much of Deuteronomy is Moses’ final instructions. And here he is, telling the people gathered, who have grown up in the wilderness the story.
And he tells it not as if it is their ancestor’s story but their story. When y’all were set free from bondage, when God met y’all at Sinai, when y’all were given the law. There was an understanding that what was said, what was given, what was freed was for all Hebrew people, of all time, because y’all were there, even though you weren’t born yet.
There are many who think that Christianity is just a bunch of rules and laws, and I’m sure some of it stems from these 10 commandments found here and in Exodus. These words can be divided into two categories: choosing who you will follow and recognizing your deep connection to each other and all of creation. What are you going to bind your life to and how do we keep trust while living in community? Because we’re going to need other people, community to do the first part well. These were given because this is who you live free.
Something is going to guide our lives, direct our steps, our conversations, how we spend our money, time, and energy, how we treat the stranger, the immigrant, an enemy, and creation.
It might be Egypt and empire with economic systems that exploit people and animals and the earth as if it has no connection to us, working all things and people until they have no life left to give. An accumulation economy that hordes wealth and resources and drips them out. A power that manipulates the system to keep some oppressed, small, and dehumanized. That’s what happened in Egypt, the people were treated as less than human, just cogs in a machine. It might the call of individualism–I got here on my own and I need no one. It might be the call that your worth is in what you do, produces, own, look that drives how you choose to live, and always tell you you’re not enough. It might be of a cacophony of voices vying for your attention, focus, energy.
God is offering them freedom and saying because you were freed here is how you need to live into that freedom. Follow the God who set you free, and learn to honor and treat each person and animal with dignity.
Moses is telling them, and us, this is how you can live, freed from the way of the ways of the world, freed from the abuse and oppression, freed from the ideas and actions that dehumanize and exploit. Follow the God who liberates and live in trusting communities.
And then Moses makes it very clear, he knows they’re going to forget.
The reading from Chapter 6 that began in our reading as “Israel, listen,” is called the Shema, Hebrew for the first word of the prayer which is “hear” or “listen.” A devout Jewish person would recite this whole prayer at least twice a day. In many ways, it summarizes that commandments, and it’s why, when asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus quotes the Shema. Our God is Lord, and love God with all your heart, being, and strength. But it goes on to give instructions. Repeat these words, and the law, so it is in your mind and heart, teach your children, talk about them throughout the day, and set reminders so that you don’t forget! Our God, who set us free, has given us all we need to live in freedom: Our God is Lord and love God with all your heart, being, and strength. and we live that by living into the commandments–recognizing our deep interconnectedness and being trustworthy community members. The words become a guiding prayer, the most important thing, the frame through which life is lived.
So, what guides your life? What is the primary influence of the decisions you make? Where are your time, your energy, your resources going? I’m not saying it should be the church, this isn’t a cry for money but for honest discernment.
What is your guiding narrative? Is it the myth of more, accumulation, growth, wealth, busyness? Does that narrative liberate you or bind you?
What if your guiding narrative and what you follow is the God of liberation and love? What if that were the central place of how you run your household, raise your children, move throughout the world, interact with neighbors known and unknown, care for creation? What if we set reminders for when we forget in art and music, in story and community?
What if we lived as if we had been set free?
Shhhh…listen up, God-wrestlers! Do you know God? God is unity.
Take a moment to imagine the day that we understand this and can live in peace. What would that be like?
What would it be like to love unconditionally with all your heart and all your might? All the time?
This is what it would be like. You would carry the oneness of Love in your heart. You would teach the oneness of Love to your children. You would speak of the oneness of Love when you are at home, in the car, at the grocery store, when you are protesting in the streets, and when you despair because the protests did not work.
You are going to forget all this because life is hard. To snap yourself out of this divine hypnosis, why not wear a piece of jewelry or a special hat? Or put these words on your doorway? Seriously, this is only the most important thing that you can ever know. And even if you do all the things, the jewelry and the hat and the doorway, you will still forget. You are designed to forget and then to remember.
But guess what? We are lucky.
God is still one. And God is still Love.
Julia Mossbridge https://opensiddur.org