Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

others, Fathers, Stealing, Murder and Adultery

June 17, 2018
Martin Baker

Sunday 17 June 2018               Mothers, Fathers, Stealing, Murder and Adultery               Martin Baker


Over these weeks we have been looking at the 10 commandments. We can think of them as 10 fence posts, or the markers on a sports field.  Even these best things, the most joyous things, have a framework.

The commandments were never given to make us feel bad or more sinful.    They are about identity and place and history and purpose.  Play, work, creativity always takes place within some kind of frame.

Last week we looked at the first tablet. The 4 commandments concerning our relationship with God. This week we look at the commandments relating to our relationships with the people around us and our world.  All these commandments, remember, are summed up in Jesus’ call to love God and love one another.  Those two relationships are inseparable.

Exodus 20:12-16

12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

13 You shall not murder.

14 You shall not commit adultery.

15 You shall not steal.

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

How many of you have burglar alarms?

Can you remember what thoughts were going through your head when you had it installed?

Or even when you remembered to turn it on?

What would need to happen for you to remove the alarm? What would need to happen for us to take away the screening at airports?  To say to the policemen with the gun at the departure gates, it’s okay, you can take the night off?

Have any of you rung someone and they haven't answered and you’ve begun to imagine all sorts of terrible scenarios. Sandy had me out lying comatose in the bathroom. I was just mowing the lawn.

I use to have this doctor who was a really good doctor -  but he had quite an alarmist nature.  He seem to worry a lot.  And he would see something on your skin or be checking some lab results, and he often looked shocked, he  gave off  this sense of impending doom.  I always found it most unsettling.

They can be powerful things.  What we imagine.

Some good news.  The 2018 Global Peace Index has affirmed again that New Zealand is one of the 5 most peaceful countries in the world.  New Zealand has being usually first or second for the last few years. Iceland is apparently slightly more peaceful than New Zealand.  New Zealand is one of the least corrupt countries in the world. We are one the most business friendly countries in the world. You can set up a company in New Zealand more quickly than you can in almost any other country.

And yet, one of the interesting things is that a number of studies have also shown that we have the perception that this is a more violent, more threatening more dangerous place that it ever used to be. Despite the fact that murder rates in New Zealand have halved in the last 20 years.  Per capita murder rates in New Zealand are down to what they were 50 years ago.

So, on one hand we have the data that tells us that New Zealand is a safer, healthier more educated place to live.  And yet on the other hand, data that tells us that people feel less safe more insecure more threatened.

Paul in his letters in scripture talked about the powers and principalities those overwhelming forces that lead us to live in fear. That lead us to act out of fear. Even if there is no especially valid reason for doing so.

My friend Pamela Tankersley tells me the story of the hurse being stolen from outside the church while she was conducting the funeral inside.   But we’ve perhaps all been in those discussions haven’t we. You mention a burglary and then someone else chimes in with a story of an assault, and then someone knows someone whose had their car stolen and it goes from there.  It’s not a big leap to global mass destruction.    

And yet today, the 10 commandments, come not as an outcome to stories of fear or destruction.

The 10 commandments are rules for people who have actually been led to freedom.

The oppression, the dangers, the destruction of families, the elimination of any property rights, and the endless work of a people held captive in Egypt.

How do we restrain the power of fear? Recover from the experiences of being enslaved?  To reset our lives.   Base our lives on a new story?

It’s an ancient question in our Bibles. We’ve ended up in this place and we really need to be somewhere else.

Paul talked about our desire to do good but his experience of being drawn back again and again to think and do the wrong thing.  In the gospel of John we hear about a fondness for darkness rather than light.   Jesus used the language of being born again or being born from above.

At the start of the commandments we heard about loving God and loving our neighbour. Paul tells us that love casts out fear.

So what does it mean to live in freedom? It must be something to do with living without being oppressed, without the power of fear in our lives.

Last week I talked about honouring the Sabbath. About a freedom in which we are not a slave to work. Being more than our jobs. Being deliberate about the time we commit to building relationships with family, friends, neighbours.

The commandments today.

They are about trust in relationships with those close to us. A trust and understanding with our neighbours about how we treat each other.  The’re about a common agreement about justice and fairness.

In a previous congregation I would visit an older person who lived in a new apartment. And to get into that apartment required appearing before a closed circuit TV and then getting through no less than 3 locked doors. At the entrance, at the elevator and the actual front door.

And I would talk to this older woman who I visited and ask her how she liked her new apartment. And she said I feel safer here, but it’s not quite as easy for my friends to visit, and I get worried about leaving.

So we’ve installed security systems, we’ve got better locks on our doors, companies generate huge incomes from advertising security systems.

And we can understand all of that. We’ve experienced it ourselves or heard the stories. We know all about what’s happened in Egypt and what Pharaoh was like.

So at what point do we lose our freedom?  Overwhelmed by these forces,  overwhelmed by the manifestation of these forces, that we no longer live as the free people God calls us to be.

One lock, two locks, three locks?  And when we look at these questions, we start seeing more and more the connections between the commands. If we break the commandments about making idols, false gods, if fear becomes and idol, and not the God who calls us to live in freedom, if fear becomes God then there will never be enough locks, or security cameras.

We hear today a commandment to Honouring your mother and father. Respect for our older members. Recognition that they hold the stories of Egypt. How bad it use to be and what it means to survive in this walk through the desert. What it means to believe in promise giving God.  

Right now for us our communities. The people around us. Honouring our mothers and fathers.

Some of us will have had, or have, wonderful parents.  

Some of us may not have had the best relationships with our mothers and fathers.  I’ve got people in my wider family who, at least when they were younger, weren’t even sure who their fathers were. That fact alone suggests that honouring them would be a difficult thing.

I imagine everyone here, maybe close by, maybe historically can identify some elements in their families that stand outside the mum, dad and kid’s family relationships. Families that don’t fit some idea of the perfect mould.

We want to be a church that celebrates families, that takes seriously the command to honour mothers and fathers, and yet we also recognise that there are more different kinds of families.

And what makes it even more complicated are the startling things Jesus said. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And even worse things.  

When Jesus talked in this way, he again was speaking about the worship of idols.  Families in whatever shape they are are so important but there not to become idols.  The base line for living as God calls us to live is all about loving god and loving one another. As important as families are, we still have to get first things first. Living relationships with God and one another. Everything else flows from that.

Honour your father and your mother,

13 You shall not murder.

14 You shall not commit adultery.

15 You shall not steal.

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Safety, security, living in trusting relationships.  

Last week as we reflected on the keeping the Sabbath we heard about the challenge of being deliberate in the time we make for our relations with god those around us ourselves.

This week it’s about freedom. Freedom from oppression and our concern about issues of justice. And also freedom from the feelings, values, attitudes that prevent us from living as the people who God calls us to be.

Being called to a future. Resisting those conversations that lead to despair and helpless.  Opening ourselves to God’s call. Being sure of the grace that frees us. In the midst of all our challenges, the forces that can sometimes seem overwhelming. Let be intentional about what this new freedom looks like for us.

I want to leave you with two quotes from Paul I the 5th chapter Galatians.

Paul says some wonderful things about the freedom to which we are now called.

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.