In the Lectionary

October 8, Ordinary 27A (Exodus 20:1–4, 7–9, 12–20)

In an uncertain, murky time, God gives the people a gift: ten laws.

How do we build something different? Many of us find ourselves asking this question. It has become clear that current structures, systems, mindsets, practices, and theologies are not working, and we want to make a change. But too often we unintentionally rebuild different-looking versions of the same broken systems, the same corrupt hierarchies. We recognize that we need deeper change, but we are not always sure what to do with this recognition.

As Audre Lorde famously wrote, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” How do we bring new tools into play—tools that, in Lorde’s words, “enable us to bring about genuine change”?

I imagine the Israelites wrestled with questions like these as they wandered in the desert. It was a liminal space: no longer in Egypt, but not yet in the promised land. No longer eating the food of Pharaoh, but not yet farming and herding for themselves—and, in the meantime, subsisting on miraculously provided water, quail, and manna. No longer forcefully subjected to Egyptian laws, but not yet having laws of their own. No longer enslaved, but not yet sure exactly what freedom looks like.