2021 07 25 Alan Storey
What can we do? We can fast and pray.
I invite you to read and reflect on Exodus 20:1-17.
Before you read the reflection below, I encourage you to do your own wrestling with the text.
Paradoxically this is sometimes more difficult to do with those passages of scripture that are best known to us. In this instance, the 10 Commandments.
If we wrestle faithfully we must not be surprised if we are wounded by the text and left with a Divinely defined limp as it was with Jacob of old. The hope is that we too will be able to re-see our enemy-Esau as family.
Remember the context is a people freshly freed from slavery. And context gives meaning.
Reflection: Exodus 20: 1-17
Think slavery: The cruel continuous brutality. The shackles and sjamboks. The beatings and killings. The constant hunger and everlasting exhaustion. The trauma of daily terror. Everything that is done is done to break your spirit and to erase your human dignity. Every effort is made to whip the dream of freedom out of you. Any attitude other than submission is smacked down to teach you a lesson, to set an example and to send a message: “I own you”. “Don’t ever think of rebellion.”
Think escape: The calculations. The planning. The praying. The risk. The courage. The tenacity. The stealth. The strength. The water rationing. The breath-holding. The knowing that death is certain if captured, and the knowing that to accept slavery is to die. Freedom or death!
Think freedom: The amazement. The wonder. The miracle. As miraculous as an ocean splitting in two forming a path of dry ground to walk through. The tears of joy. The speechless gratitude. The musical celebration. The deep breath of relief. The rest. The resolve: “Never, never and never again shall it be that we will be anyone’s slave”.
It is through this lens of slavery, escape and freedom that I invite you to reflect on the Ten Commandments, for it is within this context that they were originally carved. In other words their aim is specific rather than general.
Just as the South African Constitution of 1996 was written with the specific aim to prevent a return to Apartheid and discrimination of any kind, so the Ten Commandments were written with the specific aim to prevent a return to slavery and oppression of any kind. A freedom charter to be gratefully celebrated rather than a moralistic code to be fearfully obeyed.
I will now share a few thoughts on the first five Commandments using the lens of slavery, escape and freedom for you to consider:
The preamble [Exodus 20:2] is wondrously simple and profound, not unlike the incredible preamble to the South African Constitution that is a poetical summary of the Constitution’s purpose. In the case of the Ten Commandments it is all about freedom and the protection of human dignity – the exact opposite of dehumanising slavery. God listens to the cries of the oppressed [Exodus 3:7] and works liberation with them to end their oppression.
I invite you to continue through commandments 6-10 employing the same lens of slavery, escape and freedom.
This week and next week’s lectionary reflections will form the content of our CMM Chat.
Our next CMM Chat will be on 7th October at 20h00.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org closer to the time for the link.
It’s hard for me to believe that my time with you has all but come to an end. This week I will be transitioning from Cape Town to Simon’s Town, where I will spend several days with Rev. Peter Storey and fellow Duke Divinity students who have been in other parts of South Africa. Next Sunday we will join with CMM for our last Sunday in South Africa. We will leave from here to head to the airport for our return journey to the States.
My time here has been full. I have been to St. George’s Cathedral and received Communion from Archbishop Tutu. I have attended service at the annual Synod of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. I toured crèches in Kensington, Langa, and Khayelitsha. I explored the Cape Town Book Fair. I stood as godmother for Joelma at her baptism. There was an Interfaith Service in Manenberg, a Unitarian Service on Hout Street, and a service at a Mosque that I was privileged to be a part of. We went to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. I found a place for myself serving at the Service Dining Hall. I’ve sat in on sessions in Parliament. I’ve danced away the night listening to live music (the Nomadic Orchestra. WOW!!!!!!), and found other new artists to love when Matthew Mole, Paige Mac, and Jeremy Douglas took the stage at a concert at CMM. I visited Stellenbosch University and attended events held by the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism here in Cape Town. Also, I did a little preaching, and began to understand the vital ministry of being present with those I am with.
None of this, though, compares to the joy of getting to know you. Thank you for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and tea; for history lessons, neighborhood tours, and real talk about South Africa; for lingering conversation, Bible study, wisdom, and laughter; for fetching me and returning me home. Thank you for embracing me as family.
God willing, I will return to you, my beloved friends, soon!
Love and Peace until then, Alease
Cape Town is, without question, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it is the people of Cape Town that give the city its brilliant glow.
I have been in the city for just over a month, and my sojourn thus far has introduced me to the many faces of Cape Town.
I have met Thelma, a native South African, and found a sharing heart and a listening ear. By the end of our time together I felt that we were known to one another. I’ve met Gertrude, from Zimbabwe, via Dubai, who owns a prosperous business. By the end of our time together I was encouraged that, though the journey is difficult at times, and it IS difficult, God remains faithful. I’ve met Ziv, a Polish South African, by way of Israel, who has owned several successful businesses. Ziv was eager to talk to me, a minister, and to impress upon me the urgent need in society for moral instruction.
I have been greeted in isiXhosa and been delighted to be confused for a native daughter.
Mostly, though, I have been meeting you, CMM. Your kindness and hospitality have been so great as to allow no place for homesickness or lonesomeness. The cover of our church bulletin declares, “You are not a stranger or a guest. You are family.” I have, indeed, found this to be true.
My prayer for us, as we move through these cold winter days, is that I would not be alone in my experience. That Others would be drawn into the warm embrace of the CMM family. Let us be intentional in our efforts to include these Others at our tables, in our Warm Winter Worship, and in our prayers. And may we all encounter anew the life-changing fire of God on this Third Sunday of Pentecost.
Peace to you, Alease.