The focus throughout this summer is on Luther's Small Catechism. We already focused on the 2 sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Now this first Sunday and Wednesday in July we are starting the 10 Commandments beginning with the first three commandments.
1st Commandment "You are to have no other gods."
2nd Commandment "You are not to take the name of God in vain."
3rd Commandment "You are to hallow the day of rest."
The preface statement to the 1st commandment is God saying, "I am, the Lord your God." It connects to the story of the burning bush when Moses heard God's name as "I am." In that encounter Moses took his shoes off because he was on holy ground connected to a song I was recently introduced to that you can find on YouTube here.
"Who's #1? God's #1." This is one way to think about the first commandment. A song starts off saying, "I thought #1 would always be me" but ends up saying, "I can't even walk without holding your hand" reminds me of this first commandment and the truth to remember. Listen to the song on YouTube here.
I also wanted to share in this space some of the insights from Luther's Large Catechism which gives more detailed teaching on these basics of faith. I find much of the language still fresh and engaging as Luther's passion for teaching and sharing the faith comes through.
This is from, "The Book of Concord" translated by Kolb and Wengert. It can be found on p.386-7 of the print edition on The First Commandment from the Large Catechism section.
"You are to have no other gods."
That is, you are to regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What does "to have a god" mean, or what is God?
Answer: A "god" is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one.
Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.
The intention of this commandment, therefore, is to require true faith and confidence of the heart, which fly straight to the one true God and cling to him alone. What this means is: "See to it that you let me alone be your God, and never search for another." In other words: "Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself, will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else."
So that it may be understood and remembered, I must explain this a little more plainly by citing some everyday examples of the opposite. There are some who think that they have God and everything they need when they have money and property; they trust in them and boast in them so stubbornly and securely that they care for no one else. They, too, have a god (mammon by name), that is, money and property—on which they set their whole heart. This is the most common idol on earth. Those who have money and property feel secure, happy, and fearless, as if they were sitting in the midst of paradise. On the other hand, those who have nothing doubt and despair as if they knew of no god at all. We will find very few who are cheerful, who do not fret and complain, if they do not have mammon. This desire for wealth clings and sticks to our nature all the way to the grave.
So, too, those who boast of great learning, wisdom, power, prestige, family, and honor and who trust in them have a god also, but not the one, true God. Notice again, how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are when they have such possessions, and how despondent they are when they lack them or when they are taken away. Therefore, I repeat, the correct interpretation of this commandment is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart trusts completely.