By Rev. Ann Russell Hutchens
Tuskawilla United Methodist Church, Worship and Christian Education Ministries
The traveler departed on AMTRAK from San Antonio. Destination: San Francisco: where she grew up. One bag ought to do it. Time to leave the out of control world. Back to the place she grew up, to happy times.
No more TV news: 5 Five recent earthquakes!
Refugees drown while seeking to escape cruel regimes. Mass murders in tourist destinations. Troubling political news.
Devices turned off. Enough!
Forget personal news. Best friend’s husband left her after having an affair.
Nonprofit executive imprisoned for theft of $150,000.00.
Friends, even at church, with different political views fighting!
No honoring of membership vows to pray for each other.
Who did she even know now in San Francisco? “Is my old church still open?”
Stop over thinking. I’ll figure it out.
Sleep deprived, the traveler napped through the southern coast.
Waking up, still thinking! Diversion. Read.
Digging down into her carry-on, she found her Bible.
The devotion she printed out last night marked Exodus 20:12-17.
The 10 Commandments. A coincidence? She read: “First the context.”
It started with Abraham and Sarah in Genesis.
Generations traveled, taking twists and turns, detours.
You’d think the worst was years of slavery in Egypt.
Moses had led them to freedom.
They’d grumbled, complained and rebelled.
Even so, the people now stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
Desert dirt washed off, dressed in white.
Moses and Aaron only had met God at the top.
At the foot they’ve told the people that God has chosen them to be his people.
The Israelites shall now know how to live God’s way – that of loving as they’ve been loved.
The language is powerful. God states, “You shall.” Not, ‘You will.”
God knows human frailty.
God speaks directly to behavior that destroys the community.
The traveler recites Verses 12-17 in her Bible.
And then reads the paraphrase:
“We shall honor our parents and the parents of our faith, Abraham and Sarah.
The most vulnerable shall receive needed care.
We shall not take another person’s life.
We shall maintain faithful relationships.
We shall not take what is not ours.
We shall not abuse power
We shall not spread lies about others
And we shall not long for the things that belong to others. Honor God in all you think, say and do.”
These commands ordered my journey from a chaotic, unsafe childhood to a Methodist Church, my husband and a good marriage, to seminary and ultimately ordained ministry.
Even so during times of turmoil and confusion and suffering I return to the desert. I want to go back to “easier, less complicated times.”
Then I remember. I have never been alone. My husband and others of the beloved community have carried me through parched, hungry days and sleepless nights.
May my journey honor God as I continue to serve. Amen.
The traveler echoed, “Amen.”
Prayer: O Holy God, I am grateful that you continue to reach out to me when I am lost. I thank you for your beloved community and your commandments which order our days. Thank you for those who held me up when I felt lost. I pray for your world, for the homeless and refugees those lost for reasons I may not know. In everything I say or do, may I honor you. In and Through Your Love. Amen.
- Have you ever wanted to just leave home?
- When have you been in the desert? How did you move through?
- Why does the writer connect Vs.20:12 with Abraham and Sarah?
- In the paraphrase the writer used “We” rather than “You”. Do you agree with that change? Why or Why not?
- What do you think the traveler did next?