I have been helping to prepare a Community Feast here in Kingston that will offer us the opportunity to sit with First Nations neighbours and share an evening of food and music. It is being co-hosted by the Katarokwi Grandmother’s Council and KAIROS Canada, taking up the journey toward healing and reconciliation. (See a notice below the Order of Service with all the details.) During the week I was reminded of a series of paintings Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin—The Creator’s Sacrifice by Cree artist Ovide Bighetty, and one in particular caught my eye this week – ‘Betrayal’.
We continue our journey through the ten words of God and good, arriving now at the third, ‘You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses this name’ (Exodus 20:7). In a very real sense, it is all about betrayal.
When Moses asked by what name he would refer to the Holy One, the answer came ‘I am who I am’ (Exodus 3:14). Worked from the linguistic derivative of the verb ‘to be’ in Hebrew, the Holy Name came to known as YHWH, translated into English as Jehovah, or LORD. The Holy One would be known by working freedom for the Hebrew slaves, and later by working freedom for all humanity in Christ, but the Holy Name reminded all of the profound sovereignty of the Holy One.
In earlier translations into English, this third commandment spoke of taking the LORD’s name in vain, and it came to be reduced to swearing. The New Revised Standard Version challenges us with the broader, more demanding, dimensions of this ‘word’. We make wrongful use of the name of LORD when we speak, invoking God for our own purposes (whether it be within the church to justify our own plans and prejudices or a politician to appear pious and trustworthy), but also as we live, bearing God’s name as God’s people but living without God’s care for the poor and despoiling God’s good creation.
Back to Bighetty’s canvas … That kiss of the disciple reminded me that the Holy One is hurt most deeply by those closest, by us … and not by our words but by our actions do we betray the Name of the good God most grievously. It is in being reminded of this, and it is in acknowledging this, that we are opened to new beginnings, that we are set on the highway of life once again, by the grace of God. Thank God for these signs, these good ‘words’, these commandments, along the way.