It's only about every three years that one of the readings assigned to be read in church is the Ten Commandments, and this Sunday is one of those Sundays.
The Ten Commandments (Exodus chapter 20, verses 1-14) are among the most famous and important not only in the Old Testament, but in all religious literature.
If you're like most people, you probably can't recite them in order...or even remember all ten.
Even if you can recite all ten, and in order, I'll bet your impression of them is that you think they are "old" or stodgy requirements...restrictions placed on our freedom. There's something in us all that bristles at the idea of being told "what not to do," even if, at some level, we agree.
But -- as I hope to point out in my sermon on Sunday -- I think we can take a fresh look at the Ten Commandments, and see them as the Ten Blessings, or Ten Promises, or Ten Freedoms.
Think of a four-way stop near your home. Picture an intersection with four stop signs, one at each corner.
Do those stop signs restrict your freedom as a driver? On the one hand, it would seem so: the stop signs restrict your freedom to keep driving through the intersection at whatever speed you were going...you can't just go flying through the intersection, ignoring the stop sign.
So you could say that those stop signs restrict your freedom.
But imagine that intersection without any stop signs. Imagine yourself, or your teenage son or daughter, approaching the intersection, knowing that at any point any car could come from any direction and -- "freed" from the commandment to stop -- could just blow through the intersection.
Would you really feel free?
Or would you be filled with anxiety each time you approach that intersection?
So that'll be my first point: while each of the commandments sounds like they are restrictions on our freedom ("Thou shall not...thou shall not..."), in fact, they are given to us by a Loving God who knows that they actually make true freedom possible.
But that -- looking at them as "the Ten Freedoms" -- isn't even my main point. Nor is it the most amazing way to look at the Ten Commandments.
The most amazing way to look at them is as promises, or blessings, or benedictions...a way of living that God anticipates, and desires for us...envisions us living.
So -- as I hope you agree after hearing and reflecting on my sermon this Sunday -- that can open up a whole new, fresh way of looking at these ancient, life-giving commandments.