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Horizons preview: “Love Carved in Stone: A Fresh Look at the Ten Commandments” (2019-2020)

Presbyterian Women/Horizons Bible Study 2019-2020

During Sunday school, children were asked to name the Ten Commandments. Here are two of the responses:

“The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple.”

“The seventh commandment is you shall not admit adultery.”

Like the children, we may not exactly remember or know the meaning of the Ten Commandments. Jewish and Christian teachers have debated for centuries what behavior the commandments cover and what attitudes foster the breaking and the keeping of the commandments. In teaching guides, called catechisms, we see how the meaning and application of the Ten Commandments expanded. We are challenged to think beyond the literal words. For example, the Westminster Larger Catechism startles us by understanding “honor your father and mother” as dealing with relationships with our superiors, inferiors and equals. In considering “You shall not covet,” positive virtues are listed that guard against breaking the commandment: contentment with our condition in life and a “charitable frame of soul towards our neighbor” so that we desire what is good for our neighbor. (See “The Larger Catechism,” questions 126-135, 146-148.)

Like the catechisms, Eugenia Anne Gamble, in “Love Carved in Stone,” digs below the surface meaning in a rich study. Personal stories and contemporary examples draw us in. Gamble mines the historical context, other biblical texts, the New Testament parallels, the consequences for the human community and how God loves us in each commandment. For Gamble, the commandments are a love letter from God.

Nowhere in the Hebrew text is the word “commandment” used. Instead, they are the “Ten Words.” God’s word is the dynamic and powerful speech that creates life. Just as in the beginning God spoke creation into being, so God creates human community with words. In faithfulness to the Hebrew text, Gamble uses the terms the “Ten Words” or “Word.”

What is inventive in “Love Carved in Stone” is that Gambles considers humanity’s “core wounds,” how the Ten Words offer to heal those wounds and give us “boundaries within which we can live in freedom and peace.” A “core wound” is that which damages us, our communities and our relationships with God and each other. To understand more fully what Gamble means, look at the chart below which matches the Ten Words with difficulties that lie at the root of the human experience.

Gamble peels back the layers of meaning of each Word. She does not shy away from the complexities of how we obey God through the Words. In reflecting on honoring one’s parents, Gamble faces the difficulties of respecting parents who abandoned or abuse us. In thinking about stealing, we are asked how we rob people’s self-esteem.

For every core wound, the Ten Words gives us a path by which we can live together in peace for our mutual benefit. God’s Ten Words are meant to guide us into deeper love and connection, while we safeguard the most vulnerable. The Words lead us into what it means to be fully alive in community, what to avoid and what to embrace.

“Love Carved in Stone” is enriched by prayer, art and the lesson guides. In each lesson, we are invited to pray, to draw near to and reflect with God through the Holy Spirit. The interpretation of the Words by worldwide artists captures our minds and imaginations. The fine lesson guides by Joyce Mackichan Walker boost our personal involvement and creatively connect us as we weave our lives together with God.

rosalind-banburyRosalind Banbury is the interim pastor of Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church in Fishersville, Virginia.

You can purchase the PW/Horizons Bible study book through the PC(USA) Church Store.