P. O. BOX 222811


(831) 624-8595










Rev. Paul Wrightman, Pastor


Independent and United Church of Christ








July 19, 2020



Dear Friends,


This week we restart our Wednesday evening Bible Study group via Zoom. ​​ We’ll be meeting from 6 through 7. ​​ I’ll be sending out complete instructions on how to access Zoom to all previous Bible Study participants on Tuesday the 21st. ​​ If you’re interested in starting or restarting to study the Bible, now would be a good time to start, as we’ll be beginning the Gospel of Luke. ​​​​ Just ​​ let me know if you’d like the Zoom instructions by emailing me at​​ paulccmp@yahoo.com. ​​ 


We continue our sermon series on the most important texts in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. ​​ Today we conclude our discussion of those texts that Christians know as the Ten Commandments.


Stay safe. ​​ Take Good Care. ​​ And remember that Jesus IS Emmanuel – God WITH Us! ​​ Paul




INTRODUCTORY READING  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ John O’Donohue, Contemporary




Light cannot see inside things.

That is what the dark is for:

Minding the interior,

Nurturing the draw of growth

Through places where death

In its own way turns into life.


In the glare of neon times,

Let our eyes not be worn

By surfaces that shine

With hunger made attractive.


That our thoughts may be true light,

Finding their way into words

Which have the weight of shadow

To hold the layers of truth.


That we never place our trust

In minds claimed by empty light,

Where one-sided certainties​​ 

Are driven by false desire.


When we look into the heart,

May our eyes have the kindness

And reverence of candlelight.


That the searching of our minds

Be equal to the oblique

Crevices and corners where

The mystery continues to dwell,

Glimmering in fugitive light.


When we are confined inside

The dark house of suffering

That moonlight might find a window.


When we become false and lost

That the severe noon-light

Would cast our shadow clear.


When we love, that dawn-light

Would lighten our feet

Upon the waters.

As we grow old, that twilight

Would illuminate treasure

In the fields of memory.


And when we come to search for God,

Let us first be robed in night,

Put on the mind of morning ​​ 

To feel the rush of light

Spread slowly inside

The color and stillness

Of a found world.


SUGGESTED MUSIC  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ O Jesus, I Have Promised  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ drolas94  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ You Tube


OPENING PRAYER  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Angela Ashwin, Contemporary


Loving God,

I cannot fathom or hold you;

I can only ask you

to take hold of me.


I cannot grasp or contain you

in a formula or tradition;

I can only ask you to fill me with yourself,

and make me part

of the mystery of your presence

in the world.




SCRIPTURE READING: ​​ Exodus 20:17


You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.



Pastor Paul Wrightman



(The underlinings simply mark the words I would emphasize if delivered orally.)


Our Jewish brothers and sisters​​ do not refer to the Ten Commandments as​​ laws, but as “teachings,” or “instructions,” or simply as “words,” meaning words of​​ life.

What we Christians call the “Ten Commandments” are known in Judaism as God’s gracious gift of life-giving teachings, teachings that, if followed, give life​​ direction,​​ substance, and​​ contentment.


These ten life-giving words are a vital part of the​​ Torah, which itself is understood in the Jewish tradition as the​​ way, or​​ path, to life. ​​ The Torah consists of the first five books – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – of what we Christians tend to call the “Old” Testament, with the​​ mistaken​​ implication that the “Old” has been​​ superceded​​ by the “New” Testament. ​​ Jesus held the Hebrew​​ Scriptures in high esteem and explicitly states that he did not come to​​ abolish​​ them but to​​ fulfill​​ them (see Matthew 5:17).


The Torah was put together in its final edited form during the time of the Babylonian Exile. ​​ It was understood to be the​​ lens​​ through which the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures were to be interpreted.


Since the Torah ends abruptly with the death of Moses,​​ before​​ the so-called “conquest” of the Promised Land, acknowledging the primacy of Torah leads to the astonishing insight that what the​​ Jewish​​ people​​ prized​​ most​​ highly​​ was very, very​​ different​​ from what​​ other​​ peoples prized most highly.


Instead​​ of​​ territorial conquests, the formation of the nation, the exploits of famous leaders, or even the building of a magnificent temple to serve as the focal point of the national religion, what is of​​ greatest​​ importance to the Jewish people when seen through the lens of Torah is their​​ relationship​​ with​​ God.


The Torah, although put together in its final edited form in the 500’s BCE, contains material which is much older. ​​ Among this much older material we find the “Ten Words,” or what we know as the “Ten Commandments.”


The scholarly consensus is that the Ten Commandments served as the​​ core, the​​ nucleus, of the covenant that God made with the Hebrew people through Moses. ​​ They are so much a part of God’s covenant, God’s relationship, with Israel, that​​ without​​ them there would​​ be​​ no Israel.


Consider the historical context. ​​ A large group of people who had been enslaved for a significant length of time in Egypt has cried out to their ancestral God. ​​ The amazing thing is that God​​ responds​​ to the cries of these enslaved people.


Many of us remember from our Sunday School days the story of the burning bush and the calling of Moses. ​​ What we may have forgotten, however, are the astonishing​​ words​​ that God speaks to Moses. ​​ Immediately after getting Moses’ attention in the theophany of a bush that burns but is not consumed, God​​ reassures Moses by stating: ​​ “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).


Then God goes on to speak​​ some of the most amazing words in all of Scripture. ​​ God says: “I have​​ seen​​ the​​ misery​​ of my people who are in Egypt; I have​​ heard​​ their cry on account of their taskmasters. ​​ Indeed, I​​ know​​ their​​ sufferings, and I have​​ come​​ down​​ to​​ deliver​​ them from the Egyptians…” (Exodus 3:7-8a).


As far as we can tell, this is the​​ first​​ time in the recorded history of​​ any​​ people in its dealings with God where God is revealed as​​ taking​​ the​​ side​​ of​​ the​​ underdog, where God is revealed as​​ seeing,​​ hearing, and​​ knowing​​ the suffering of a downtrodden group of people, and​​ doing​​ something​​ about​​ it, namely,​​ liberating​​ the people from slavery in the event known forever since as the​​ Exodus.


The Exodus is seen by our Jewish brothers and sisters as​​ the​​ paradigmatic​​ event​​ in their relationship with God. ​​ Thus, at the very​​ heart​​ of Jewish faith and practice is the affirmation that God is​​ primarily​​ to be understood as a God of​​ liberation.


Rather recently, beginning around​​ the 1970’s, a good number of Christian biblical scholars and theologians, especially in third world countries, have acknowledged the Exodus event as being paradigmatic for Christianity as well.


Currently, the most robust and creative theology in both Judaism and Christianity is known, fittingly, as​​ liberation​​ theology.


Try to imagine yourself as one of a large group of Hebrew slaves that have just been​​ freed​​ from slavery. ​​ You have been liberated from living in servitude at the very bottom of the most hierarchical society on the planet, namely, ancient Egypt.


You have suddenly been transported from the​​ one​​ extreme of having your every move​​ dictated​​ and​​ circumscribed​​ to the​​ other​​ extreme of being​​ completely​​ on​​ your own. ​​ 


You are aware that the God of your people, the Hebrews, has intervened on your behalf, and you can scarcely believe that God would take up the cause of a bunch of slaves.


But, to be honest, in spite of the fact that you and your people are now free, your predominant feeling is that of a deep-seated​​ terror​​ that this new-found freedom will soon devolve into a free-for-all of anarchy and fear.


There are already unmistakable signs that anarchy and fear are already beginning to take over when your leader, Moses, has the people camp at the foot of the mountain, Mt. Sinai. ​​ Moses goes up the mountain to commune with this strange God of liberated slaves. ​​ In his absence the anarchy and fear that Moses has barely been able to hold at bay overwhelm the people. ​​ They choose to re-enslave themselves by making a God fashioned after the gods of Egypt, a golden calf, a fertility god who defines freedom for them as the ability to do​​ whatever​​ one​​ wants.


The people are headed for self-destruction when Moses returns from the mountaintop with ten life-giving words from the God of liberation, with ten life-giving teachings that, if followed, will free them from their destructive urges and lead to fullness of life with each other and with God.


Moses explains that these teachings are the​​ heart​​ of God’s covenant, or relationship, with God’s people.


As Moses shares the ten life-giving words with you and your people at the foot of the mountain, you begin to get a sense of what real freedom actually​​ looks​​ like, of what real contentment actually​​ feels​​ like.


You get a glimpse of how​​ awesome​​ these teachings of this God of liberation are, of how they are able to transform destructive anarchy into creative order, of how they are able, over the​​ long​​ haul, to ensure that this new-found freedom​​ lasts.


In short, as Moses shares these ten life-giving words with you and your people at the foot of the mountain, for the first time in your life you have a vision of a​​ future​​ which is​​ open​​ and​​ abundant​​ and filled-with-hope.


This is the all-important​​ context, historical and theological, of the Ten Commandments.

What does real freedom look like? ​​ The Ten Commandments are​​ Gods​​ answer to that question.


The​​ first​​ commandment isn’t really a​​ commandment​​ at all, but a crucial​​ teaching, the​​ foundational​​ teaching upon which all the commandments that follow are built: ​​​​ “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:1-2). ​​ Thus speaks the God of liberation, constantly reminding the people of God’s mighty acts on their behalf.


In their original order, the commandments begin​​ with​​ God and then expand​​ from​​ God like concentric circles, gradually increasing their circumference to encompass life in its many dimensions.


For many of us, the commandment closest to home is the one we are looking at today, the tenth one, “You shall not covet.”


“Coveting” is an old-fashioned word which means to strongly desire something or someone that is not yours.


The operative word in this definition is not​​ desire, which is a God-given drive that is​​ good​​ in and of itself; the​​ operative​​ meaning is the​​ object​​ of one’s desire, namely something or someone that is​​ not​​ ones​​ own.


As such, coveting covers a​​ multitude​​ of sins, everything from houses and cars, to education and careers, to other people’s relationships, to looks and athletic ability, to talent and good-fortune, and everything in between!


An immediate challenge that presents itself to many of us is that the word “sin” no longer plays well. ​​ It probably wouldn’t be going too far to say that the​​ majority of people in twenty-first century American (and European) culture​​ no longer even know the meaning of the word.


We need to come up with another word or phrase that captures the​​ original​​ meaning, but in a more​​ contemporary​​ way.


The original sense of the word “sin” derives from the world of​​ archery​​ and means “to miss the mark.” ​​ In a biblical and theological sense sin signifies the underlying reality that each of us​​ fails​​ to​​ fully​​ become the​​ person, the​​ image​​ of God, that God​​ our​​ creator​​ desires we become.


An alternative word that suggests itself is “brokenness.” ​​ While many today can no longer affirm that we are all​​ sinful, almost everyone can agree with the observation that we are all​​ broken​​ in one way or another, that all of us fail in various ways to live​​ up​​ to, and to live​​ into​​ what we​​ know​​ is​​ right​​ and​​ good​​ and​​ whole.​​ 


Looking at the tenth commandment, by instructing us not to covet, not to want something that isn’t ours, God is attempting to​​ steer​​ us, to​​ direct​​ us, into a way of living that is not only good for​​ others, but good for​​ ourselves​​ as well.


In other words, God, in giving us the​​ instruction not to covet, is doing God’s best to​​ liberate​​ us from a path that can lead only to​​ jealousy,​​ resentment,​​ anger, and​​ rage.

Let’s look at a low-level example, an example, however, that can be​​ extrapolated​​ to include the underlying dynamics in a wide variety of situations.


Something that is quite ordinary, say, a lawnmower, suddenly becomes​​ extraordinary if our neighbor buys a new one – especially if it’s a ride-on. ​​ We wonder,​​ how come they get to have that and I don’t?


The problem is not​​ primarily​​ that I see my neighbor riding his or her new mower and it makes me​​ jealous: the deeper problem is that I now see my neighbor as my​​ competitor​​ and no longer as my​​ neighbor.


The Bible is littered with stories about coveting what is our neighbor’s, turning that neighbor into our competitor, and then engaging in a host of “sinful,” or better, “broken” actions, actions that not only hurt our neighbor, but actions that always turn out to be​​ self-destructive as well.


Joseph’s brothers covet the affection of their father, and sell Joseph into slavery because of it. ​​ King David covets his neighbor’s wife, Bathsheba, leading to coerced sex, adultery, deception, and murder. ​​ King Ahab covets his neighbor’s vineyard, leading to murder and theft.


These are stories of people who have​​ everything​​ and yet are dissatisfied because they don’t have what belongs to their neighbor.


We may not engage in thoughts and deeds that are as broken as the action of Joseph’s brothers, or as destructive as the thoughts and deeds of many of the kings of Israel, but all of us know what it’s like to be living in the bondage of resenting what someone else has and wanting it for ourselves.


The Hebrew people had just been​​ freed​​ from slavery and God gave them ten life-giving words to keep them from​​ returning​​ to slavery.


One of the surprising things about the Ten Commandments, or ten life-giving words, is that they are as relevant​​ today​​ as they were more than three thousand years ago.


The wording may sound a bit out-of-date: ​​ “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”


But the​​ underlying​​ teaching​​ – don’t resent the relationships, gifts, talents, and belongings of others – remains the​​ same.


And the truly​​ big​​ question for us today is the same question that the just-freed Hebrew slaves asked three thousand years ago: ​​ How in God’s name do we​​ pull​​ this​​ off, how do we keep​​ from​​ coveting, how do we​​ not​​ resent?


If the desire​​ behind​​ the coveting and the resenting is, in itself, a good gift of God – if desire is nothing less than the force of attraction which propels us toward God and others – it would seem that the only way to tame our​​ disordered desires would be to encourage them to be taken up, taken into, the​​ greatest​​ desire of all, our desire for the​​ good, the​​ true, and the​​ beautiful, which many wise men and women throughout the ages have understood to be, ultimately, our desire for​​ God.


How do we keep from wanting something that does not belong to us? ​​ By wanting something​​ else​​ even more!


And the only something​​ else that is​​ big​​ enough and​​ strong​​ enough to​​ handle​​ all our desires and​​ transform​​ them into various shades of good turns out to be someone​​ else, namely​​ God.


And not just​​ any​​ God will do. ​​ Desire is personal, so it has to be a​​ personal​​ God. ​​ 


Desire run rampant generates​​ suffering, so it has to be a God who does not stand​​ aloof​​ from human suffering, but wants to do everything possible to​​ alleviate​​ it.


In short, it has to be a God like the one we met earlier today, a God who dares to say concerning the suffering of an oppressed people: ​​ “I have​​ seen, I have​​ heard, I​​ know, and I have​​ come​​ down​​ to deliver​​ them” (see Exodus 3:7-8a).


Desire run rampant enslaves, so it can’t be a God who is into making slaves out of people; it has to be a God who is deeply into​​ liberation.


We​​ find​​ such a God in the giving of the ten words of life, in the formation of Torah, in the passionate justice-advocacy of the prophets,​​ and in the love relationship between God and people celebrated in the Psalms.


Such a God should be no​​ stranger​​ to us.


Jesus knew this God simply as his “Abba,” his loving Father, and invites us to get to know​​ his​​ Abba as​​ our​​ Abba.







  • This concludes our sermons on the Ten Commandments. ​​ What did you find most surprising about this approach to the Big Ten?











  • Concerning the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet,” what have been your biggest challenges in coveting to date? ​​ If, like many of us, you have been wrestling with the same issues for many years, what can you do at this point in your life to make a definitive break with them?









CLOSING PRAYER  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ David Adam, Contemporary


Loving God, you are an ever-present help in trouble:

Come revive



In our darkness come as light

In our sadness come as joy

In our troubles come as peace

In our weakness come as strength

Come, Loving God, to our aid



Restore us

Loving God

Open our eyes to your Presence

Open our minds to your grace

Open our lips to your praises

Open our hearts to your love

Open our lives to your healing

And be found among us.



SUGGESTED MUSIC  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Called as Partners in Christ’s Service

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ First-Plymouth Church Lincoln Nebraska  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ You Tube




Patiently and persistently, God loves.


Relentlessly and unconditionally, God loves.


Now and forever, God loves.



Independent and United Church of Christ