One of the reasons for my entering the blogosphere is to share some of my writing projects. One project, which is now completed, involves instilling new life into the Ten Commandments. It turned into a sermon series, which was subsequently taught again a couple of years later. From time to time, I’ll share excerpts from the manuscript. What follows is from the opening chapter of Ten Essential Words.
I had not given much thought to the Ten Commandments, myself. I probably could have recited most of them if I was ever given a pop quiz and some time to think. So while reading a book one day I was caught off guard when I ran across this quote:
So in the new church, in spite of the unsolved dilemmas of abortion, homosexuality, and the like, we may just find ourselves united as never before in trying to help our people toward moral living, in public and in private. We will realize what wonderful assets we had in the Christian tradition all along: the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13). And maybe, just maybe, we’ll accept this modest proposal: that for, say, the next twenty-five years we will dedicate 95 percent of our moral effort toward living these basic, unarguable elements of our moral tradition. Then we can reevaluate and see whether the other issues – the trivial questions and the big dilemmas alike – have taken care of themselves.
(from Brian McLaren, The Church On The Other Side)
I started wondering if this could actually be the case. I wrote in the margin of that particular book the words “sermon series”. At the very least a sermon series on the Ten Commandments would take up about two to three months of Sunday sermons (unfortunately sometimes pastors think this way). But I wondered if there was enough material out there. After all, you probably do not need to spend 30 to 45 minutes to convince most people that things like stealing and murder are not the paths to a virtuous life. Other questions crossed my mind as well. Would people respond to what seemed like a high moral call? Would I end up turning into one of those “fanatics” protesting outside a courthouse to keep the Ten Commandments on display?
Apprehensions aside, I decided to take the challenge of spending a considerable amount of time trying to understand what might have been lost to us down through the centuries. After all, my own questions revealed that I could use some brushing up on something that I considered important to my faith. So at the conclusion of a three month sermon series on the Ten Commandments, I found that there was much more life to an ancient document than I ever could have imagined. The response from the church revealed the hunger people had for gaining a better grasp of those commandments. Visitors wanted to know how they could take the material back to their own small group or spiritual community. Those ten statements would end up becoming the ten values of our church because we believed in the power they still held.