By Jane Lee Wolfe
These are written down in Exodus 20.
- I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: You shall have no other gods beside Me.
- You shall not make for yourself a sculpture image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Lord you God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me ad keep My commandments.
- You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God; for the Lord will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.
- Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God: you shall not do any work – you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
- Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that the Lord your God is assigning to you.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house: you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
Ok, you know these, right? Nice moral guidelines. The thing is, though, they aren’t “guidelines” they are “commitments.” God has committed to being with you always and supporting you in your life, and you have committed to God – in your baptism and/or confirmation. If infant baptism, it was sort of like an arranged marriage, but an arranged marriage is still a marriage whether you approve or not. You are committed to the relationship with God, others, yourself.
Anyway, you need to every now and then confess these commitments to God, not just read or listen to how God talked about them to Moses. It goes like this:
I have no other Gods but You.
I make no image of you in my life.
I do not lie using your name as witness.
I rest on the Sabbath.
I honor my mother and father.
I do not murder.
I do not commit adultery.
I do not steal from you or my neighbor.
I do not lie about other human beings.
I do not covet what you or my neighbor has.
You ask for forgiveness when you fail to honor one of your commitments, and you forgive your neighbors, family and friends when they fail too. That is how you seal your own forgiveness – by forgiving others. Do this all the time, not just on Ash Wednesday, if that’s a confessing day for you. Why let the breeches of commitment pile up; why let the opportunities for forgiveness pile up. Clean the plate. That’s part of what can happen; the great part of walking into your true humanity with and in relationship with God.
Jane Lee Wolfe is a parishioner of St. James-Woodstock, Vt. and Director of Bog Chapel, Inc., an educational not-for-profit organization that focuses on the spiritual health and spiritual fitness of human beings, from youth through old age.