No other gods -

This is a family service talk by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 11th January 2009.

Click here to read the bible passage. Click here to use larger text.

[Daisy stays in puppet theatre]   

Me:    Well I was meant to be joined at this point by my puppet friend Daisy.   But it looks like she's gone AWOL.   Do you all remember Daisy?  [engage]   She wasn't with us last year, but the previous year in our Family Services.    But because she hasn’t been upfront for a year, she might be feeling a bit shy.  So shall we call out for her?   OK, after 3 let’s all shout out Daisy.  1 2, 3 “Daisy”.     [Daisy stays in theatre]

I don’t think she’s coming out. 

Daisy:  [still in the theatre]   Oh yes I am.

Me:  Oh no she’s not. 

Daisy:  [coming up]:  Oh yes I am. 

 

Me:  Oh. . . .   there you are.    So did you have a good Christmas?

 

Daisy:    Fan dabby dosie.    [mini pause]  I just love Christmas

Me:     So did you get to the panto then?

Daisy:    Oh no I didn’t.

Me:    Oh yes you did. 

Daisy:  Oh no I didn’t.   

Me:    Well I saw you there in your Brownie uniform. 

Daisy:   Just keeping the Christmas spirit alive. 

Me:    So what was the best bit about Christmas then?   

Daisy:    Well I know you’d want me to say celebrating Jesus’ birth and all that.  And I do love coming to church and Sunday school. 

Me:    Well that’s great; because last Christmas, you decided to become a Christian didn’t you? 

Daisy:   I did;  I said yes to following Jesus as my king.   

Me:   And so a Christian, you love celebrating J’s coming into the world as a baby right?

Daisy:  Well yeah -  I love coming to church and learning stuff in Sunday School.  But I still love all the other stuff about Christmas:  you know the parties, the pressies and time off school to practice my new Wii and all that. 

Me:     Well there’s nothing wrong with all the other stuff, as long a Jesus is still Number 1.

Daisy:    But what does that mean;  how can I live with Jesus as Number one when I’ve got school, brownies, swimming lessons, homework and mum going on about helping round the house and tidying my bedroom all the time.   

Me:  What you mean you love the Christmas story, but you’re struggling to know what it means for your everyday life. 

Daisy:    I suppose so yes.  Everyone at school knows I go to church now.  But none of them know what it means.  They just think it’s just another activity like gymnastics. 

Me:    And you’re not sure what it means either?

Daisy:    Well I know the Christmas and Easter story and all that.  I know that Jesus made me and died in my place taking the punishment I deserved.  I know my sins are forgiven. 

Me:    Well that’s great.  You are a Christian then.

Daisy:  Yeah I now that.  But….

Me:    But what?

Daisy:    It’s just that it’s so hard.   

Me:  What doing the Christian thing?

Daisy: Yeah.  Sometimes it feels like I’m the only Christian on the planet.  None of my friends are Christians.  When I pray to God it sometimes feels like there’s no one on the end of the phone.  And what does it mean when we say Jesus is the King when we’re learning about the Chinese New Year at school and when there’s stuff going on in the playground? 

Me:   What kind of stuff?

Daisy:    Just stuff?

Me:  Are people being unkind to you because you’re a Christian?

Daisy:   No, but Francesca’s always being picked on because the girls say her name’s silly!

Me:   Right?  And what about the Chinese New Year. 

Daisy:    Well it’s the year of the Ox and on 26 Jan, we’re going to be celebrating the New Year Chinese style in our class.  And my teacher said it’s just as important to some people as Christmas is to Christians. 

Me:   Right!

Daisy:    But I thought you said that Jesus was for all types of people, including Chinese people.

Me:  He is;  Jesus is the king of everyone, because he made us all in the first place.  And lots of Chinese people are becoming Christians and the churches in China are packed. 

Daisy:    Really!

Me:  Really.   

Daisy:    Well it’s still hard.   

Me:    Well it’s hard for all of us.  Chinese or English;  children or grown-ups.   Sometimes when I pray it feels like there’s no none on the end of the phone either. 

Daisy:   Really.

Me:    Yes really.    Our feelings come and go.  Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad, but I’m always a Christian;  and because I’m a Christian, God’s made promises to me that he’ll never break. 

Daisy:  what like forgiving our sins and taking us to heaven.

Me:  Exactly.  But going to heaven is still a few years away – hopefully quite a few for you.  And so God’s given us lots of guidance about how he wants us to live while we’re waiting. 

Daisy:    What you mean the Bible.

Me:  That’s right.  But even more specifically, He’s given us some very clear commandments.

Daisy:  What like the 10 commandments?

Me:    Right again.    The 10 commandments are the foundation for all the Bible’s moral teaching.

Daisy:    What you mean like the base board at the bottom of a Lego tower.   

 

Me:  Exactly. 

Daisy:    Well aren’t 10 commandments in the OT?  What’s that got to do with Jesus and living with Him as the king?

Me:   An excellent question.  Let’s find out.  Let’s have our first reading. 

Reading 1:  Mark 12:28-34    [SF:  Bruce T;   Riv:  Elaine]

Talk Part 2

 

Me:   Well thanks [Bruce/ Elaine].    So did you pick up the top 2 commandments according to Jesus?

Daisy:     I think so.   Love the Lord your God and love other people like you love yourself. 

Me:  Well done Daisy.   Jesus starts off by quoting Moses directly:  ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one.” And then he goes on to summarise the 10 commandments.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.  That’s Commandment Number 1, according to Jesus. 

Daisy:   And Commandment Number 2 is to love your neighbour as yourself. 

Me:  That’s right.  “There are no other commandments greater than these” Jesus said.  And that’s because these 2 commandments summarise the whole 10 commandments.  Commandments 1-4 are all about how we can love God properly.   

Daisy:  And so commandments 5-10 are all about how we love other people are they?

 

 

 

 

Me:  Exactly.  Commandments 5-10 are all about what it means to live alongside other people that God made in a way that pleases God:  they’re all about how we treat our parents, about how we treat other people in the playground, about why it hurts so much when mummies and daddies split up and move in with different mummies or daddies;  they’re all about how to go shopping when mummy and daddy haven’t much money because the visa bill’s come in or dad’s lost his job or whatever.    The 10 commandments are all about how to live in the real world where things are hard and it’s not always like a pantomime or a Disney DVD.    They’re about living in a world where you sometimes feel like going to your room and slamming the door, because everything’s a mess and you’ve been hurt so badly.    

Daisy:    How do you know so much about my life?

Me:  Because it’s the same for all of us Daisy. 

Daisy:  What even grown-ups?

Me:   Especially grown-ups!

Daisy:  What you mean grown-ups go to their bedrooms and cry as well?

Me:  Sometimes, yes. 

Daisy:  Well let’s get on with it then  -  cause I need all the help I can get.

Me:  Great idea.  Let’s have our second reading.  The 10 commandments. 

2nd Reading:  Exodus 20:1-21

Talk Part 3

Me:  [hold up children’s Bible]  I wonder of anyone’s seen one of these before?

Daisy:  Yep, I got one of those for my birthday last year.

Me:  Anyone else?  [engage]    Well it’s a children’s Bible and I think this is a good one.  It’s the ‘Lion First Bible’ and we read it to Bethan when she was little and I’m reading it every day now with Daniel.    But with all Children’s Bibles, they have to simplify the story to make it readable for very young children.  And sometimes, they get it so badly wrong, that they actually end up saying the exact opposite of what the Bible’s really saying.

Daisy:  Noooo.

Me:  Yes.  Listen to the story of the 10 commandments according to the Lion First Bible and see if anyone can spot the big mistake:  OK here goes:

Cpt 13:  the best way to live:  [we always have to have to chapter numbers, because, Daniel’s obsessed with Numbers!]   so Ct 13 the best way to live;  Boom, boom rolled the thunder.  Zig zag, went the lightening across the sky.  It was very scary.    The people of Israel had reached the great mountain = the place where God had told Moses to bring them. 

God spoke to Moses and Moses spoke to the people.  “I love you and I want you to be my special people” said God  “But first I will tell you the best way to live”. 

And so in the story God then gives Moses the 10 Commandments which Moses passes onto the people.  And at the end, Moses says to the people:  “This is what God wants [and of course he’s referring to the 10 commandments.]  What do you say?”     And the people respond:  “we say, yes – we will love God.  We will live as God wants”.  And the story ends by saying:  “So the people of Israel became God’s special people”.

So what’s wrong with that children’s version of Ex 20?  

Daisy:    Dunno!!!

Me:    “So the people of Israel became God’s special people”.  What’s wrong with that ending?    Well turn back to Ex 20 and look at v2.  What did God actually say?  [engage]

Still me:   I am the Lord your God.    I am the Lord your God - not ‘I might be the Lord your God if you do me a special favour and obey these commands I’ve made up’. 

Yes, I am the Lord God almighty, and I want you to live according to my perfect moral laws;  and yes I will have to discipline you for your good if you disobey me, but my chosen people will always be my chosen people.  I am the Lord your God and nothing can change that. 

Daisy:  What you mean like when my daddy has to punish me for being naughty and he’s really cross, but then he reminds me that he always loves me no matter what. 

Me:  that’s exactly the point Daisy.  If God’s our Heavenly Father, then nothing can change that.  He won’t change his mind about us.  I am the Lord your God.  Not I might be if I continue to feel like it.  I am the Lord your God, the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  I am the God who revealed myself to Abraham and made some very clear promises.  And we looked at those promises back in our 2007 FSs.  I wonder if anyone can remember them?

Daisy:   there were 3 weren’t there?

Me:  Yes.  But what were they?  He’s a reminder of the banner we had that month
[KSP Banner 3 up (SF Paper;  Riv on screen)]      Engage

Still Me:  God made 3 promises to Abraham:  people, land and blessing.    And by the time of Moses, he’d already grown his people into a large nation;  the nation of Israel.  But they weren't yet in the Promised Land; 

Daisy:   and they were being treated really badly as slaves by the Egyptians weren’t they?

Me:  That’s right.   And so the point is that the nation of Israel was already God’s people.  He’d already chosen them and given them His precious promises.  And that’s what we were looking at in our Bible Overview:  the king snake and promise:  how those promises to Abraham were fulfilled in the rest of the Bible.   

Daisy:     And it all ends in Jesus doesn’t it. 

Me:  right again.    The whole Bible points to Jesus.  But coming back to the commandments in Exodus, I am the Lord your God….

Daisy:  who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 

Me:  Fantastic Daisy.    God’s people were trapped in slavery back in Egypt.  And they’d cried out to God to save them.  ‘What about your promise to bless us’ they were saying.  And God did act to save them;  save them from the terrible acts of judgement he brought on the Egyptians;  save them from being slaves.  And so God used Moses to lead his people out of Egypt;   out of Egypt and through the Red Sea.  The Lord was beginning His fulfilment of that second promise;  to bring His people into the Promised Land.    And on the way to the Promised Land, in-between the Red Sea and the land of Israel, God leads his people to Mount Sinai. 

Daisy:  And it was on top of that mountain where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments wasn’t it. 

Me:  Well remembered Daisy.    I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt; out of the land of slavery.    And the point is that the people of Israel were already God’s people before God brought them to Mt Sinai.   That’s where the Lion first Bible gets the story upside done.  The people of Israel didn’t become God people by obeying the 10 commandments.  They were already His people;  he’d chosen them, made promises to them and saved them.  And it was to His chosen and saved people that God gave the 10 commandments.    And it’s the same for God’s people today. 

Daisy:    What do you mean?  I wasn’t a slave in Egypt. 

Me:    But how did you become a Christian?

Daisy:  Well by trusting in J;  by trusting that Jesus died in my place taking the punishment that I deserved so that I could be forgiven and go to heaven.

Me:  That’s right.  In a sense, you were trapped in a land of slavery;  you were a slave to your sins, to doing things your own way without God that is.  Until God rescued you by sending Jesus to die for you, and then giving you His spirit so that you could accept what Jesus had done for you on the cross. 

Daisy:  Well I suppose so yes. 

Me:  Just like God’s people in the OT, we’ve been rescued from slavery and a land of captivity;  we’ve been rescued from our sins and from an eternity in hell;  we’ve been rescued through Jesus.  That’s what the 10 commandments were for in the OT people and it’s still the same for us.  Rules for God’s rescued people to show us how to live to please him. 

Daisy:  And that’s what I need help with. 

Me:  It’s what we all need help with.  So shall we have a quick look at Commandment Number 1:

Daisy:  You shall have no other gods before me.

Me:   Well done Daisy. 

Daisy:  So does that mean we can have Jesus at Christmas and do dragons and Oxes at the Chinese New Year. 

Me:    Well that’s the whole point.  As Jesus put it, the Lord your God is one.  There’s no other gods even if people worship things they call god.    There’s only One God;  he exists in 3 persons:  Father, Son and HS as we said in the creed earlier;  but there’s only one God;  and so we mustn’t worship any other god;  not an Ox or a Chinese Dragon, not Allah, not Harry Krishna or anything else.

Daisy:  My gymnastics teacher says she meets God in the trees at Beverley Westwood. 

Me:  Well the Lord God is everywhere and so you can pray to him at the Westwood if you want to.    But there’s only one God.  I am the Lord your God who rescued you from sin and hell through the gift of my Son, the Lord Jesus.  I am the Lord your God and there is no other.  So don’t worship any other gods;  and don’t worship anything else as if it were a god. 

Daisy:  So is it wrong to go to the Westwood or celebrate the Chinese New Year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me:   Well the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.    We can enjoy everything in God’s creation that’s good for us.  So yes we can go to the Westwood and enjoy the beauty of the trees and the lovely scenery.  And we can take part in all kinds of cultural festivals, whether they’re Chinese, Japanese or things closer to home like Hull Fair.  But what we mustn’t do is worship any other gods that might be linked with these things;  so we can enjoy nature, but mustn’t worship nature as if Mother Earth were a god;  we can enjoy making Chinese dragons, but we mustn’t think it’s a god of any kind.  We can go to Hull Fair, but we mustn’t take part in anything that God says is wrong:  like having your palm read. 

Daisy:    Because there’s only one God?

Me:    Exactly.  But it’s not just religious things that can take God’s place as number one in our lives? 

Daisy:  What do you mean?

Me:  Well think about the things that are really important in your life.  Things that you love or that you couldn’t imagine doing without?

Daisy:  Well mum and dad.  I love them. 

Me:  Well that’s a good start.   What else.

Daisy:   My friends, my Wii and all the new games I got for Christmas, Brownies, gymnastics and, of course, chocolate. 

Me:  So if I asked you to put them in order of what was most important and then next important, what would the list look like?

Daisy:  Well mum and dad at the top, then the Wii, but then I suppose it depends on the game, and you can’t play some of the games without a friend, so maybe friends should be next.  But then I love chocolate.  Oh I don’t know. 

Me:    And where would God be in the list?

Daisy:  Well he’d have to be up there with mum and dad of course.

Me:  But God says you shall have no other gods before me.  Yes it means that we shouldn’t worship any other religious gods.  But it also means that God wants to be Number 1 in our lives.    Which is what we can see from this month’s banner.  [banner 1 on screen] 
For God’s people, the Lord God must be the most important thing in our lives;  even more important that chocolate and computer games. 

Daisy:  What even more important than mummy and daddy as well. 

Me:  Well Commandment Number 5 is all about loving and obeying our Parents as we’ll see.  But yes, it does mean that we should love God even more than we love our parents.   And that’s hard isn’t it?  I am the Lord your God who rescued you from sin and hell.  You shall have no other gods before me.  I must be Number One in my people’s lives says the Lord God.  If we’re Christians, then we must put God first in everything. 

Daisy:  Wow!

Me:    And to help us do that we going to learn the commandments as we go through them.  So let’s all say the first one together:   [commandment 1 on screen]

Everyone:  You shall have no other Gods before me   [repeat]

Me:  And the rest of the 10 commandments are going to help us unpack even more what that means in our daily lives. 

Daisy: Can’t wait. 

Me:  Well make sure you’re here on 1 February then.   But coming back to this month, we’re going to carry on celebrating the oneness and the majesty of our great big God as we stand to sing:  Over all the earth. 

Song 3:  Over all the earth

[Daisy to exit during song]

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