Exodus 19:3 Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6 but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites." 7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 20:1 Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. 12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13 You shall not murder. 14 You shall not commit adultery. 15 You shall not steal. 16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 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.
Are you familiar with Tuckman's stages of group development? "Teams go through stages of development. The most commonly used framework for a team's stages of development was developed in the mid-1960s by Bruce W. Tuckman, now a psychology professor at Ohio State University. Although many authors have written variations and enhancements to Tuckman's work, his descriptions of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing provide a useful framework for looking at your own team."
I hear the 10 commandments as the "norming" phase of group development. The people are formed as slaves in Egypt. They have stormed their way out of slavery and over the sea. It is time for them to "norm." If they are to be a blessing, as Abraham's promise has indicated, they must continue their development as a group so that they can move into the final phase, performing. And honestly, these "norms" are fairly universal. Besides the first four that are particular to their relationship with the LORD, these guidelines provide a safe environment in which the people can settle.
As simple as this take might be, what are the norms of your community of faith?
I'm in the process of writing a letter to my congregation. They are a recently merged congregation. They have been in the process of "storming" for the last year. It is time to determine what our "norms" will be. Like I said, I'm still in the process of writing the letter but some of the main sections so far are:
And if I take cues from this text, I would include a section about:
This list is much more rich than mine. Honestly, wouldn't our communities of faith be more stable if our allegiance to God came first? Wouldn't we have all the volunteers we need if we got rid of the idols that keep us too busy to be together? How would we be different if we were rested? And if we stopped gossiping, or if we didn't covet one another - our cars, homes, gadgets, jobs - what kind of community might we become?
I truly believe community life is better than an isolated life. But community life is hard. I often call it "advanced citizenship." You have to want to live in community because it doesn't come naturally; we have to work at community. And important part of working at it is living by norms.
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