Ten. Simple. Rules.


The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us pray.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
Make these words more than words
and give us all the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

Hopelessly lost, we find Moses and his people wandering in the wilderness, griping and lonely. They are pining for Egypt. They don’t know how to get along with one another and they don’t trust this smokey, disembodied, so-called god that Moses says he talks to, not in the least.

Like most of us, they’d rather dance around a golden statue and hope things work out for the best for most people.

Once slaves with no hope but the lash,

they are now tasked with being together.

It is in this moment when God comes to them and saves them. Again.

This time, however, God saves them not by helping them in their daring escape across the water or feeding them by the miracle of manna, but by making them more than a collection of runaway slaves. God saves them by once again making them a people.

God’s salvation is the re-ordering of a society addicted to fear…

…into a society empowered by love.

God provides for them a social contract, the beginnings of what it might look like to live together.

“Let’s start over, shall we?” God says to Moses.

“If you say so,” Moses replies.

“Here. Let’s start with these ten simple rules.”

I can imagine Moses stumbling down the hillside thinking to himself, “Just ten? This is never going to work.”

And with a cheshire grin Moses approaches his anxious people.

“So, I have good news and bad news.”

Ten. Simple. Rules.

Ten. That’s all. No more.


What makes it so hard to just keep these ten things in mind and not foul it up somehow?

And after Las Vegas, how can I not, as a preacher, find some way to dig into this question one more time?

So, here goes. I have good news and bad news.

God’s call is the same as it ever was and America is a society that is afraid of itself.

Increasingly complex, the United States is not likely on the road to greater simplification.

And so, we’re afraid. Of everything. Of everyone.

But preacher, which “we” are you referring to? Excellent question!

We are the empowered, the privileged, those whose ancestors embraced colonial fever and Manifest Destiny. We are those who believe wealth for its own sake is a blessing, that good people go to Christian schools, that an Ivy League education is itself salvific, that owning more guns is godly, and that racism is something we’ve either progressed beyond or is a myth promulgated by the media elites. This is who we are.

And we all want to make America great again. All of us. Of course, we differ in the definition of greatness, but we who strive for greatness share this one thing: we are all afraid.

We are afraid of people who don’t look like us, talk like us, or eat like us.

We are afraid of people who don’t sing like us, spend money like us, or govern like us.

We are afraid of people who don’t vote like us, love like us, or go to church with us.

We are afraid.

Of course, some of us are right to be afraid. If you are a indigenous person, a person of color, LBGTQI, or most women, you likely are afraid and for good reason. You are surrounded by people who have a clear track record of hurting you or those whom you love.

The rest of us have been taught to be afraid. We have learned that our violence is righteous, that life is a zero sum game, and sharing is something we learn in Kindergarten and leave there.

You see, I, the learned adult, need to build a wall between myself and those who will take what is rightfully…mine.

It’s mine. Not yours. That corner office, that faculty appointment, the government job, that book contract, even that choice rector’s position…it’s mine. Mine. I’ll legislate this into being it if I have to. Someone get me a pen and paper.

And then here comes Moses walking down the hill with those annoying stone tablets and a cheshire grin on his face.

God’s salvation is the re-ordering of a society addicted to fear…

…into a society empowered by love.

We need to take a good hard look at ourselves, America.

What happened in Las Vegas last Sunday is not new.

Horrifying. Heartbreaking. But not new.

It’s news, but it’s not unique, original, or otherwise a strange aberration in the long history of violence in the United States. Nor is our our hesitancy to legislate the control of violence as long as it doesn’t threaten the state. Ask any 3/5ths a person anywhere about the history of American violence. Ask those whose families who lived on this land a thousand years ago.

Gun violence is most certainly a social ill, but it doesn’t truly threaten the state.

Instead, it makes a lot of people a lot of money and presents to the world a standing army of over-zealous gun collectors. Guns and the sacrificial system of gun violence is just one form of the violence we idolize in the US; one of the many idols we have cleverly built to memorialize our fears.

We pray to them.

We cry out to them.

We sacrifice one another to them and call it freedom.

We return to them again and again hoping just this once that they will respond in favor of us and everything will be just like it was before…

…Back in Egypt. When life was great.

When some of us had absolute power and others…and others had the powerful to provide for them if they just stayed in their place.

It’s an incredible temptation.

It’s an addiction, this idolatrous power founded in fear.

It is also damnation, the crushing weight of a rejected stone.

It is not what God wants for us.

God wants our salvation.

With love beyond measure, God is desperate for us.  

God desires the salvation of every last one of us…together…as a society. No one is set aside. No one is left out. No one is on the margins. Instead, the mighty are cast down and the lowly lifted up. This is what salvation looks like. It looks like all of us together or it’s simply not salvation.

God’s salvation is the re-ordering of a society addicted to fear…

…into a society empowered by love.

So, friends, we have good news and bad news.

God comes to us wearing that same grin that Moses had when he came down from the mountain. God walks right up to the tenants whom She has put in charge

right into the court houses

into the state houses

into the White House and says:

“No. Enough now.

I have come for you,

all of you together,

to redeem and restore you

to banish fear

to end greed

to lift up the lowly

to cast the mighty from their thrones

so that they too might know the grace of salvation.”

Surely God desires the salvation of all of us. Together.

But, friends, it is we who have the responsibility to stop the fear.

And it is only together that we can put an end to it.

It is we must end the fear we have of one another and set the idols aside.

We must reach across the aisles.

We must tear down the walls.

We must end the cycles of hate.

Only then will we find peace.

This is not God’s work alone.

“The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes.”