Hannah Shalom Busman is Camp Fowler’s former assistant director and currently serves as a covenanter with First Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York.
In Exodus 20, God breaks one of the pivotal guidelines in telling people about rules: always stick to the positive. Don’t tell kids what they cannot do, but instead tell them what they can do. This is a lesson all people who ever spend time with a child learn early on. Perhaps in this passage God should have said, “You shall speak my name only in the correct context. You shall consider every life as valuable as your own. You shall honor your partner, and if you are feeling like you cannot do this then you shall talk to them about it. You shall consider that things owned by someone else are not yours to take. You shall always tell the truth, even if that means you will be in the wrong. You shall understand that the possessions of your neighbor have come to them by great effort and your possessions in turn have come to you by great effort, and you need to honor that.”
While these statements are not quite as pithy and might be harder to carve on a rock, you might not be quite as frightened of God and his retribution when you read them. Unfortunately for most of us, this was not how God worded these statements; instead, he made it quite clear the things he does not want you to do, without the slightest glimmer of forgiveness.
This segment in the Bible is centered around fear—fear for yourself and for the following generations. We are already full of fear in this world. Fear of the future, fear of disappointing someone, fear of failing, fear we will never find love, fear of the destruction of the Earth, fear of going to school or work or a movie theater and not making it home safe. Every night the news tells us something new to fear and another tragic story that ever increases our impending sense of doom. We have enough fear in our lives; I don’t like fearing God, too.
As humans we tend to do one of two things when it comes to fear: ignore it or face it head on. We either go about our day thinking that we will be safe and ignoring any evidence to the contrary, or we go bungee jumping and physically hurl ourselves into a pit of terror. Most people actually end up with a combination of these two approaches, but what do we do about the fear of God? How do we deal with that? Do we face it head on, knowing that we will inevitably fail to follow the Ten Commandments and cross our fingers that the good we do outweighs the bad, or do we keep our heads down and try to ignore the ever-present terror because acknowledging it means living in fear? What would God have us do?
Prayer: Lord have mercy upon us, for we are afraid this Lent.
For this year’s Lent devotions, the days follow the Common Lectionary texts. Each author was invited to: 1.Read the passage.
2.Read a couple passages before and after the assigned day.
3.Do something else for the day, keeping the passage in mind.
4.Find a word/phrase/concept that connects with your own experience. Reflect on that.
You are encouraged to do the same.