“Don’t you know, Granddad?” Ben had arrived at short notice and I was checking whether he had eaten. With great relish, he announced that he had had ‘a chocolate sandwich’ amongst other things for his tea and wasn’t hungry (It didn’t stop him from chip pinching as Diane & I had fish and chips, nor from needing a biscuit for both hands later). “Oh,” I enquired, “and how do you make a chocolate sandwich?” Ben looked at me in a pitying manner, put his hands on his hips, and asked “Don’t you know, Granddad? I’ll tell you.” Ben’s hands moved to demonstrate. Holding one hand palm up he began, “First you take a slice of bread, and then you spread it with chocolate.” His other hand demonstrated spreading with chocolate. “Then you take another slice of bread and put it on top…” his other hand was placed palm down on his first hand, “…and there you are – a chocolate sandwich!” He waved his hand airily.
I think I was waiting for him to do the Meercat “Simples” but he was off to play with the Lego, while his educationalist grandmother observed approvingly that he had given clear sequenced instructions, obviously a measurable and tickable curriculum achievement. A moment later, he reappeared and took my hand, “Come on, Granddad, I need a soldier’s hat.” Even if Granddads were so dense they needed simple instructions for the most obvious activity, they were quite good for hunting through piles of Lego for the required hat – but in fact Grandma had to hunt for the hat as I was on my way to collect the fish and chips, and had paused to see if I was getting anything for Ben. On my return, I was told by Ben and Grandma officially that Grandmas are not good at finding soldier’s hats and ‘I need…’ counting fingers, ‘…six’ – and so to work!
We entered Lent in February and we won’t leave until April; it’s a time for reflection and self-examination, a time to measure ourselves against God’s plan. God gave us simple instructions on how to live well with Him and each other: the 10 commandments, but we’re not at all good at listening and following these simple instructions for life. You can find them in the bible at Exodus Chapter 20, repeated in Deuteronomy Chapter 5, and they make a very good basis to re-examine yourself during Lent, especially if you see how Jesus sharpens them in Matthew Chapter 5. At the Baptism Preparation Course, we teach the parents the 10 commandments using your hands, so they can know them, in order, and teach them to their children; how can you use them as a measure if you don’t know them?
- Point upwards with the right index finger and say “1. There is only one God.”
- Extend left index finger and make right index finger bend up and down towards the left index finger “2. You shall not bow down to any idol.”
- Hold up and spread the right hand middle three fingers to make a ‘W’ “3. Watch your Words.” (don’t take the Lord’s name in vain)
- Hold four right fingers together – a family going to church “4. Keep Holy the Lord’s Day.”
- Put right hand to forehead and make an ‘American-type’ salute “5. Respect your parents”
- Stab the right hand with the index finger of the left “6. You shall not kill.”
- Make right hand and two fingers of left ‘dance’ then separate the two & put behind your back – it’s the office party! “7. You shall not commit adultery.” (For children, I suggest you make it a wedding party and send off the happy couple “7. Honour Marriage.”)
- Hold up both hands with thumbs hidden – what some do if you break this one. “8. Don’t steal.”
- Let the right thumb ‘grow’ like Pinocchio’s nose. “9. Don’t lie.”
- Use both hands as if peering over a high fence and mutter ‘I like that – and that.’ “10. Don’t covet.”
In Matthew 19.16-24 a rich young man makes the blasé claim that he has kept ‘all these’ commandments but when challenged, he can’t let go his wealth, and so leaves Jesus – and life. Even though the wealth is his, grasping it amounts to covetousness (10th commandment), which in turn breaks the 2nd Commandment of bowing down to idols. St Paul puts it bluntly “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away.” (The Bible, Colossians 3.5-8a)
Praying that you may this Lent hear the simple instructions and turn positively to Christ Jesus and his ways and so know transformation, peace and life eternal
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Cox.