Daily Devotion 19 May 2021

Create a peaceful space to pause, and allow yourself to feel God’s presence alongside you, as near to you as your own breath. In following the reflection below, as a church we will draw closer to God and to one another as we grow in faith and deepen our sense of belonging to God.

Exodus 20:7 ‘A Commandment Not to Curse’

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

My parents loved having our daughters to stay and because we lived nearby the visits were frequent. Once when the girls were very small, they were helping my mother, who was struggling to get the fire to light. “Oh bother!” she said in frustration at another failed attempt. She was somewhat taken aback, she told us later, when her granddaughters piped up, “that’s all right, Grandma,” said one, “you can say bother!” while the other added, “But you mustn’t say blast!”.

One of my dictionaries defines ‘blast’ as the mildest of swear words, most of them say it isn’t swearing at all, and it definitely isn’t based on God’s name. But since a lot of swear words are based on God’s name, or that of Jesus, or on some sort of corruption of either, remembering this story started me thinking about the third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord  thy God in vain” or as the NRSV translates it, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God”.

We all recognise the obvious misuses of God’s name – as a curse, when something goes wrong, or swearing to an untruth on God’s name – but what else could there be? It’s important to remember that God’s “name” means much more than simply the word spelt out by the letters G-O-D. God’s ‘name’ stands for all that is true of him, it’s everything that God himself is and does. We’re to show reverence to everything by which he’s made himself known to us – his word, his promises, his commandments and of course his Son, Jesus himself. Personally, I would also include the world around us, that God has created, which involves showing perhaps not reverence but respect to all human beings too, and loving our neighbour.

Maybe the best way to be sure of not taking the Lord’s name in vain is to live up to it. That is very difficult and we can’t manage it by ourselves. However, when we take Christ’s name as a member of his church, he gives us each a gift – the gift of his Holy Spirit, living inside us. The Spirit empowers us from within to do all things in the name of Jesus. He teaches us through God’s word and through each other. Pentecost, which we celebrate this Sunday, is the season when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the first disciples and we give thanks to God for that same gift to each of us in our lives today.

Prayer:

Spirit of God,
Come among us, move among us, work among us.
Breathe love into our hearts and light into our witness.
Inspire us and show us how to live up to the name of the God we adore.

Come as fire, refining and cleansing.
Come as the wind, blowing the cobwebs from our lives.
Come as a dove, enfolding us in your peace.
Come to us, move in us, work through us, now and always.

Amen.

Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Ann Caffyn.
Image freely available online.

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