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Exodus 20:1-17 Commandments and Law

By Tseday Z. Tegegn

(Graduate student at UBC Department of Pathology and Laboratory medicine, Redemption Church Service Crew)

What a great time to reflect on this passage while taking a break from school work and staying in a beautiful island. This past weekend, I had an opportunity to travel to Denman Island, BC for an annual retreat organized by UBC’s Intervarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship. This retreat is conveniently scheduled during the reading break so that hard working graduate students at UBC have a chance to rest.

The travel is long but it comes with lovely experience of riding two ferries and a beautiful drive up from Nanaimo to Buckley bay on Vancouver Island. Leaving fact that Denman is an amazing island to visit, the weekend felt restful in just the fact that we got away from the big city and got out of routine.

What a great way to change a routine than to work in a farm instead of our usual desk and computers (for me it also involves laboratory work). For few hours of Saturday, we collected eggs, feed the cows, split wood etc. Until our supper was ready, we walked along the beach and did short hike around the cottage we stayed in. Most importantly, we had memorable times praying and sharing meals together followed by worm discussions around the fire place (there were a lot of games and puzzles involved too).

While enjoying my stay in Denman, I was reflecting on Exodus 20:1-17 passage and thinking how it may be useful for us in the lent season that we are in. Since the location and setting we are in change our understanding of passages we read, my understanding of this passage is shaped with my experience at Denman.

Two points that stood out to me and I quite often overlook as a graduate student and modern day adult were:

·    Making God a priority in our lives

3 “Do not put any other gods in place of me… 5 Do not bow down to them or worship them. I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. I cause the sins of the parents to affect their children. I will cause the sins of those who hate me to affect even their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Among many things that can replace God in our lives as grad students, I think we could agree that our smartphones and electronics are one of the main candidates. The main reason being we can justify our use as they are deeply integrated into our daily lives.

As much as I would like to say I did not use my phone or the internet during my stay in Denman. I had enough reasons to rationalize my use weather it’s documenting my stay or checking the weather. At times, I was preoccupied with taking pictures instead of absorbing the experience. The most interesting point was that I was aware of what I was doing and really judging myself.

The electronics we worship and swear by that take away precious time spent focused in our work and most importantly quality time communicating with God. On line 6 it tells us “Do not bow down to them or worship them. I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. I cause the sins of the parents to affect their children. I will cause the sins of those who hate me to affect even their grandchildren and great-grandchildren”.

Although I cannot picture how our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will look at us. I sure know that I don’t want to be remembered as less present in most the activities we take part in. and disconnected with what is going on around me since I am documenting everything for later. I have to admit that it gets really tricky when your favorite hobby is photography and journaling (which I claim as my interest). The question then be do we draw the line?

Especially in the lent season that we are in where we should maximize our connection to God and pay attention to the real moments that God has created for us to enjoy.

·    keeping Sabbath

8 Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy. 9 Do all your work in six days. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to honor the LORD your God. Do not do any work on that day.

For a graduate students or any adult there is always something to do which makes us guilty to respect the Sabbath which is created to give us rest and replenish our energy for the rest of the week. It is also a way of relaying on and trusting in God that the work we have to do spread out could be completed in much shorter time if we just took a break and get back to it with full energy. Giving our body and mind a rest even though we can’t afford it is probably a very wise decisions for increasing our productivity in long-term.  

While doing farm work, I had a chance to think about my field of study in very broad spectrum. Often times doing totally different task gives our worn out mind a rest while still being productive. So for many Sabbath may not be sitting idle (especially if you spend your week sitting at work) where others they may need to be idle and let their body and mind a rest.

The questions are how to be bold enough to take unapologetic rest day? How can we structure our week that we can afford to take a Sabbath?

Tying these two points, keeping Sabbath is possible if we don’t waste time on our modern day gods and learn to use them appropriately.

What can we do for the season of lent and beyond? I challenge you and I to limit the distractions created by our unnecessary use of our smartphones (varies for each individuals) and fill those slots with short prayers on our desks or reading a verse or two to fuel the rest of our day. Be more efficient and work truly at work so we can afford a Sabbath that is enjoyable and rejuvenating. Most of all a day connects with God at much deeper level.