THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT EXPANDED
We need to reinterpret the fifth commandment. “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” Exodus 20:12. If you read that commandment to your congregation, how many of them do you think would assume that means they should be nice to their biological parents? Of course, out of painful experiences, there will be some who find that commandment very difficult to obey, but probably the majority would assume that was one of the easier commandments to complete.
Do you recall the incident where Jesus was responding to his mother and brothers coming to speak to him, and Jesus replied, “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” How does that expand your understanding of the commandment? Now honoring your mother and father expands to all those in the congregation present, past, and future.
SPEAKING OF SHAME
I spoke about how that commandment may be difficult for some people because of painful experiences in their family. The same is true for many in the church. To effectively respond to this commandment, we need to understand the importance of talking about shame. Shame, as Brene’ Brown speaks of it in her TED talks, is a fear of not being worthy. Remember, this is different than guilt. Guilt is based on an action–I did something wrong. Shame is a feeling that I am not worthy.
The Biblical story of the community of faith speaks openly about unworthy people being made worthy by God to effect good purpose. Most of the lead figures in the story of faith are deeply flawed but are celebrated because of what God has done through them.
HONORING SHAMEFUL PARENTS
If a congregation is able to speak honestly about their history, they will discover how some very human and flawed people have been used by God to accomplish some amazing things in founding and nurturing your church. Too often we try to cover up the shameful parts and only talk about the good parts. If a pastor is able to integrate this rocky past into the liturgy of the story of the church’s faith journey, s/he is truly honoring the parents of the congregation. The pastor is also helping to establish a sense of courage and God given worth to the present congregation. Suddenly we don’t need to arrive at perfection with all the answers to our doubts before we can be the TRUE CHURCH. As God worked through our ancestors, so God can work through us. We are worthy servants and we don’t need to be anxious about our weaknesses. In fact, God’s power is made perfect through our weakness 2 Cor 12:9.
PARENTAL COMFORT IN ANXIETY
When we honor our parental ancestors in our congregation, we are set free of the tyranny of perfection and liberated to dare greatly. We need not be anxious about the future. As a congregation, we should heed Jesus’ words, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” Mat 6:34.