Episcopal Church in Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Commission
Lectionary Reflection
Year A, Easter 5, Old Testament Lesson

Deuteronomy 6: 20-25

Moses said: "When your children ask you in time to come, 'What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the LORD our God has commanded you?' then you shall say to your children, 'We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. Then the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right.'"

Reflection on Deuteronomy 6: 20-25
by John Gibbs, Ph D

“Becoming People Who Are Safe for the World” (The Way to Greater Works)

Here is the famous Charter of Education for ancient Israel, and now also for all God’s People. It tries to answer children’s quest for the “meaning” of Israelite Law (v. 20).

The answer is a recital of “great and awesome signs and wonders” that God accomplished “with a mighty hand” in the exodus from Egypt and in the entry into the promised land. All this that God did was “for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case” (v. 24). This recital of God’s gracious deeds is commentary on the preceding Shema (“Hear, O Israel…,” vv. 4-9). Law is rooted in God’s powerful acts of Grace.

Here as in Psalm 66 God’s power and grace are not contending forces, for they carry out one consistent purpose: “so as to keep us alive,” or to keep us “among the living.” Nothing explicit is stated about ecology. But the implication is clear that the People who keep the commandments of such a God are the kind of people who are safe for the world.

That implication is in fact made explicit elsewhere, for God claims that “the land is mine” (Lev. 25:23). For that reason “the sabbath was the original ‘earth day’” [Daniel C. Maguire, The Moral Core of Judaism and Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), p. 269.] “The land shall keep a Sabbath of sacred rest” (Lev. 25:3). People must respect that, and not work the ground to death.

To Reflections on other Readings for this Sunday:
Old Testament
Deuteronomy 6:20-25
this page
Psalm 66
New Testament
1 Peter 2:1-10 or 
Acts 17:1-15
John 14:1-14

John Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN.   He originally wrote this reflection in 2002.  He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the web site.

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