Cow or Beef?

I remember my literature prof noting how English developed pairs of words for the animals that formed the bulk of their diet. Swine and pork, cow and beef, calf and veal, hen and poultry, sheep and mutton, deer and venison. The first word in each pair is derived from the Anglo-Saxon. And the second word in each pair is derived from the French which came over to England as a result of the Norman conquest. The common explanation for this was the observation that post Norman conquest Anglo-Saxon was more and more of a peasant language, while the French of the Normans was the language of the ruling class. The two languages would later merge to give us the middle English of Chaucer.

But during the in between time, while these two languages were still merging, the peasants’ relationship to these beasts was that of a farmer to his herds. He knew these creatures as the animals that he tended. And his term for them, the Anglo-Saxon term, came to identify them as creatures. Cow, sheep, deer, these are all words we use to describe the animal when we see it in the pasture. But the nobleman’s relationship to the beast was the relationship of a man to his dinner. He didn’t tend to these creatures. He ate them. And his relationship to the animal was identified by the French term. Pork, beef, mutton, these are the words we use to describe different kinds of slabs of meat that we will be eating for dinner.

Cow or beef? Which word you choose to describe that animal really says a lot about how you think about that creature. Is it your animal or your dinner? Do you care for it or do you consume it?

Head or calvarium? Eyes or orbits? Baby or tissue? The words used to describe that little baby are carefully chosen. Is this little person going to be cared for or consumed?

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Perfect at Death

From the Christ Church call to worship, April 5, 2015

What happens if you don’t confess every single sin to God? What happens if you forget to take care of one? What happens if you remember the big ones, but you forget to confess some small or medium ones? Or what if there are sins that you are committing that you are actually unaware of? And then, what happens if you end up dying at a moment when you have sins left unconfessed? Are you going to be standing before the Father in a state of sinfulness? And if that is the case, how can you possibly hope that the Father would accept you in that state? Continue reading

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Tenth Commandment

From the Christ Church call to worship, March 15, 2015

“You shall not bear covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” This is the tenth and final commandment. This is a commandment that is difficult to dodge. Coveting, that is desiring those things that are not yours, is one of the easiest sins to slip into. It is very easy to covet in such a way that the sin remains entirely internal. No one sees you doing it. And, unlike the prohibition of murder, it is one of those sins that seems so harmless, so innocent. It seems to hardly register as a sin.

Why? Is it wrong to want something? Is it wrong to have a desire? Continue reading

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Ninth Commandment

From the Christ Church call to worship, March 8, 2015

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This is the ninth commandment. Solomon seems to have had a number of encounters with this sin, since he gives descriptions throughout the book of Proverbs of the destructiveness of false testimony. In 25:18, the man who lies is like someone wandering around with club whacking people. Elsewhere he says it is like someone stabbing with a sword (12:18). Lying is therefore a form of violence, a way of attacking your enemy. But it is an attack that pretends to be something else. Lying is a way of hiding hatred (10:18), so that when there is hatred in your heart, there are lies on your lips.

As king of a great nation, Solomon inhabited a court of power hungry men trying to establish themselves. Telling lies is a way of politicking, whether it be the politicking of first graders or of congressmen, there is nothing new under the sun. And Solomon knew what it was to be surrounded by men who were trying to play him with lies. And so he particularly gave pointed warnings about being a man in power who allows himself to be moved by a lie. Lying is not for a prince (17:7) and a ruler who listens to a lie will soon be surrounded by wicked men (29:12). Therefore, you want not only to be free from lies himself, but to be free from liars (30:8). Continue reading

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Eighth Commandment

“You shall not steal.” This is the eighth commandment. In the New Testament, Paul gives his advice for the man guilty of stealing. In his letter the Ephesians, he says, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need,” (Eph. 4:28). And in Romans, he gives this summary of all the ten commandments, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law,” (Rom. 13:8).

Think about the change in demeanor that it would require in order to move you from a temptation to steal so that you might provide for yourself, to a desire to give away so that you might bless others. And ask yourself if you are walking with this old, sinful demeanor. Are your eyes on yourself, are you twisting every situation to make sure that you have your own needs taken care of? Are you sneaking things past and excusing the evil in what you have done because the sin feels justified purely because it is what had to be done in order for you to get what you want? Continue reading

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Seventh Commandment

“You shall not commit adultery.” This is the seventh commandment. And Jesus let us know that this command extends far beyond just the physical act of violating your marriage vows. It includes even the lustful glance that betrays a heart full of adultery. Jesus was not introducing a new standard when he taught this. Throughout the Old Testament, it is clear that a lustful glance was the beginning of sin. Job was righteous because he had made a covenant with his eyes to not allow this to happen. And David’s sin with Bathsheba is told in such a way that we see his adultery beginning with his glance at Bathsheba bathing.

         Why is a glance like this a sin? To begin with, it’s a sin because God told us it was. We need nothing more than this. But it is not hard to see other reasons why it is forbidden. It is a sin because it is faithless and Paul told us that “whatever is not of faith is sin.” Why is sexual lust a lack of faith? It is failing to trust God that he has good things intended for you. It is longing, even if only internally and for a moment, for something that God has not given to you. It is failing to trust that God has a feast prepared for you, a feast of good things, of lasting pleasures. It is disbelieving in the goodness of God.

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Sixth Commandment

From the Christ Church call to worship January, 2015

“You shall not murder.” This is the sixth commandment. It seems to be the big E on the eye chart. If you talk to a non-Christian about their need for a Savior to deliver them from the guilt of their sin, then this is the commandment that most of them would like to dwell on. “Look, I’m a basically good person. I haven’t murdered anyone.” It seems like the one place that we can stand in the ten commandments and be safer ground.

But Jesus doesn’t let us off that easily. First, he tells us that if a man is angry at his brother without a cause then he is in danger of judgment. And then John tells us that, “whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Continue reading

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Fifth Commandment

From the Christ Church call to worship January 4, 2015

“Honor your Father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” This is the fifth commandment and, as Paul points out in Ephesians 6, this is the first commandment with a promise, the promise that when we give honor to our parents, God blesses our own heritage. We give honor upstream and God blesses our downstream.

But, when you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that the reason that this promised blessing is attached to this command is because we, in our flesh, are likely to expect the opposite. We fear that honor and deference to father and mother are likely to hold us back rather than bless us. So God reminds us that, in the end, those who have honored their parents will find themselves firmly planted in blessing. While those who dishonor their parents will find themselves emptied out and spent. Continue reading

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From the Christ Church call to worship December 7, 2014

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.” This is the fourth commandment. The word Sabbath, simply means a resting, a ceasing from action. God wants us to rest. He commands us to rest. Isn’t that a strange thing? Why do we need to be commanded to rest? Isn’t that what we would all naturally want to have?

It’s like finding out that there was a divine command to go shopping, or a day at the spa, a direct order from God to take the next week at the lake cabin. Why does God have to command us to rest? It seems a bit like throwing a rock into the air and then commanding it to drop. Of course it’s going to fall, that’s what it naturally does. So why tell us to rest, when that is what we would all say that we would like to do?

Because despite what we say, resting does not come easy to us. Throughout the Old Testament one of the charges that God brought against Israel was that they would not keep the Sabbath, they would not rest. And the same charge could easily be brought against us. Continue reading

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Third Commandment

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This is the third commandment. Most specifically, there are two parts to breaking this commandment. First, you must invoke God’s name in a vow – that is what taking his name means. Second, the one who makes this vow, then treats that vow lightly, as if it was an empty thing. For instance, to swear in court by God’s name, when you intend to tell a lie, would be a direct violation of the third commandment. We could add to this, the terrible custom of using the name of “God” or “Jesus” as if it were a swear word. These are mock vows that act as if the name of God were a triviality.

But we should remember that at the Great Commission, Jesus commanded the disciples to go out and make disciples of the whole earth by baptizing them into the name of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” God’s name, revealed as Yahweh in the Old Testament, has been revealed to us once more as the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that name is taken up by each of us at our baptism. Continue reading

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