A roadmap from sorrow
Exodus 20: 1-11 (NRSVA)
1 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
God says to us,
Remember who I am.
Remember who you are.
Remember to rest.
It strikes me that this twin focus on recognition and rest is crucial advice for all sorts of contracts, vows, covenants, mission statements, partnerships, collaborations, associations and indeed church communities.
‘Who are you?’
‘Who am I?’
‘Do we need to rest?’
In asking these three questions we can set out on a side path that leads away from conflict, and tension and grievance. Sadly, it’s often when we forget who we are, forget our story, and the stories of others — indeed the big story of reality — that we turn to various idols as substitutes. Idols are anything we pin our hopes on to that can’t possibly hold up over time. They are desperate way markers, a way of navigating when we have lost the true reference points and find ourselves in no man’s land.
But this isn’t no man’s land. This is our land. Entrusted to us.
We have to remember who we are, the larger stories we are a part of. And resting is intrinsically linked to the recognition. When we rest we have the breathing space to remember who we are and what really matters. Idols come, perhaps, more often from overwork than idleness. When we get caught up, we don’t stop to refocus and recalibrate, we plough on and on, losing bits of ourselves in the process. Forgetting who we are. Becoming unrecognisable.
Who hasn’t felt the ground shifting during an argument? It can happen in a few seconds or over years. You end up thinking: ‘I no longer sound like myself’, or ‘I don’t recognise that person’, or just ‘I’m done, I’m lost, I’m just so weary'. Alienation from self, from God, and from one another frays the bonds that hold us together and leads on and on into the wilderness of heartache.
But we are invited in these ancient words to take another path, one that reminds us of the essential dignity of others and our own dignity.
Let us remember that we are all made in the image of God. And that our God loves and treasure us.
And let us rest.
Wise, loving, creator God
Remind us who you are
Remind us who we are
And remind us to rest.
Take some time today to rest.