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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday School: The First Commandment

Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me. 
                                                                                           ---Exodus 20:3

Moses the Law-Giver

Commentary: The Ten Commandments are widely believed to be the moral foundation of the Christian religion. The first four commandments concern themselves with the relationship between God and the people, while the last six commandments concern themselves with the relationship between people. However, it is the first commandment that I would look to talk to you about today. 

In the book of Matthew Chapter 22, when Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment his reply is given as "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." He is also believed to have said "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." However, his former answer has come to be known as the first, or greatest, commandment. 

The First Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me" has been interpreted by priest, biblical scholars, and evangelist to paint the Christian God as a jealous and angry god who forbids the worship of any god other than he alone. This belief has lead to many atrocities in history from the burning of witches, to the murder of Jews, Muslims, and anyone unwilling to convert to Christianity. However, I believe, that there is another interpretation of this verse that is much more in line with a loving God who wants only the best for his people. 

Before I analyze the first commandment, let us review exactly who and what "God" is. When I was a child, I believed that God was an old man with white hair and a long beard who lived in the sky and saw everything that everyone did. We were told that his grace fell upon a virgin who gave birth to Jesus, his "only begotten son" who was also God himself. I was taught that he loved us, but only if we were afraid of him and obeyed his commandments. 

When my spiritual journey took me away from Christianity and I found Wicca I was taught that "god" was our Mother AND our Father. Through the cycle of the seasons the Goddess gives birth to the God who grows, matures and becomes her lover; that he impregnates her and dies only to be reborn again. We did not worship them inasmuch as we honored them, and we were empowered to take total responsibility for our thoughts, words, and our deeds. 

When I rediscovered the folk-magic practices of the South and began learning more about Hoodoo and Conjure, Jesus re-entered and I had to reevaluate my view and perception of him. Whereas I some magickal practitioners seemed to treat Jesus as some kind of genie, or viewed him as a mythological figure,  I see Jesus as the ultimate example of what man's relationship with God can be.
Throughout my spiritual journey, whether I prayed to Jesus, burned a candle to Hestia, danced in circles with witches, engaged in ritual sex with a trusted partner, one thing was constant, one thing was held by all the religions and belief systems I studied. That is, God is love. Think about that. God is Love.

With that in mind, let's read the first commandment again. Thou shalt have no other gods before me (love). Notice too, that the verse reads no other gods before me. Not before or after me, but simply before me. What this means to me is that no matter who you choose to worship, honor, petition, should always put love (God) first. If you put love first, it doesn't matter if you worship Kali, Buddha, Jesus, Diana, Damballah, Kernunnos, or any other god. 

This should sound familiar to those of you who are my Wiccan and Pagan readers. Have we not said to one another "Love is the Law, Love Under Will"? Have we not said "Do what ye wilt, so long as ye harm none?" It would seem that upon closer inspection that Christians and Pagans have more in common that meets the eye.  And there is no reason why we, as humans, cannot co-exist in peace so long as we love god and love others.

In Conclusion

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he said that it is to love god and love everybody. It is my belief that God is love and so long as we put love first we we are living godly (loving) lives and it doesn't matter whether you call God (love) Diana, Kali, Buddha, Kernunnos, Damballah, or by any other name.  I think that this is a basic philosophy that anyone of any positive religion can agree upon. 



Denise Alvarado said...

Great sermon Reverend Dean. Although I am not Christian, I agree in your conclusive statements that living a life in Love is indeed living a Divine life.

Carolina Dean said...

Thank you, I guess you're in good company b'c I'm not a Christian either, but I have the capacity to love people I was taught to hate and that's not so bad.