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The Story of God: Go

Genesis 12:1-9, NRSV


Barrenness is the way of human history. It is an effective metaphor for hopelessness. There is no foreseeable future. There is no human power to invent a future. But barrenness is not only the condition of hopeless humanity. The marvel of biblical faith is that barrenness is the arena of God’s life-giving action. Inexplicably, this God speaks his powerful word directly into a situation of barrenness. This is the ground of the good news. This God does not depend on any potentiality in the one addressed. Abraham and Sarah were quite without potential. The speech of God presumes nothing from the one addressed but carries in itself all that is necessary to begin a new people in history. The speech of God overcomes and overpowers the barrenness of reality.

– Walter Brueggemann
Genesis, in the Interpretation Commentary Series

  • God calls us to go often
  • Something nudging us to go or do, that’s God’s call

  • To go is scary
  • Not always with details or full explanation
  • It’s like parents to children, “because I said so”
  • We love control, that’s why it’s scary

  • Call to something beyond
  • Higher state of being
  • Go beyond our “tribe”
  • A church not just for ourselves

  • To go is to get into discomfort

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The Story of God: Blessing

Genesis 1:1-2; 26-28, NRSV
Matthew 3:13-17, NRSV
John 1:1-5, 14, NRSV


Science does an excellent job of telling me why I don’t have a tail, but it can’t explain why I find that interesting.
Science shines when dealing with parts and pieces, but it doesn’t do all that well with soul.
It can do a brilliant job of explaining how we and other species have adapted and evolved, but it falls short when it comes to where the reverence humming within us comes from.
When I’m talking about God, I’m talking about the grenzbegriff kind of faith that sees science and faith as the dance partners they’ve always been, each guiding and informing the other, bringing much-needed information and insight to their respective levels of hierarchy. To see them at odds with each other is to confuse the levels of hierarchy, resulting in all sorts of needless debates, misunderstandings, and terrible bumper stickers.
I say all of this about science and faith because when I’m talking about God, I’m talking about the source of all truth, whatever labels it wears, whoever says it, and wherever it’s found—from a lab to a cathedral to a pub to Mars.
This is important, because for many in our world, somewhere along the way reality got divided up into the secular and the sacred, the religious and the regular, the holy and the common — the understanding being that you’re talking about either one or the other but not both at the same time.
This dis-integrated understanding of reality — the one that puts God on one side and not the other, the one that divides the world up into two realms – it’s lethal, and it cuts us off from the depths and separates us from the source.
Because sometimes you need a biologist, and sometimes you need a poet.
Sometimes you need a scientist, and sometimes you need a song.

– Rob Bell
What We Talk About When We Talk About God

  • Expectations of getting answers, but we get meaning
  • There is more than literate truth

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Series: The Ten Commandments
The Tenth Commandment:
Thou Shall Not Covet: Pursuing False Union

Exodus 20:17, NRSV
Philippians 4:10-13, NRSV


Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all

– Joseph Epstein
from his essay “The Green-Eyed Monster”

  • Happiness is Love — and $75,000
  • Having enough, but hungry for more
  • What does it mean to covet, over-desire, distorted-desire

  • Paul says it is not to be detached, to give up desire, in order to be content
  • We are victim of culture that we help created, culture of consumerism
  • “Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire”
    • More status, more money, more sex, more travel
    • “The key to economic prosperity is the organized creation of dissatisfaction.” In 1929 Charles F. Kettering, director of GM
    • “He has a daily beauty in his life, that makes me ugly” from Shakespeare’s Othello
    • “Because our consumption can take us anywhere, we are nowhere in particular.”

  • To be content
    • not attachment, but rapid engagement
    • we can pray, to pray for power of God to guard our heart, our mind
    • slow down, learn to look at one place deeply, watch your pace, watch your community, be patience
    • simplify your life, this is where freedom is found

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Series: The Ten Commandments
The Ninth Commandment:
False Witness

Exodus 20:16, NRSV
James 3:1-12, NRSV


There can be no love without truth. Without clear vision, love is a business of projection and fantasy. And there can be no truth without love. Without trust and tenderness and courtesy, truth will vanish behind the walls of fear and pain… Truth makes love possible; love makes truth bearable.

– Rowan Williams
Open to Judgement

  • Titus Oates was an English perjurer who fabricated the “Popish Plot”
  • Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings
    • We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.

  • If we ever distort the truth to get ahead of others, we violate this commandment
  • It’s a hard thing to do, taming of the tongue
  • And it’s not easy to be spiritual teacher, as they would be judged harsher

  • René Girard’s Mimetic desire
  • Last 4 commandments are about our desires
  • Our desire is triangular; I see something I want, but I don’t just want it; I see other want it too and that make me wanting it even more
  • It is also the origin of human conflict
  • Peace is not a natural state in all places: society, home, work
  • We would gossip, unify one group and degrade others, promote ourselves in the expense of others
  • Lots of times we get peace or resolution only because we have false witnesses or scapegoating

  • “Smoke on the Mountain” by Joy Davidman, wife of CS Lewis, on 9th Commandment (false witness and Titus Oates)
  • Nothing outrages our vanity so much as being unmasked by our own children

  • To tame our tongue
  • James 3:17 The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
  • It’s always possible to start anew, with the spirit of truth, with new heart, with new wisdom, being given a new principle of life

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Series: The Ten Commandments
The Eighth Commandment:
Thou Shalt Not Steal

Exodus 20:15, NRSV
Ephesians 4:28, NRSV


If 10 percent of the bid rigging, if 10 percent of the fraud, if 10 percent of the price gouging, if 10 percent of the wasted time by employees, if 10 percent of the breaking in, or if 10 percent of the stealing that was going on in New York City was gone, if 10 percent of the people of this city had an experience of God in such a way they got convicted and their consciences started to screw down better and they began to stop stealing, there would be billions pumped into the economy.
Whenever you ever read anything about how much it costs to live or to produce things in New York, you have to stick at least a 25 percent tax on top of it. It’s an imaginary tax. It’s called the corruption tax. It’s because of the way things are done. It’s because of the bribes. It’s because of the kickbacks. It’s because of the bid rigging. It’s because of the outright corruption. It’s because of the subtle corruption. It’s because of the unpaid taxes. It’s because of all the cheating. It’s because it’s a cash-based economy where nobody tries to pay his or her taxes. It’s because of all that stuff.
The entire superstructure, as great as it is in a place like New York City, is eroding and is going to come down, because four words (“Thou shalt not steal.”) aren’t being taken seriously.

– Tim Keller
in a sermon preached in New York City, June 1994

  • One word to describe feelings of a theft victim: violated
  • Why do I not let my desire run wild?
  • Not only we are commanded not to steal, but also to work
  • Work is one main purpose of being human
  • But when there is stealing, between human to human, country to country, corporation to people, world becomes chaotic
  • Father to son on working: Do you want to eat?

  • Responsibility of “Right-keeping”
  • Work honestly, “as to have something to share with the needy.” (v28)
  • Work as hard as possible, so that you can give it away
  • God owns everything, it’s all His
  • We are the steward of all things
  • As a Christian, just because we can spend money on things, we can choose not to; we can choose to share the wealth
  • We might think we earn it all, but it was really God who gives us every living breathe
  • Without God’s intervention in our lives, we let our desire run wild

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Series: The Ten Commandments
The Seventh Commandment:
Freedom and Sex

Exodus 20:14, NRSV
Matthew 5:27-30, NRSV


I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding… sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time…

– Naomi Wolf
from “The Porn Myth,” in New York Magazine

  • Modern take of seven deadly sins: Sinning Boldly article on a book series by Oxford University Press
  • Catholics believe you destroy your freedom by sin
  • Modern readers think you gain freedom that way

  • Many believes Christian sexual ethics is to destroy freedom, to be restrictive, to be prohibitive
  • But the scripture we read is not meant to suffocate us, but to liberate us from lust, and free us to love
  • Bible doesn’t say sexual desire is bad
  • Lust is not same as sexual desire
  • Lust is sexual desire of pleasure only, without any kind of love and care
  • Sexual desire is not just bodily function
  • The liberal view of sex in the west has no mystery

  • 3 invitations from words of Moses and Jesus
  • To Heal
    • from being sexual sinners
    • no scar and wound is too deep for Jesus
  • To transformation
    • v28: not just to behave properly, but also in intention and thinking
  • To taste God’s Love
    • promise making, promise keeping
    • God’s vow to us, in Jesus

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Series: The Ten Commandments
The Fifth Commandment:
Honoring Father and Mother

Exodus 20:12, NRSV
Ephesians 6:1-4, NRSV


In one sense the modern world began as Freud’s attempt to kill his father ended in the killing of God. Freud taught us to believe that we ought to hate the ones who produced us, to render ourselves into our own creators through therapy. We so want to be gods unto ourselves. Yet nothing is quite as ontologically revealing as our belly button. This is only one of the teachings of [this] commandment. By nothing that we are creatures, creations of mothers and fathers, the Decalogue tells us that we have life as a gift. We are begotten, not manufactured. Someone even changed our diapers, our first hint of what grace must be like. No wonder some of us despite our parents, for they are visible, ever-present reminder that we were created, that the significance of our lives is not exclusively self-derived.

– William H. Willimon & Stanley Hauerwas
The Truth About God

  • The Commandments are Good News for people living with God
  • “Honor” as in being serious about the relationship with your parents
  • Don’t dishonor, don’t insult, don’t disrespect
  • C.S. Lewis’ wife, Joy Davidman, wrote in her book “Smoke on the Mountain”, about a story of mistreating elder parents
  • New Testament expands this commandment: Honor everyone
  • Not part of commandment:
    • affection and feeling
    • absolute obedience
  • “Obey your parents in the Lord”
  • We need to forgive our parents, to make things right with relationships of others

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Series: The Ten Commandments
The Sixth Commandment:
Sacred Life, Sacred Love

Exodus 20:13, NRSV
Matthew 5:21-24, NRSV
Romans 13:8-10, NRSV


An ambassador is the official representative of her government; in a sense she bears the image of her nation. Now imagine that a foreign government seizes the ambassador and kills her. That wouldn’t simply be murder of a single human being; it would also be an act of war against the government the ambassador represents. In a similar way, one person’s murdering another person is an act of war against God. It is an attempt to murder God by killing one who bears his image.

– Timothy Peck

  • SF City Hall Wednesdays 9:30pm Violence Prevention

  • “Life after Murder” by Nancy Mullane at City Arts & Lectures
  • Murderers at the lecture
    • learn to dignify their victims
    • remorseful, repentant
    • their lives with victims are interlocked forever

  • Grace and redemption for Moses, and to have him to deliver the commandments

  • David Brooks’ NYT article: When the Good do Bad
  • Students at University of Texas writing essays about their murder fantasy
  • We are have rage/anger with murderous thoughts
  • We dehumanize others, as is the case in WWII calling Jews rats, in Rwandan Genocide Tutsi cockroaches
  • We kill one another with hatred

  • You know are you in faith community when we hurt each other, knowingly or not, but we also reconcile with each other

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Series: The Ten Commandments
The Fourth Commandment: Rest for the Restless

Hebrews 4:1-11, NRSV
Exodus 20:8-11, NRSV


Sabbath is the cornerstone of faithful freedom. Such faithful practice of work stoppage is an act of resistance. It declares in bodily ways that we will not participate in the anxiety system that pervades our social environment. We will not be defined by busyness and by acquisitiveness and by pursuit of more, in either our economics or our personal relations or anywhere in our lives. Because our life does not consist in commodity.

– Walter Brueggermann

  • Breath-taking speed/pace in the cities, in technology
  • People likes to talk about how busy the are
  • Anxiety-driven society

  • Our relationship with work and rest
    • need for rest
    • picture of rest
    • invitation to live in rest
  • We believe everything is up to us
  • We harm ourselves, do violence to ourselves when we don’t rest; just as bad as harming others
  • God rest because He is satisfied, not because He is tired
  • Not working does not mean rest
  • Where do you find rest? Find God’s delight, picture of rest

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Series: The Ten Commandments
The Third Commandment: Entrusted with God’s Name

Exodus 3:11-17, NRSV
Exodus 20:2, 7, NRSV


If it doesn’t look like love, if it’s not beautiful, if it doesn’t promote peace, let it go, it doesn’t flow from God.

– Brian Zahnd

  • Commandments are like Israelites’ constitutions
  • Don’t misused God’s name, not to take it in vain, to make something sacred to be voided
  • Names in ancient times are closely guarded, names of persons, cities
  • It is significant when God’s name is given to Moses
  • Our strategy to our lives in this world, our view of the world, usually that’s how we see God
  • God that would be name of our God, God of Peace, God of Justice, God of the wise, God of Perfection. We usually identify with one name of God more than others
  • Essentially God’s name is Love

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