Deuteronomy 5:1-21 (NRSV)
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
Neither shall you commit adultery.
Neither shall you steal.
Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.
Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Mark 1:16-20 (NRSV)
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Building a church community starts with God. The first commandment is Put God First. Everything else will flow out of that because of God’s amazing steadfast love, chesed.* In the Hebrew Scriptures Part 1 class I took (remotely) last fall, I was amazed to learn that most of the commandments simply don’t apply to this group of people yet (and certainly not in Exodus the first time) – they have little to covet at this point, they have nothing at this point. They are barely neighbors at this point. Yet all of these laws will in time speak to them – as they can still speak to us, in our seemingly more complex world. It still boils down to love God, love neighbor.
In the Mark reading, Jesus gathers a group of disciples out of fishermen that he is going to teach to fish for people. So you might think, the first step to “church” is to gather a group of people who will gather up more people. But that is the wrong order. God first! Jesus gathered Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Jesus said follow me, and these four put (knowingly or not) God first and followed Him.
My orderly heart was amazed to discover how richly scripture insists and teaches that God’s love is the key to order and hope and life, abundant life, and that is God’s gift to us then and now. By God’s gift of love, by our loving God, which we then flow to each other, for the glory of God, we can be a whole and healed community.
Gracious and Loving God
Even now we are a desert people
Lost in a wilderness world
and forgetting how to be a people
All of us
Known and unknown
Rich and poor
Let us be amazed and renewed by Your first commandment to us
To love You, to keep You before us
Because of how much you love us.
Let your abundant love for each of us
For the least of us
Bind us together to love each other.
*Chesed: [Hebrew] the attribute of grace, benevolence, or compassion; often translated as “loving-kindness,” “mercy,” or “steadfast love.”