First, I wish you and those you love a Happy Easter! This is the second Easter we’ve celebrated under the shadow of Covid but we know that Christ is Risen and, in his risen life he gives us hope. It is my fervent hope that as Spring continues and Summer comes we may be able to find some ways of returning to a more normal life.
I hope you’ve found our read through of St Mark’s Gospel over the last few months rewarding. The earliest manuscripts of St Mark end where we left of this morning with the women discovering the empty tomb and running off with fear and puzzlement. Some think that an older ending has been lost, some thing the alternative endings often added to these verses in our Bibles are later additions by editors who wanted to round the story off nicely. I like the stark ending as it shows the story moves to us. The Risen One encourages us in our worship, our witness, our service and our evangelism.
We turn now to the Book of Exodus and the Ten Commandments which are at the heart of both Jewish and Christian morality; in ages past Christian children would be taught them by rote and many Protestant church buildings had them inscribed on the walls. As one of our writers notes, some orders for Holy Communion have the Commandments read to the people as part of the liturgy!
There is something of a dispute in how they are numbered. The differing Biblical passages about the commandments list 10 but the texts themselves have rather more than 10 direct commandments. St Augustine of Hippo divided the commandments up into the order that Catholic and Lutheran churches use now. Thinkers in the Early Church of the East divided them up slightly differently and this division is used by many Orthodox and Protestant Churches. The content is the same, we start and end in the same place but there is some difference. Catholics and Lutherans fold the commandment about graven images into the first commandment and separate out two commandments about covetousness. We aren’t following either numbering system slavishly. Sometimes there may be an extra Scriptural passage to help our reflections; each Commandment is given consideration over several days as we muse on what they might mean for us now – what does the command not to murder imply for pacifism? What does the commandment about adultery, written in an age where women were seen as property, mean for contemporary relationships? Can we not steal if we own property?
Throughout April we will think more deeply about these Commandments and are helped by a range of writers from different places with different perspectives. I hope you find them useful in your own journey of discipleship.
with every good wish
The Rev’d Andy Braunston Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC