By David Baumann
A Reading from Deuteronomy 6:1-9
1 Now this is the commandment — the statutes and the ordinances — that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
I am not very computer literate, and I get easily upset when I am formatting some sort of masterpiece, or trying to edit a photograph, or some other common computer activity, and something goes wrong. After fuming angrily, I storm off to find my wife and ask for her help. She can usually fix whatever it is in a short time. I remember when it dawned on me at last that many of the problems I encounter are because I am just not very skilled in using computers. To put it another way, my problems are my fault, not the computer’s! I am ignorant of how computers work, and I don’t know how to follow the directions that people more skilled than I am (probably most of the world) are familiar with.
Years ago a colleague of mine said that following God’s commandments can be better understood in our age by thinking of them as God’s operating instructions for human beings. Today’s lesson puts it in a very straightforward manner: “Fear the Lord your God and keep all his statutes and commandments… that you may enjoy long life.” That is, obeying God is not an oppression of our freedom, but the way to make things work right in our lives. Disobeying God always, always gums up the works. Telling someone, “Don’t put water in your car’s gas tank” is not oppressing him; it is helping him. The rest of today’s lesson tells us that the commandments are to be remembered and repeated, and the description of how to do that is all-encompassing. And we are told that the very heart of the commandments is God’s love for us, and the command that we love him with everything we’ve got makes us human.
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Church of the Good Shepherd, Lookout Mountain, Tenn.