statues & monuments

I am making my way through the Fordham Law Review article on the Ten Commandments. Dense reading, but fascinating. Courtesy of Paul Finkelman, when he heard I was teaching on Honor your father and mother. The first thing I learned is that even the numbering system of these laws varies between Jewish, Catholic, and various Christian texts. There is no such thing as a “neutral” or nonsectarian version of Exodus 20. 

The American judicial system is not based on the Ten Commandments. Few laws attempt to codify honor of parents with word, deed, or financial support. Worship of any deity is separate from our standing in secular court. But from a religious perspective, I am intrigued by the differing interpretations of these decrees delivered by Moses.

Today’s text calls to mind the prohibition against idol worship. Aaron’s short-lived golden calf had nothing on Nebuchadnezzar’s ninety-foot high golden statue. Though Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are known by their Babylonian names, these young Jewish men of the ruling class who were groomed for leadership alongside Daniel were determined to keep the commandments in exile, no matter the cost. 

“If our God—the one we serve—is able to rescue us from the furnace of flaming fire and from your power, Your Majesty, then let him rescue us. But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 (CEB)

I love this assertion. Gives me chills. Faith that does not put God to the test. Determination until death. I have little confidence that I could face authority and fire without bending. I hope that I will never be tried. But this wasn’t the first golden idol, and it was certainly not the last. Today’s statues and monuments have their own tests of allegiance. 

Being faithful in our time poses challenges. Sometimes the path ahead is unclear. We are weary and unsure of the next step. Justice and righteousness seem elusive. And so I cling to the cries and comfort of David’s prayer. 

I offer my life to you, Lord.
My God, I trust you.
Please don’t let me be put to shame!

The Lord is good and does the right thing;
he teaches sinners which way they should go.
God guides the weak to justice, teaching them his way. 
Psalm 25:1-2, 8-9 (CEB)

May we trust and not be put to shame. May we be taught which way to go. And though we are weak, may God guide us into justice. 

“God’s Economy, Jesus’ Culture”
3/7 Order of Service

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