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Sunday Message for May 3, 2020


After President Woodrow Wilson died and went to heaven, he was greeted by Moses. Moses thought he recognized him and asked: "Aren't you Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States?" Wilson replied, "Indeed I am."

Moses then said, "And aren't you the president who established the 14 points to peacea after the Great War?" Proudly, Wilson said, "Yes, indeed I am."

Shaking his head sadly, Moses said, "Well, then, Sir, I am very sorry for you." "Sorry for me -- Why?" asked Wilson. "Because of all the dreadful things that have happened to your 14 points," Moses replied.

Wilson then looked at Moses sadly and said, "That's nothing, you ought to go back down to earth and see what they've done to your Ten Commandments!"

Today, as we start a new month, we embark on a new series. We are going to take a look at the Ten Commandments.

We are not going to look so much at what has been done to them, but rather what we can do with them!! We are going to explore what, if any meaning, these ancient teachings have for us today.

Now, my guess, is that many of you haven't thought of the Ten Commandments in a very long time. I know when most kids were growing up, they were taught that the Ten Commandments were well and fine for the Israelites and for the people who lived before Jesus, and for Jewish people who didn't believe in Jesus.

But then Jesus came along, and some new ground rules were established, which, good Baptists, were supposed to follow. So the Ten Commandments really weren't relevant.

And yet, if I they had looked at Jesus' teachings a little closer, they would have realized that Jesus very clearly said at Matthew 5:17: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill."b

Jesus' arrival on the scene actually enhanced the meaning of the Ten Commandments; it did not eliminate their relevance.

And so, the Ten Commandments offer guidance not just for the Israelites wandering in the desert thousands of years ago, but for all of us -- even today in technologically-advanced, fast-paced, perhaps spinning-out-of-control 2020.

In fact, the more fast-paced and technological our society becomes, the more our souls long for a chance to step back and gain a clearer perspective on what really matters in life. And I think the coronavirus and the stay at home order is giving us a chance to do just that

One way we can gain perspective is by returning to time-tested and honored writings that have provided a context for meaning through many centuries.

The Ten Commandments, which appear in the Book of Exodus of the Bible, provide just that perspective. They are important pieces of spiritual wisdom much needed in today's world.

Now, had they been written today, they might have been written differently -- just as the entire Bible would be different. David Letterman suggested this:

The Top Ten Ways the Bible Would Have Been Different if Written by College Students Todayc

10. The loaves and fishes would be replaced by pizza and chips.

9. The Ten Commandments would actually be only five, but because they are double-spaced and written in a large font, they look like ten.

8. The entire Bible would have been immediately available on an interactive CD.

7. Paul's Letters to the Romans would have been Paul's e-mails to the Romans.

6. The reason Cain killed Abel: Clearly -- they were roommates.

5. The promised land would not have been referred to as the Land of Milk and Honey, but rather as the Land of Laid Back Jobs with Stock Options.

4. The Commandment about honoring your father and mother would have read: Honor thy father and mother, especially before asking for money.

3. The reason Moses and his followers walked in the desert for 40 years: They didn't want to ask directions and look like Freshmen.

2. Jesus wasn't mad at the moneychangers in the temple, he was just having a bad hair day.

1. Instead of God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, He would have put it off until the night before it was due and then pulled an all-nighter and hoped no one noticed.

Every Sunday this month we are going to explore two of the Ten Commandments (I really appreciate how the month of May lined up with 5 weeks to make this so easy!). Before looking at the first two this morning, I want to take a brief look at the word "commandment." What is a commandment?

It is extremely interesting to realize that the word "commandment" is, according to some Biblical scholars, a mistranslation of the original Hebrew wording, which meant "The Ten Words" or "The Ten Things." The wording didn't say anything about "commandments," but when the Hebrew was translated into Greek and then into English, the word "commandments" got used and that's what has stuck.

And in this context, of course, the word "commandment" implies you must either obey or disobey and suffer the wrath of God - which is not the case.

Rather, these Ten Words or Ten Things are ways of being, ways of living that can lead us to more spiritually-oriented lives in which we find meaning and richness.

OK, now to this morning. We will look at the first two, which speak to us:
of BREAKING FREE from narrow and restrictive thinking about God and
of of SOARING HIGH above unfulfilling paths and habits.

You didn't know that's what they refer to, did you? Well, you're about to find out!

1. The First Commandment (First Word) - Breaking Free

(quoting Exodus 20:2 in the new King James Version) "I am the One who is and will always be, Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."d

Many rabbis and scholars believe that the original intent of this Commandment had a broader meaning than what we got when it was translated from Hebrew into Greek and then into English.

Why? Because the Hebrew words that were ultimately translated into "out of Egypt" and "out of the house of bondage" referred not only to the actual place of Egypt but also to:
"anything that is narrow, restrictive or limiting."

And the root word of one of the Hebrew words used meant:
"troubles" or "worries."

These translators recommend hearing the words of the First Commandment not just as a statement about God being the One who freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, but rather as saying:

"I am the One who is and always will be, your God, who can bring you out of a narrow way of seeing things, out of your enslavement and your worries."

This First Word is not just a statement of who God is, particularly in relation to the Israelites, but rather an invitation to anyone reading the statement, including us in 2020, to partner with the Infinite One who can lead us out of limitation and restriction and into freedom.

It also might even be considered an open invitation to decide what you believe about God and how you want to practice your spirituality. It doesn't say you have to believe in this God or believe a certain way about this God, does it?

-- although some people will tell you differently. Some people will try to convince you that it is their way or no way! I often have conversations with members who describe well-meaning friends and family trying to convince them that, basically, they are going to burn in hell for our beliefs.

Sadly, quite often individuals carry emotional scars for much of their lives because they'd been rejected or scorned by family members, friends, even ministers for questioning and rethinking what they accepted as "ultimate truth."

Sometimes an important part of our personal and spiritual growth is to recover and start again after being "spiritually beaten up" for believing differently from those around us.

Could it be that this First Word (Commandment) invites us to do what many of us have done -- to explore in our own hearts how we are going to relate to God and how we are going to practice our spiritual principles. To seek out and find other people who believe the way we believe.

How many of you were so relieved to find Unity and to find an organized group believing and teaching things that you thought were only in your heart. I know so many of you have told me that!

And what we believe is that we must come to God in a very personal, intimate way. That is a core Unity belief. In of Unity Beliefs and Practices by Rebecca Whitecotton it says: "The Fillmores remained committed to the idea that everyone must find truth for themselves, and that everyone need not agree with them. In fact, Charles Fillmore once wrote that "He who writes a creed or puts a limit to revelation is the enemy of humanity."e
"Unity sees God as mind or spirit. Unity believes that God meets people at their level of spiritual consciousness, and therefore appears differently to different people. Throughout the ages, religions have created a false duality between God and man. Jesus came to dispel this belief, as shown in John 10:30: "I and the Father are one."f Unity therefore promotes the development of a personal relationship with God to overcome that duality."g

So when you think about the specific words of the First Commandment, imagine yourself wandering in the desert and receiving an intuitive sense -- a quiet moment of wisdom that seems to arise from deep within you. Imagine that the still small voice of your soul is giving you an important message. It is saying:

"Remember, beloved, I am the One who is and always will be with you. I am the one who can cause you to break free from your narrow way of seeing things and out of your worries and enslavement. I and I alone can do this! I will do this if you will but listen to that still small voice within, because that is where I am now and where I have always been."

Close your eyes - and listen to these words again -- and know that it's not my voice but the Voice of God with you saying them.

"Remember, beloved, I am the One who is and always will be with you. I am the one who can cause you to break free from your narrow way of seeing things and out of your worries and enslavement. I and I alone can do this! I will do this if you will but listen to that still small voice within, because that is where I am now and where I have always been."

2. The Second Commandment - Soaring High Above Unfulfilling Paths and Habits

Moving to the second Commandment or Word, which we will explore today . . . . any Bible scholars who know the gist of the Second Commandment? Exodus 20:3-5: "You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them."h

What in the world does that have to do with us? I don't have a carved image in my house -- do any of you? I'm not bowing down and worshiping anything, are you? I am not currently nor have I ever practiced idolatry, have you? So what does this Second Commandment - Word - have to do with us?!

Let's look a little more carefully and a little more broadly at the term idolatry.

Mystic storyteller Rabbi Ted Falcon defines idolatry as: ". . . the moments when we forget who we really are and, instead of remembering that we are sparks of the Divine, we start giving up our power to a guru, an ideology, a romantic obsession, a stressful job that begins to define us, or an unhealthy habit we think we can't live without. Even if we no longer build or worship physical idols like in ancient times, we have modern-day addictions and pressures that cause us to forget that our purpose here is to be a vehicle for Divine expression."i

Let me say that last sentence again . . . "Even if we no longer build or worship physical idols like in ancient times, we have modern-day addictions and pressures that cause us to forget that our purpose here is to be a vehicle for Divine expression."

If we use that definition of idolatry - perhaps the Second Word has a little more relevance to us than we originally thought!

I don't know about you, but I can get distracted from my higher purpose that I am here to be a vehicle for the Divine. Anybody else? This search for a new place to live is very distracting. One of the quickest ways that can happen for me is when I feel impatient or when things aren't going the way I want them to go -- just like the Israelites must have been feeling when they were left at the base of Mt. Sinai and told to wait for Moses who had gone up the mountain to obtain a clearer sense of God.

Imagine, if you will, what it must have been like. Here you are wandering in the desert after fleeing slavery in Egypt, searching for but not yet finding the promised land of . . . . Laid Back Jobs and Stock Options!

And then your leader says, "we're going to stop here, and I'm going up this mountain." Wait for me. So you and several thousand people wait day, after day, after day, after day, at the foot of the mountain with no word from your leader. Some become anxious and restless.

More days passed. Rumors began to circulate. Maybe Moses is dead. Maybe Moses has abandoned or betrayed you. Maybe you were wrong to believe in an invisible God that Moses felt so strongly about.

Some of the more vocal members of the group insist that you need to build a tangible image of God, one that is more reassuring and solid than mere belief in a mysterious and invisible source of support.

Soon the crowd is in a frenzy of collecting everyone's rings, necklaces and other precious things brought out of Egypt to build a golden Calf.

This new sculpture not only contained your most treasured earthly possessions, but it holds out the promise of giving you the strength and support you need as you searched for a new life in a new land.

When you want something important in your life and it eludes you day after day, perhaps month after month, are you able to maintain your focus and your faith? Or do you give up saying, "This is never going to happen," and turn instead to the first good offer that comes along with what looks like a quick fix?

This Second Commandment teaches an important, but difficult spiritual lesson, namely that we sometimes get impatient waiting for God or our spiritual practice to show us some results.

During those moments of anxiety, loneliness, or impatience, we are very susceptible to seductive idols or things that distract us from our true purpose and direction in life.

If you don't want to be distracted by things that leave you feeling empty, then you may need to find a way to quiet your anxious mind and help it return to a path that can actually bring fulfillment.

According to many scholars and interpreters, the Second Commandment is about waking up your soul each day so that you will connect with your true spiritual essence and not be so easily sidetracked by certain things and activities that distract you. The underlying message in the Second Commandment's warning: "Don't succumb to idols or false paths"

and the encouraging statement: "Do find ways to awaken your true self each day so that you can stay on track toward your essential purpose in life when the going gets a little rough."

Lots of ways to do this -- prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, spiritual community, meaningful words and images around you, ceremony and ritual.

So, are the ancient Ten Commandments relevant for us today? I say absolutely, as they give us a chance to step back and gain a clearer perspective on what really matters in life.

The First Commandment - BREAKING FREE:

• Offers us the challenge of determining whether we want to be active co-Creators with this Divine Presence we call God.

• It challenges us to break free of others' views of God and walk our own spiritual path.

• It challenges us to turn within and listen to the voice of God.

And the Second Commandment - SOARING HIGHER:

• challenges us to stay on our spiritual track even when things seem to be moving more slowly or even in a different direction that we would like; and

• it challenges us to stay attuned to our Divine Nature by creating ritual or activities that daily remind us of who we are.

Two angels were perched on their cloud one afternoon looking down at earth and one said to the other -- "You know, it's been several thousand years since the original and things really aren't going very well -- maybe they need 10 more commandments."

I don't think we need ten more, we just need to understand and apply the ones we have. I look forward to spending the next few weeks with you exploring just that!


bMatthew 5:17
cDavid Letterman
dExodus 20:2
eCharles Fillmore
fJohn 10:30
gUnity Beliefs and Practices Rebecca Whitecotton
hExodus 20:3-5
iRabbi Ted Falcon

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