Lenten Series The 10 Commitments: #2 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
Welcome back to our Series on the 10 ‘words’ or phrases…better know as the 10 Commandments. I hope you are contemplating some of the ideas being presented.
When we choose to look at the Bible as a metaphor as we wander through life, we can then take another look at the 10 Commandments from a variety of viewpoints. This is a great way to remind ourselves that they are a wonderful way to aid our souls journey.
Why look at them now, at this point in our lives? Because we are maturing on a soul level…just as the child Jesus; “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40)
Metaphysically, we have left Egypt, or ‘sense consciousness’ to wake up from our limiting thoughts.
We started last week with “I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other Gods before me.” I asked you to think about that…have you placed the God of your understanding, first in your life?
This week, we look at #2: Exodus 20: 4-6
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 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.
“Graven” means carved. But we are not just referring to carved images here, as you will hear.
Do you think of yourself as an idolator?
We humans have a tendency, at least sometime in our lives, to place “graven images” first. Can you think of any in your own life? Making money, our jobs, maybe a person; thinking they are the source of our happiness?
Emmet Fox suggests that if we each look into our hearts we would see that there are/were many idols that we did bow down to.
Eric Butterworth states in “MetaMorality”: “Every kind of sin committed by man boils down to a kind of idolatry…putting something before God.”
Whenever we give power to anything but Spirit, we are making that ‘thing’ a graven image.
Now think, there is a difference between admiring something, liking something, and the joy and happiness expressed is an expression of Spirit.
“It is the beauty and life and joy of God shining through it. We are not giving it power.”
I am very happy that the Philadelphia Eagles are in the Super Bowl, but I do not worship the team or give it any power over me.
And I love whoppie pies from the PA Bakery but am not devastated that I forgot the ones I bought on Wednesday and left them at Barbara’s. Now she gets to enjoy them while I had the pleasure of enjoying her special cookie that I always buy for her when I go to PA Bakery.
Do we think it’s the end of the world? No. Just another excuse to go home again soon!
Emmet Fox reminds us of giving power to what ails us…notice, I do not say ‘my accident’ or my back pain. This body has pain. There was an accident in 2014. Try hard to not own the events in your life…respond to them.
Watch your words. Watch your thoughts.
Leonard Felder’s Challenge in his book, “The 10 Challenges..” looks at this 2nd ‘words’ as “breaking free of unfulfilling paths and habits.”
We forget we are-capable of having a direct & personal relationship with the Divine deep inside our consciousness. We have no need for idols, external imitation.
“We get sidetracked, give up our power, modern-day addictions & pressures that cause us to forget that our purpose here is to be a vehicle for Divine energies.”—Ted Falcon, rabbi
There is a common human tendency to get distracted, we take detours, we try to escape—esp. when we are anxious, impatient.
Matthew 6:24 reminds us “No one can serve two masters….”
“What we acknowledge to be our master, to that we are a servant.”
Too often we look for Immediate gratification.
And then, the thing we’ve grabbed on to in place of Spirit turns out to be an illusion and we need to slow down again to find our way back.
Think about the Golden calf story as if you were there – Moses is up on the mountain, there’s some weird smoke and fire going on, he’s gone for weeks. Thousands of you have been wandering the desert for months…
Would you have become impatient, started doubting, looked for immediate gratification? Be honest….
Today, are you able to say no to impulsive detours when times are tough?
The daily ups & downs of wrestling with our doubts & breaking free of seductive idols & distractions requires perseverance & resilience.
And strength to walk away from the ice cream!
This 2nd Commandment…is a compassionate, useful warning that says as you seek to deepen your spirituality, you will have plenty of chances to give up, get distracted, or feel drawn to illusions & paths that leave you feeling empty.
It’s about waking up your soul each day to connect to true spiritual essence.
When we are impatient, we are susceptible to idols.
We must find a way to quiet our anxious mind and to live life fully awaken, alive, in touch, not distracted, numbed out or spiritually asleep.
Matt. 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it. Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.…”
What does that passage say to you? Have you noticed that the ‘way’ has become narrow and the masses have taken the wider, easier path?
G I Gurdjieff – “Moments of consciousness are very short & are separated by long intervals of completely unconscious, mechanical living…you can think, feel, act, speak and work without being conscious.”
SO how can we be more conscious? Well, by doing our self-work. By attending classes and Lessons and by prayer and meditation and contemplation.
That’s why we are here, this morning…because we have heard the yearning of our Soul and are finally listening.
Now, let’s see what Neal Donald Walsh has to say about what he calls a Commitment…
“No longer will you worship human love, or success, money, or power, nor any symbol thereof. You will set aside these things as a child sets aside toys. Not because they are unworthy, but because you have outgrown them.”
What do you think of that!?!
Is there a time in our lives when we out grow the need to place power in other than the God of our understanding? Isn’t that what brings us to places like Unity?
Buddhism, Hinduism and others speak of ‘monkey mind’ which interrupts our connection to God & our true purpose. But monkey mind holds power only to the extent that we believe it is the normal flow of our life process. By naming it that, we have given monkey mind our power.
We need to break free- Find a way to confront what’s been distracting you or holding you back….bare your soul to the God of your understanding, to God’s compassion The Jewish word for compassion also can mean ‘womb’, ‘womblike’-you bare your soul surrounded by warmth& caring
Bear Heart, a Native American writer. “If we really want to know ourselves, at some point we’re going to have to surrender to a Higher Wisdom who knows all about us-our weaknesses, our mistakes, and our potentials. Many NA tribes do that through our meditation known as the ‘Vision Quest’- the setting aside of time & place, alone out in nature, to communicate with a Higher Being and explore that which is within.”
When we are going thru hard times is precisely the time when we need to open up & let a higher sense of guidance & support in to give added strength & clarity.
Our 3rd scholar, Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Nun, calls this Commandment the Law of Reflection
Our God is not of human making, not of this world, not to be reduced to anything material.
This Law of the Heart prods us to examine again and again what it is that we have placed before God…what we have made our god instead.
This may be the easiest Commandment to break for us, but now that we are made aware, now that we can search our heart and remove those Golden Calves.
The One God, the One Spirit, the One Divine Presence is within, waiting for us. It is the shortest distance from our head to our heart, but the journey can be long. God awaits there for us.
The Ten Commitments, Challenges instead of Commandments…#1…Unity of Rehoboth Beach – January 21, 2018
The 10 Commitments….
A woman worked at a large bookstore and was often amused by the combinations of books customers choose. She found it particularly funny when a customer approached the checkout counter one day with two best sellers. The first was “Conversations with God”. The second? “How to Argue and Win Every Time”.
Kind of an example of our relationship with God…we wish for a relationship, but on our terms? Right?
We forget that we are not so much human beings trying to become spiritual. We’re already inherently spiritual beings and our job is learning how to be good humans! Maybe that’s why Jesus came as a human being: not to teach us how to get to heaven, but to teach us how to be a fully alive human here on this earth.
And that is what the 10 Commandments were and ARE meant to do…teach us how to get along…with the God of our understanding and with others trying to do the very same thing.
When we think of the word, commandments, we may wonder if God’s laws are designed to curb our free expression. “But just laws are for our protection and growth, not for our restriction and oppression.”
Jesus, our Way-shower, taught that God is a just, kind, and loving Father. God’s laws, therefore, are just laws designed to bring forth our good, not to keep our good from us.
We can liken life to a superhighway. God’s laws are like the rules of the road, designed to make our journey safe and pleasant. The highway is smooth and straight, and we travel over it happily when we follow the directions. We have a free choice in the matter, but we know that when we elect to heed the warning signs and obey the traffic laws our journey becomes a delightful experience. So it is with the commandments. When we cooperate with these just laws, our way in life is joyous and satisfying and brings us spiritual unfoldment.
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue, are a set of biblical laws relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The commandments include a variety of instructions. Different religious groups follow different traditions for interpreting and numbering them.
Did you know that the Ten Commandments appear twice in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Modern scholarship is divided over exactly when the Ten Commandments were written and who wrote them.
The Hebrew words are translated as “the ten words”, “the ten sayings”, or “the ten matters”.
One scholar reasons that these 10 words were given in the wilderness instead of within one country’s borders so that they are intended for all peoples, not one nation, not one generation but ALL nations and ALL generations.
If I told you these are really our freedoms, not our restrictions; our commitments, not commandments, would you understand what that means?
We’ve talked about this…if you have contemplated how you wish to BE as you interact in life, your integrity, ….then it is easy to make choices…because as you interact with your world, your established integrity kicks in and reminds you of what you have established as your Spiritual guidelines, how you wish to behave in the world, how you interact.
The ‘10 words’ can do that also…So the word ‘commandment’ is really not how we want to look at these words of guidance.
God does not order about what God has created, God merely tells God’s children; this is how you will know you are coming home
It is important to note that Jesus was not born fully mature: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40)
And so we grow into our Spiritual life also.
Behind every one of the ’10 words’s an underlying sublime affirmation of a basic principle of religion and morality.
SO, lets look at how we might see them differently from when we grew up to today.
The first Commandment…
I am the Lord thy God; Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Pretty straight forward. And we might think, fairly easy.
I am the Lord your God is an affirmative declaration of the dominion of the Almighty over the universe and that authority as the Lawgiver. This commandment implies that we must accept the sovereignty of God, that this Divine Spirit has created everything that exists, and watches over the destinies of all creatures. You shall have no other gods implies that God is unique and the only God. To worship other divinities would mean that we reject the imperative character of the first affirmation
There is only one God Who is the only presence and the only power. Isn’t that what we say in the 1st Principle? “There is only one presence and one power, God the Good.”
This means that we are to recognize no power other than good (God). We identify ourselves with good through affirming our oneness with it.
AS the story goes, Moses received these guidelines from God on Mt. Sinai…take that metaphysically, Moses went up, to his higher consciousness. And he is told “I AM THAT I AM” is sending him these words.
I AM THAT I AM…notice it’s not a definition, it’s not an explanation of ‘who God is.” God cannot be defined…that would limit something that cannot be limited. To define God is to deny God.
I am the one who is and will always be.
I AM is your true self…no one else can say I AM for you…have you noticed that? Try it……. Only you can say it. That is the Presence of God within you, your indwelling Christ, your higher Self. And ANYTHING you attach to I AM…anything you say or think after those two words with conviction, you are claiming as you.
So, watch your words….watch your thoughts.
Now let’s look at this set of words from a different perspective…
In book 1 of The Conversations with God Series, “God” through Neale Donald Walsh gives us different feel for these words. It is a Commitment. What’s the difference between a ‘commandment’ and a ‘commitment’?
A commandment is the act or power of commanding, to have or exercise authority or control over; be master of;
A Commitment is a pledge or promise; obligation.
Walsh uses Jesus’ words for his Commitment: “you shall love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul”. And there shall be no other God.
Here’s the important thing —– “No longer will you worship human love, or success, money, or power, nor any symbol thereof. You will set aside these things as a child sets aside toys. Not because they are unworthy, but because you have outgrown them.”
“When we satiate the senses on order to avoid the taste of life in all its raw and unmarinated potential, when we make sensual satisfactions – drugs and alcohol, sex and physical comfort—our gods in order to damp the pain of living, we only live the shell of a life.” – Joan Chittister
Think about that…what have you released because it no longer serves you…who have you released because they no longer are a part of your spiritual journey? WE did releasing through the Burning Bowl. What or who should you be releasing now?
When one believes in many gods, he cannot have faith in the one true god. One cannot be dual minded and have faith in the One Power and One Presence. For any allegiance and loyalty pledged to something or someone, we subtract that much faith in and fidelity to God.
“Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”. Luke 20:25
Look through your life, can you say what is Caesar’s and what is God’s?
One more way to see these words through different eyes, let’s look at the ‘words’ as a Challenge.
A challenge is defined as a call or summons to engage in any contest something that by its nature or character serves as a call to battle, contest, special effort, etc.; a demand to explain, justify.
In his book “The Ten Challenges: Spiritual Lessons from the Ten Commandments for Creating Meaning, Growth, and Richness Every Day of Your Life;” Leonard Felder presents this version of the first of the ‘10 words’
Challenge “I am the One who is and will always be, your God, who can bring you out of a narrow way of seeing things, out of your enslavements and worries….who has helped you in the past and who cares about your freedom.”
Felder says, “the first commandment is a request from God for each of us to decide whether we believe in and want to be partners with the Infinite One.”
I am Spirit; I am All That Is. Nothing exists that is not part of Me, and nothing that is not part of me can exist. Nothing can be higher or lower than Me; I am the sum total, and product, and range of All That Is.
Yet, all of us have more than one god if we would ever admit it. It has taken most of this lifetime to understand that all life can only come from one source….
The power of the commandment lies in the fact that it calls us back to remember what is really ultimate, really important in life. Joan Chittister
What this commandment truly sought to represent was an affirmation of Spirit as the One Life; that all of Creation is of this One Life, and that nothing higher nor lower could exist. Because we are of Spirit, we too are Divine, and no other gods can exist before us, or any other being of Spirit.
It is not a commandment of denial and subjugation, but one destined to awaken all of Humanity to the knowledge of its own Divinity and of claiming its birthright. Placing anything external to your Divine Self in greater power is to deny yourself your personal connection to the One Life, the source of all Love and Creative Power, and thus to deny your Divinity and your birthright.
Take care of you, you are Divine.
Blaise Pascal – “It is the heart that experiences God, and not reason.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. & the Season for Non-violence
Martin Luther King Jr. lived an extraordinary life. At age 33, he was pressing the case of civil rights with President John Kennedy. At 34, he galvanized the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 39, he was assassinated, but he left a legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today.
Many of his statements express that hope and inspiration:
Let me know what you think about them….
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
“The past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”
“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: — we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
It’s no coincidence that the Season for Non-violence begins soon after the MLK, Jr. remembrance.
The Season for Nonviolence was established by Arun Gandhi, Mohandas Gandhi’s grandson, as a yearly event celebrating the philosophies and lives of his grandfather and Martin Luther King Jr. The “season” begins with the anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi’s assassination on January 30 and ends with the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination on April 4. It is anchored by a mission, statement of principles, and commitments by participants towards living in a nonviolent way.
I included a link to information and activities in your weekly email on Wednesday.
Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule which was finally granted in 1947. At that time, Pakistan was carved out of India to be a Muslim state. He used nonviolent civil disobedience to achieve his goal of independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
Like MLK, Gandhi was assassinated, that occurred in 1948.
What do you think of these quotes from Gandhi?
“Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.”
“Mental violence has no potency and injures only the person whose thoughts are violent. It is otherwise with mental non-violence. It has potency which the world does not yet know.”
“The mice which helplessly find themselves between the cat’s teeth acquire no merit from their enforced sacrifice.”
“It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.”
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
The Season for Nonviolence tells us “We learn to practice nonviolence one step at a time, one choice at a time, one day at a time. Through our daily nonviolent choices and action, the noble and courageous spirit within each of us expresses itself as the skills, wisdom and character of a nonviolent human being. This is how we each, in our own way, move the world in a direction of peace.”
Last years World Day of Prayer was devoted to the power of peace with the theme Peace in the Midst. We affirmed … I am peace in the midst of all matters!
If we look constantly outside ourselves, we will find it difficult to find peace, to BE peace.
In the midst of conflict or challenge, how do we “be peace”? How do we DO peace? How do my actions contribute to peace?
The good thing, no the GREAT thing is as we grow in consciousness, we create a more loving and peaceful world…our own and the Universe.
Picture of incomplete circle…
Anyone of you feel an urge to complete the circle?
In the Unity booklet, “The Way to Inner Peace” there are many stories and helpful ideas regarding ways to inner peace.
One is by Rev. Don Lansky. He tells of a Psychology experiment where a partial circle is drawn on the board.
When students look at the circle, rather than seeing a nearly complete circle, their eyes naturally go to the missing piece—the incompleteness.
Human beings are wired to both recognize the possibility of completing the circle and to experience the tension when it’s incomplete. In the classes, someone (who can’t stand it for a second longer) almost always goes up to the blackboard before the class is over to fill in the missing piece.
We can apply this lesson to our own lives. Are we choosing to see wholeness and perfection, or are we fixated on what is missing, what is awry?
What if we see our challenging behaviors, experiences, attitudes, thoughts, relationships, finances, health, and even spiritual development as a validation of who we are, rather than a shortcoming or failure?
What if our discomfort is our deep-seated urge to realize the wholeness that we innately know we already are?
We may sometimes feel that the universe is conspiring to rob us of our peace and wholeness. It happened to Jesus when he was tempted during his 40 days in the wilderness. And Rev. Lanksey says it happened repeatedly to one of his most respected heroes—Bugs Bunny. I think most of us can recall Bugs Bunny cartoons…
All Bugs ever wanted was to live in peace. He would be taking in the sun on his chaise lounge at the top of his rabbit hole, wearing his sunglasses, sipping a tall glass of carrot juice, and singing a song—happy as could be.
Suddenly, Elmer Fudd would be shooting at him and trying to bag him for dinner. Bugs was incredulous at first. Elmer would throw Bugs into a basting pan and Bugs thought he was just getting a hot bath.
But finally, he would get it! Elmer was trying to cook him. Then the chase would begin. Bugs Bunny was like a great aikido master. He never lost his cool or his sense of humor, and he always used his opponent’s energy to outsmart them. Because of his equanimity, Bugs was victorious and able to return to his own peace and privacy—which was all he ever wanted anyway.
When we feel like external circumstances are threatening our internal and external peace, we can learn a lot from Jesus, Buddha, the great masters and sages throughout history, and even Bugs Bunny. The truth is, we are already whole and complete. Nothing is missing. There is nothing to find because nothing was ever lost.
Author Mark Twain said this another way: “I am an old man and I’ve lived through many trials and tribulations, most of which never really happened.”
At this time in human history, we are called to a boldness of faith through prayer, meditation, the practices of gratitude and forgiveness, listening and following our inner guidance, and practicing the presence of God in every moment.
Several years ago, on one of the space shuttle voyages, Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud, one of the astronauts who was part of an international crew, said that during the first few days in orbit, everyone tried to find their own countries. By the third day they were just identifying continents, and after five days, all they saw was earth.
Like the astronauts, we all have a deep yearning within to see wholeness—to see and experience peace. That peace is already within you—right here, right now. The truth is, we are already whole and complete. Nothing is missing. There is nothing to find because nothing was ever lost.
If you are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.
Why did you spill the coffee?
“Well because someone bumped into me, of course!”
You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup.
Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea.
“Whatever is inside the cup, is what will spill out.”
Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled.
*So we have to ask ourselves… “what’s in my cup?”
When life gets tough, what spills over?
Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility?
Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions?
“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done…”(2 Corinthians 9:8)
I leave you with this thought…remember this quote?
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” — Reinhold Niebuhr
Someone made it personal with just a little change…
“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.” – Anonymous