Saturday, July 25, 2020

Pentecost 8A

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

31He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." 33He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

Verses 34-43 between what the lectionary peeps chose for today are Jesus' interpretation of the parable of the weeds in earlier verses 24-30.

44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51"Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes."

52And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."

Prayer – COVID-19

As a new world emerges, trust God's future and pray through words from The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church USA and Native American of the Choctaw People.

"Something sacred is coming this way."

That is how my ancestors would have said it. In the midst of all this turmoil and confusion, when we cannot clearly see the path before us, when we feel trapped in a situation we cannot control, then I believe the wise elders of my holy heritage would climb to the high place of the heart, draw the circle of reason and faith around them, and stand to sing their prayers into the open sky of the history to come.

They would not shrink into a corner afraid, but rise up to catch the first light of what was coming into being all around them.

We are living in a time of emergence.
We are the witnesses to a great renewal.
The world is full of the fear of birth and change, but that transformation will one day be our blessing.
Do not be afraid, but be believing.
Come to the place where the ancestors are already standing.
Come and see.

"Something sacred is coming this way."


A couple weeks ago I mentioned Matthew 13 includes the biblical number of 7 parables. Paraballo originally was an act of throwing something edible to a crowd to tame its appetite for violence. Later on parable meant to play alongside. Parables can be similes, allegories, analogies, illustrations, metaphors, comparisons—in any case, a parable isn't "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." In today's reading Jesus makes five is like comparisons of the kingdom of heaven to familiar objects and situations.

The famous mustard seed parable in verses 31-32 compares the inbreaking Kingdom of Heaven to a seed that has almost no value if it hasn't been planted, but after the seed grows into a bush, shrub, or plant it has many medical, culinary, and other practical uses. In southern California we have mustard plants interspersed with golden poppies, an arrangement that doubtless benefits many insects, small creatures, and other organisms, and that creates legendary visual beauty. We know mustard isn't the very smallest seed, yet it's a good illustration because it's quite tiny and grows into a very large, sheltering, life-giving plant. We've learned the COVID-19 virus is sub-microscopic and it's inert without a host, yet its reach has expanded worldwide. I like to say our actions – good or bad – are synergistic, adding up to more than the sum of their small individual parts.

Scriptural Context

Every person lives in a complex context made up of countless interwoven factors that include spoken language, geography, culinary preferences, social habits, occupation, religion, family structure.

The most recent sections of the bible are two thousand years old; all of the bible comes from cultural contexts very different from ours. When Jesus talks and teaches he places his ideas within a context his listeners would understand. Story-telling was huge in the Middle East! Jesus worked as a tekton, a trade that probably encompassed both carpenter and handyman. Most of his first disciples earned their keep fishing. Like our own, their context basically was urban, with many families tending crops as farmers. In any case, even when his listeners mostly fished, they'd understand agricultural illustrations and terminology. Even if they mostly farmed the land, they'd know enough about the yield of rivers and lakes to "get" Jesus' nautical analogies.

Our Context

Everyone lives in a complex cultural context made up of countless interwoven factors that include spoken language, geography, culinary preferences, social habits, occupation, religion (or "none"), family arrangement(s).

Especially with the bible originating in a time and place so different from ours, we need to interpret it into our own situation—that's known as contextualizing, or placing it in… context. If we don't know something about the cultural context of the bible, doing that can range from hard to impossible. In addition to resources like a good study bible or the many excellent online commentaries of various lengths and degrees of sophistication, books and articles by the late Kenneth E. Bailey ("The Scholar Who Made Jesus Middle-Eastern Again") and by Amy-Jill Levine, who currently teaches at Vanderbilt Divinity School are particularly insightful.

We've discussed Martin Luther's exposition of the Ten Words or Commandments of the Sinai Covenant in his Catechisms, as he contextualized the demands of the commands into his own sixteenth-century Europe. Pastor Peg told us the people she asked about relevance of Luther's interpretation to contemporary life thought his ideas mostly still applied, with the exception of parts of his application of honoring earthly parents.

As twenty-first century people, we've learned to migrate between different contexts; most of us are quite skilled at a type of code-switching that's not so much changing our own identity and self-presentation as it is fitting into the context where we currently find ourselves.

Creating Our Own Parables

Jesus used parables to show listeners what he meant related to their own everyday lives. What comparisons would you make if you were explaining to a newcomer the…

• ministry of Jesus

• reign of heaven on earth

• identity and nature of the church

• particular mission and ministry of LCM (outside of God's call to the entire church catholic)?

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Pentecost 7A

Genesis 28:10-19a

10Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.

12And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13And the Lord stood beside him and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

16Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place-—and I did not know it!" 17And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." 18So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz.

Prayer – Psalm 86:11-17

Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.

O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid. Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me. KJV


We've had disturbing news about COVID-19 continuing to spread across the USA, with hotspots especially where people haven't been taking precautions of wearing masks and staying six feet apart. Our short worship videos have been wonderful and will be great to have in the eternal archives; checking out what churches around the world are up to has been a gift, but real-life in-person gatherings will be so much better.

Today's First Reading

We're in the first book of the 66 that comprise the Good Book: Genesis, about origins or beginnings. Today's Jacob episode comes midway in his very long story, after he deceived his father Isaac to steal his brother's birthright, a while before he reached his uncle's place in Haran and married Leah and Rachel, a few chapters earlier than the wrestling match that dislocated his hip, caused God to change Jacob's name to Israel. You may remember Jacob as father of the twelve tribes of Israel?!

This is one of several dreams so life-transforming they got into the annals of scripture.

• What other dreams and dreamers in either Old Testament or New Testament do you remember? Do you have a favorite?

Places in this passage include Beersheba that means well of the oath because legend says Abraham dug the well after he and Abimelech made a pact or agreement (Genesis 21:31). Isaac also called the well Beersheba (Genesis 26:31-33). Jacob is on the way to Haran, a place name that means "parched." After experiencing the wondrous presence of God where he slept, Jacob calls it Beth-El, "house of God." The place name Luz that probably refers to an almond tree also is the same as the familiar Spanish word for light!

Our Everydays

When we talk about and act upon God's call for us to do God's work with our hands we are being soooo scripturally authentic! We can trace God's charge to humanity for stewardship and care back to Adam and Eve; Jesus promised we'd do even greater works than he did! Most likely I speak for everyone when I say how satisfying helping people can be. As the pandemic continues, everyone appreciates and prays for frontline essential workers whether at a medical or care facility, supermarket, fire or police, to name a scant handful.

Jacob "…dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it." When he recruited Nathaniel, jesus said, "You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man/ Human One." (John 1:51) In Jesus of Nazareth, God is here with us at the bottom of the ladder, walking among us and with us, clothed in the vulnerability of our humanity, in a body that's subject to woundedness, death, and decay. In Jesus, God lets down a ladder and comes to us. As the King James Version of today's psalm sings, "thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me." God especially comes to us in of Jesus, the ultimate Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Just as for Jacob – and for Nathaniel – God is here with us; God wants to bless us and God will bless us. This story is about Jacob; it's about us as the contemporary people of God, but mostly it is about God who is with us unbeckoned, unmediated, in spite of everything we've done (we probably haven't been as outrageous as Jacob). We often call this narrative "Jacob's Dream." Even more than the inspired biblical writers, we know sleeping and dreaming are different overall conditions than our waking hours.

Often we meet Jesus face to face in those acts of service and compassion. In our actions, people frequently encounter Jesus face-to-face. And it's not about being human doings rather than human beings; it's about living the way God calls and enables us to live.

Back to Jacob at Bethel

Jacob's sleeping dream when he heard God's promise of land, descendants, blessings to all, and constant protection made him especially aware of God still being with him after he woke up—so much so that Jacob declared it was Beth-El, house of the Lord. Last week I asked where in nature you especially sense God.

• For this week, outside of times you meet God face-to-face in another human, where can you simply be, and know you are in a holy place, in God's house?

• Where do you ordinarily most expect God to show up?

• Do you expect to meet God in your dreams?

Maybe you know the African-American spiritual "We are climbing Jacob's Ladder?" There's another Jacob's ladder song with much better theology and a tune's that's a lot more fun—though a little harder to sing. Some readers of this blog may know it; I'll add the music to the tune when my image hosting starts working again.

1 As Jacob with travel was weary one day,
at night on a stone for a pillow he lay;
he saw in a vision a ladder so high,
that its foot was on earth and its top in the sky:

Alleluia to Jesus, who died on the tree
and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me,
and has raised up a ladder of mercy for me.

2 The ladder is long, it is strong and well-made,
has stood hundreds of years and is not yet decayed;
many millions have climbed it and reached Zion's hill,
many millions by faith now are climbing it still: [Refrain]

3 Come, let us ascend! All may climb it who will,
for the angels of Jacob are guarding it still;
and remember, each step that by faith we pass o'er,
many prophets and martyrs have trod it before: [Refrain]

4 And when we arrive at the haven of rest,
we shall hear the glad words, "Come to me all the blest,
here are regions of light, here are mansions of bliss."
Who would not want to climb such a ladder as this. [Refrain]

tune: Jacob's Ladder or Jacob's Vision

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Pentecost 6A

Entrance Psalm 65:9-13

9-13Oh, visit the earth,
    ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
    fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
    Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
    soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
    bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
    scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
    Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
    a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
    Oh, oh, let them sing!

The Message (MSG) | © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

• Psalm 65 describes creation rejoicing because God visits earth. This psalm and today's reading from Isaiah 55 are very much like Psalms 96, 98 and 148 appointed for Christmas. In that nativity poetry, when God comes to us in the baby Jesus, mountains and hills, valleys, streams, and rivers also sing for joy, clap their hands…

Isaiah 55:10-13

10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

• During the Babylonian exile, via the writer we sometimes call Second Isaiah, God provided and people received assurance the Word would bear fruit, would achieve God's desire. Hebrew here is dabar that denotes both speech and action—walking the talk. In a wonderful parallel to Psalm 65, these verses promises God will send us humans out with joy, lead us with shalom; mountains and hills will sing, trees will applaud like an excited audience.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

3And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!"

18"Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

Matthew So Far

• Matthew 1 through 4 tell us who Jesus is with his genealogy, birth, and very early life.
• Chapters 5 through 7 covered the Sermon on the Mount.
• In Matthew 8 and 9 Jesus moves from proclaimed words into enacted deeds that help explain his teachings.
• In chapters 10 through 12 we've heard Jesus' instructions and commissioning for mission, for the church sent out into the world. That's us, because all of us are sent people or apostles! Jesus also warns us what may happen to us as his ambassadors.


• Matthew 13 includes the biblical number of 7 parables, starting out with one about seed, sower, and earth (dirt, ground, land).

Paraballo originally meant to throw something edible to a crowd in order to tame its appetite for violence. Later on "parable" assumed the meaning to play alongside. Parables don't necessarily contain knowledge or abstract truth; parables aren't moral tales, arguments, or objective statements. Parables can be similes, allegories, metaphors, comparisons—except when they're not.

Today's Gospel Reading

• This Parable of the Sower comes with Jesus' own interpretation. Greek for "grain" in 13:8 is fruit. This is the Parable of the Sower: the person who has the seed and who plants the seed. This isn't the Parable of the Different Types of Ground or even Different Harvest Yields. It's not about how prepared and receptive we are (rocky ground, rich dirt, well-prepared soil, spent earth…) to the seed of the word; it's all about the boundlessly extravagant generosity of the sower.

However, we all know each of us is every one of these ground conditions at various times, often during the same day. All of us reading this blog know God assumes the burden of creation's wholeness and salvation; all of us know God calls us to live as God's presence on earth; all of us know to draw upon scientific insights and our own experiences. For example, remember when we first planted milkweed in the church window boxes to attract Monarch butterflies? Apparently it was Pastor Peg's first time planting milkweed, and as abundant as the results looked, she later discovered a different variety would be even better.

COVID-19: Reflecting

For today? The psalm-writer, Isaiah, and Matthew's Jesus all express confidence in the effectiveness of God's word and presence. Amidst ongoing pandemic and protests, instead of contextualizing these passages by figuring out how they align with where we are today, let's simply consider the astonishing beauty of God's creation. Our heads and hearts need a break!

• Do you have a favorite place where you especially sense God's presence?

• Do you have house plants or a garden where you live?

• Do you have a favorite national park or botanical garden or greenhouse?

• Do you grow some of your own veggies or herbs?

• Do you ever buy cut flowers at the farmers' market or supermarket?

• Do you draw or paint or photograph creation scenes? (I enjoy doing all of those things.)

• What state or country you haven't been to would you especially love to visit because of the reputation of their nature and wildlife?

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Pentecost 5A


Lockdown continues; the number of cases in the USA continues to rise. We may start parking lot-courtyard worship during August or September, which sounds wonderful! We can meet at 10 for Sunday School (it probably will be bring your own drinks and donuts), segue into worship, and then ease into a combined actual-virtual Zoom coffee hour-bible study.

Prayer on Psalm 145:8-14

God, we know you are full of grace, mercy, and love. Your goodness and compassion embrace all creation. Your creatures reflect your glory; they proclaim your presence to all the world. We trust the faithfulness of your word, the graciousness of everything you do. God, you always have cared for the weak and broken; resurrection from death always has been your response.

Thank you again for the many committed essential workers. Please continue to keep them safe; please continue to help us be your presence wherever we go.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Zechariah 9:9-12

9Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the [waterless] pit. 12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Today we get selections from Handel's Messiah!

Similar to dividing the book of Isaiah into three major sections, the writings of this post-exilic prophet who ministered during the restoration of Jerusalem and Judah divide into 1st Zechariah (chapters 1 through 8) and 2nd Zechariah (chapters 9 through 14). Zechariah lived around the same time as Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai.

All four canonical gospels identify Zechariah 9:9 with Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week:

• Mark 11:1-11
• Luke 19:28-38
• Matthew 21:1-11
• John 12:12-19

Today's passage from Second Zechariah includes the florid soprano aria "Rejoice, greatly, O Daughter of Zion" that announces a gentle ruler whose dominion or reign will mean the end of war and the fullness of shalom. Next in the Messiah, an alto or mezzo-soprano promises "He shall feed his flock," followed by a soprano singing "Come Unto me."

Matthew 11:7-15

7As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8…Someone dressed in soft robes?… 9What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, and much more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written, 'Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you to prepare the way for you.' 11No one greater born of a woman than John, but the least of these in my kingdom still is greater. … 14And if you are willing to accept it, John is Elijah who is to come. 15Let anyone with ears listen!."

In these verses that come immediately before the gospel for today, Jesus says about his cousin, "No one born of a woman [no human] is greater than John." Then Jesus adds that from his viewpoint, John is so great that for him John is the prophet Elijah who had to return before the Messianic age could happen.

Jesus' cousin John was the son of temple priest Zechariah whose song of praise to God at John's birth included, "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways." [Luke 1:76] With confidence in the promises of the God of his priestly father, John went into the wilderness by the Jordan River to call out religious and political injustice and greed, to offer a baptism of repentance, and to announce the ministry of his cousin Jesus. You may remember the Jordan was the boundary and border between Israel's desert wandering and their settling down in the Promised Land?

However, despite John's importance, Jesus insists "the least" in his reign or kingdom is even greater than J the B. Last week I quoted the late chef and Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon's succinct observation God saves ONLY the "last, lost, little, and least."

Although John the Baptist's father's name was Zechariah, he probably wasn't even a distant relative of today's featured prophet Zechariah. Like Zachary, Zechariah means the Lord has remembered, so the hope it offered made Zach a fairly common name.

Matthew 11:16-19

16"But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17"We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon'; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

Today's gospel reading gives us a famous contrast between rugged, untamed John the Baptist by the riverside outside polite society and his slightly younger cousin Jesus. It's become common to say Jesus demonstrates the lifestyle God's people are supposed to have, John's doesn't make it, yet John's invitation to all clearly models grace and community on the margins, rather than only at the established centers of society. Even people (like us?!) who think we know how Jesus' followers are supposed to be, appear, and act, still recognize the same God acting in different ways in different people and varied circumstances.

Matthew 11:28-30

28"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Today we get selections from Handel's Messiah!

Matthew 11:28-29, rest – Exodus 33:14, "I will give you rest." In Genesis 2:1-3, God's own sabbath rest after creating the world and everything in it.

Over the past few weeks in Matthew's gospel, Jesus has given instructions and cautions for the church in motion. To be church means first to be gathered in the Holy Spirit around word and sacrament and then to be missionaries or apostles (both words refer to being sent) in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost. But how far and wide have we been able to move lately?

Recent months have given anyone with a heart for justice and compassion opportunities to identify and call out injustice, violence, and pain in ways that help raise awareness and create hope for a just, free future for all inhabitants of planet earth. The pandemic has people shutting down and staying in, while the call for justice inspires us to get up, get out there, show our concerns and urge the powers that be toward systemic changes.

There's not very often only one valid interpretation of a scriptural passage, but these three verses can't be interpreted as Jesus' telling us to get out there and get active in the thick messiness of the world's needs. Here as Jesus invites us with the inclusive word "all," he promises us restful relief from all the overwhelms.

• If you could sit with Jesus right now, what would you tell him?

• What burden would you ask Jesus to lift from you as an individual?

• What burden would you first beg Jesus to remove from your immediate surroundings—maybe only your biological family, possibly only southern California?

• What is the very first weight you wish Jesus would lift from the entire world?

• Maybe some of us even need to rest from the heaviness of our incessant pleading prayers to God that everything will get right again?

PS: Notes on yoke in verses 29-30: a pair or a yoke of oxen shares the burden and a well-constructed yoke rests lightly on their shoulders, so "yoke" can refer to the pair of oxen wearing the instrument that joins them together or to the (usually wooden) yoke itself. Jesus could have been contrasting the negative yoke and burden of religious and imperial demands with the light weight of keeping covenant with God and neighbor by obeying the ten word or commandments.