Week of Proper 11: Friday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  The Ten Commandments in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain

Great Wisdom, Combined with Troubling Insensitivity

JULY 28, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Exodus 20:1-17 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And God spoke all these words, saying:

I am YHWH, your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from a house of slaves.

You shall have no other gods before my face.

You shall not make a statue or any form that is in the skies above, or that is in the earth below or that is in the water below the earth.  You shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them.  Because I, YHWH, your God, am a jealous God, counting parents’ crime on children, on the third generation, and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, but practicing kindness thousands for those who observe my commandments.

You shall not bring up the name of YHWH your God, for a falsehood, because YHWH will not make one innocent, who will bring up His name for a falsehood.

Remember the Sabbath day, to make it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, and the seventh day is a Sabbath to YHWH, your God.  You shall not do any work, you and your son and your daughter, your servant and your maid and your animal and your alien who is in your gates.  Because for six days YHWH made the skies and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day.  On account of this, YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be extended on the land that YHWH, your God, is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not testify against your neighbor as a lying witness.

You shall not covet your neighbors’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his servant or his maid or his ox or his ass or anything that your neighbor has.

Psalm 19:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

Matthew 13:18-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Now listen to the parable of the sower.  When a man hears the message of the kingdom and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is like the seed sown by the road-side.  The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it.  But it has not taken root in him and does not last long–the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message he gives up his faith at once.  The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then the worries of this life choke it to death and so it produces no ‘crop’ in his life.  But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message.  His life shows a good crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.


The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


I write these words on the First Sunday After Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord, Year A.  This morning, in church, the liturgy entailed the reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant found on pages 304-305 in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  One question stands out in my mind this day, in light of news of the January 8, 2011, shooting in Tucson, Arizona:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

The reply is,

I will, with God’s help.

The Ten Commandments begin with YHWH saying that the Israelites shall have no other gods.  This statement does not deny the existence of other gods, for polytheism was nearly universal at the time.  It means that YHWH shall be the only deity for the Hebrews.  They did not obey this command for centuries, and successive prophets railed against the people due to their continued polytheism.

These commandments mean more than many people think.  The prohibition against swearing refers to attempts to manipulate God, for example, and the Sabbath is meant as a gift, not a burden.  The Hebrews did not get a day off when they were slaves in Egypt.  A free man or woman is one with a day off from work.

Obviously, murdering, bearing false witness, and stealing hurt others.  How much better would the U.S. economy be in January 2011 if many people had not coveted what belonged to another, if they had been content with a simpler lifestyle?  Also, within the previous week, I heard a news story about a man in Texas who served thirty years in prison on a charge of rape.  DNA evidence has proved his evidence.  The jury convicted him on the basis of erroneous eyewitness testimony.  In another case, a man in Tucson killed people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, yesterday, and shot a member of Congress in the head.

Yet the Ten Commandments catalog women and slaves–human beings all–as property, along with livestock and inanimate objects.  Many Antebellum U.S. advocates of slavery quoted the Ten Commandments to justify the damnable Peculiar Institution when using the Bible to make their case.  And I am sufficiently liberal to object to thinking of women as anything less than equal to men.

I challenge all of us–beginning with myself–to look around and ponder those we dislike, those with whom we disagree profoundly, and those we do not understand because they are so different from us.  Do we, in the words of the Prayer Book, respect their dignity?  This can be hard, especially when members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, protest funerals for people ranging from soldiers to Elizabeth Edwards, but even these individuals, who deny the dignity of the mourners and the deceased, have human dignity.

Earlier this day, when updating my GATHERED PRAYERS blog, I focused on basic human decency and grief with regard to the victims of the Tucson shootings.  Basic compassion has guided my response.  I do not care about being right or wrong, only about being kind.  So I typed in parts of the Prayer Book related to death.  The URLs are here:




May we love one another, and seek to live at peace with each other and God.

Pax vobiscum,



19 responses to “Week of Proper 11: Friday, Year 1

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