d r a f t

Week 2 – Do Not Make an Image for Yourself

Editor’s (admin’s) note: Lightly edited email sent to participants in a Sunday evening adult faith formation Zoom discussion that Debi and I are co-facilitating at our Lutheran church in Springfield, Illinois. It follows Words of Life: Jesus and the Promise of the Ten Commandments Today, a book with supplemental material by the Rev. Adam Hamilton of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in suburban Kansas City.

Thanks so much to everyone who made our first faith formation session such a success! Starting early in order to chat (and get people linked up on Zoom) worked so well, we’re doing it again. Debi and I will launch the meeting on Zoom at 5:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6, and we *promise* to get into the main lesson at 6. […]

For Sunday we’ll be reading Chapter 2 of Adam Hamilton’s “Words of Life” and watching his video “Week 2: Do Not Make an Image for Yourself” [embedded above]. 

No doubt you’ve been noticing the Methodist version of the 10 Commandments that Hamilton uses is a little different than ours. He quotes the second commandment like this: “Do not make an idol for yourself …,” but Luther’s Small Catechism skips right over it and goes on to prohibit taking the Lord’s name in vain. That’s because the United Methodists — like most Protestants in America — follow Protestant reformer John Calvin in numbering the commandments; Luther retained the Catholic system, which follows St. Augustine. Here’s a link:


Methodists and Lutherans aren’t the only ones to number the commandments differently, but that’s hardly surprising. They’ve been around at least 3,000 years, and they’re fundamental texts to two of the world’s religions. They aren’t numbered in the Hebrew Bible, and, as far as I can tell, there could be anywhere from seven to 11, depending on how we count them. There’s a very good summary of all the differences in the gospel according to Wikipedia:  

(Here’s a screenshot of Wikipedia’s table. The versions we’re concerned with are T, which stands for the Talmud; R, for Reformed, or Calvinist; and L, for Lutheran): 


Since we’re reading Hamilton’s book, we’ll follow his lead in our discussions, but it’s worth going back and taking a look at what Luther does with the first commandment. As he explains it in the Small Catechism, it’s short and sweet:

The First Commandment: You shall have no other gods. 

What is this? or What does this mean?: We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.  

That’s all. But he returns to it in his discussion of the first article of the Apostle’s Creed: 

The First Article: On Creation

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 

What is this? or What does this mean? 

I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property—along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.

Some questions to think about:

How is Luther’s catechism similar to what Hamilton and Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff, whom he interviews in the videos, have to say about the first commandment? In what ways is it different? How much do the differences matter?

As we go along, we will see that Luther begins his discussion of each of the commandments by repeating: We are to fear and love God … I have a hunch that Hamilton and Rabbi Nemitoff will return to the same theme, and the similarities will outweigh the differences. But I want to keep an open mind on it, and I’ll keep asking myself: How much do the differences matter? What do you think?

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