March 7, 2017
(excerpted from free indeed: devotions for Lent 2017, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis)
The Seventh Commandment:
You shall not steal.
What is this? or What does this mean?
We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbours' money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.
For my careening cabbie, the infrequent and oft-exaggerated dangers of public life were clearly outweighed by the benefits of interacting daily with strangers. He welcomed their company not merely because they helped him make a living - they helped him feel alive. As he practiced hospitality toward the stranger, he grew more at home, embracing rather than fearing the tensions of diversity as a path of learning and living.
- Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy
Bridging the distance between us:
All of the first-year divinity school students stood in a single line across the middle of a long, narrow room. We were a diverse group: racially and ethnically, men and women, a wide age range, a lengthy list of Christian denominations, as well as atheists and agnostics. We stood in our line, and leaders asked us questions. It was going well...and then:
"Take a step off the line if you've ever stolen something."
Almost everyone took a step. I didn't. One of my classmates noticed and yelled, "Liar! Is the next questions about lying, because this one needs to take a step for that!" Well, if they'd asked for people to take a step if they'd ever lied, I would have been in that group. But, I wasn't lying about not stealing.
I've never stolen anything, but I participate in a culture where fear of stealing leads many of us to build higher and higher walls, to fear our neighbours and barricade ourselves in our castles.
The space between my classmate and me was wider than one step, and we knew it.
God, tear down the walls of fear we build around us. Jesus, bridge our divides. Amen.