Sunday July 23, 2023
God in the Movies – 10 Commandments
Come all you people, come and praise your Maker (3X)
Come now and worship your God.
© 1986 World Council of churches. Used by permission OneLicense #A723756
Acknowledging the Territory
We acknowledge that, here in Yarmouth, we live work and worship in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) people first signed with the British Crown in 1725. By acknowledging this, we commit ourselves to live in Peace, Friendship and Respect.
Lighting the Christ Candle
In the flame of the Christ Candle, we see reflected the light of Christ and we commit ourselves to live in that light, sharing it with all those we meet.
Call to Worship
This place where we are gathered this day is, for us, Holy Ground.
This place where we sing songs, offer prayers and remember the stories of faith that inspire and challenge us, is Holy Ground.
God calls us here, in whispering winds and in burning flames.
God calls us to open ourselves in trust and humility.
God meets us in our vulnerability, in our humanity, and in our faith.
God meets us as we gather in worship.
So come, let us worship our God.
Opening Prayer ~ based on a prayer written by Rev. Mindi
Architect of the Universe, your voice called out over the deep darkness and brought forth light. Your voice called out over the waters and brought forth life.
Your voice called out over this earth and brought forth our very beings. Your voice continues to call out in our Universe and bring new hope and new life. Help us to hear Your voice above the hum of our complicated world and the buzz of our busy lives. Help us to hear your voice in the laughter of children, in the song of a bird, in the voice of a friend, in the sad tones of the sick and lonely, in the desperate pleas of the poor, the marginalized and the abuse. May we hear, listen, and respond to Your voice in our lives and in our world. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Let’s Sing Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah VU#651
Our first Scripture reading this morning is taken from the book of Psalms. Like many of the psalms it focuses on the glory and power of God, but this psalm specifically, speaks of the power and wonder of God’s voice.
Psalm 29 (Good News Translation)
Praise the Lord, you heavenly beings; praise God’s glory and power. Praise the Lord’s glorious name; bow down before the Holy One when he appears. The voice of the Lord is heard on the seas; the glorious God thunders, and God’s voice echoes over the ocean. The voice of the Lord is heard in all its might and majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, even the cedars of Lebanon. God makes the mountains of Lebanon jump like calves and makes Mount Hermon leap like a young bull. The voice of the Lord makes the lightning flash. God’s voice makes the desert shake; he shakes the desert of Kadesh. The Lord‘s voice shakes the oaks and strips the leaves from the trees while everyone in his Temple shouts, “Glory to God!” The Lord rules over the deep waters; God rules as king forever.
The Lord gives strength to the people and blesses them with peace.
Exodus 3:1-15 (Good News Translation)
One day while Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock across the desert and came to Sinai, the holy mountain. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a flame coming from the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire but that it was not burning up. “This is strange,” he thought. “Why isn’t the bush burning up? I will go closer and see.”
When the Lord saw that Moses was coming closer, he called to him from the middle of the bush and said, “Moses! Moses!”
He answered, “Yes, here I am.”
God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So Moses covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated in Egypt; I have heard them cry out to be rescued from their slave drivers. I know all about their sufferings, and so I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of Egypt to a spacious land, one which is rich and fertile and in which the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites now live. I have indeed heard the cry of my people, and I see how the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”
But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
God answered, “I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you.”
But Moses replied, “When I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ So what can I tell them?”
God said, “I am who I am. You must tell them: ‘The one who is called I Am has sent me to you.’ Tell the Israelites that I, the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have sent you to them. This is my name forever; this is what all future generations are to call me.
Favorite Hymn Request God Says MV#172
God in the Movies – The Ten Commandments
Today we skip ahead 20 years in our exploration of God in the movies. Although there were a number of Bible based movies released during those 20 years, few of them actually depicted any image of God. The Ten Commandments, never offers a visual image of God in human form, but it is the voice of God that plays an essential role in the story of Moses, and of this movie.
So how many of you have seen The Ten Commandments. It is perhaps the best known of all Biblical movies. It is also almost 4 hours long. Released in 1956, before some of us were even born, it is an epic film of immense scale, produced, directed, and narrated by Cecil B. DeMille. What most of you will likely not know is that this movie was actually a remake, or perhaps a reimagining of a silent film DeMille produced in 1923 by the same name. That earlier film was approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes in length so there is a lot in the 1956 version that is not in the 1923 version. The silent film depicted scenes from the story of Moses with mostly biblical quotes appearing on the screen between scenes, although some “dialogue” between characters also appeared in writing.
When DeMille pitched the movie to Paramount Studios, he was already well known and had a string of very successful movies behind him. When he informed them that he would need a budget of $8 million or more, a phenomenal amount at the time, it was only because of his past success that the studio considered such an immense project. By the time the movie was completed the final cost was more than $13 million, making it, at the time, the most expensive movie ever made.
Much of the movie was filmed in Egypt where DeMille’s crew built a veritable city in the desert. It had a 120 foot high wall which was half a mile wide and a series of two dozen 15 foot high sphinxes. More than eight thousand extras were hired, along with five thousand head of livestock. Nothing of this magnitude had ever been attempted before. Research alone into sets and costumes had a budget that likely surpassed the entire budget for most films of the time.
But Paramount Pictures’ investment paid off. In its initial release, The Ten Commandments made $83.6 million. It is still considered one of the most successful films ever produced, and continues to be shown at least once a year on many television stations, usually around Easter or Passover. The Ten Commandments would be DeMille’s last film. He died in 1959.
Now I don’t think I need to go too deeply into detail of the film, when it comes to the overall plot. It is based on the biblical story of Moses which most of us are at least somewhat familiar with. Moses was born in Egypt during the time the Israelites were slaves. Pharaoh, concerned that their numbers were growing too rapidly, decreed that every newborn male child would be killed. In order to save his life, Moses’ mother placed him in a basket and set him adrift in the River Nile. Just an interesting little side note, in the movie the baby in the basket was actually Charlton Heston’s son Fraser.
The basket was found by the Pharaoh’s sister who took Moses to the palace and raised him as her son. As an adult we are told that Moses killed an Egyptian when he witnessed the man beating a Hebrew slave. He then fled to Midian where he married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro the priest of Midian.
One day while tending the flocks in Midian, God spoke to Moses through a burning bush and sent him back to Egypt to free the slaves. Moses did as God requested, with much help from God, and the people escaped into the desert through the Red Sea which is parted before them.
Moses then took them to Mount Sinai where he went up the mountain to speak with God and to receive the Ten Commandments. But because the people didn’t think Moses would return, they built a golden calf to worship and as a result, were condemned to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. When they eventually reached the promised land, it is Joshua who leads them across the Jordan, while Moses is forbidden from entering the promised land.
Now the movie definitely takes some dramatic licence with the story and does add elements to the life of Moses that are not biblical. Overall, however, the movie follows Moses from the infant in a basket to the final mention of him standing at the summit of Mount Nebo in Moab watching as Joshua leads the people across the Jordan into the promised land.
So, if a movie made more than 65 years ago tells such a familiar story, what is it that we can learn from it today? Are they the same lessons we learn from the bible story of Moses just in a more widely accessed form? Many people who have seen this movie have never read the biblical story. The thing is, that there are a number of differences between the biblical version of the story of Moses and the version that is presented in The Ten Commandments.
In both the biblical story and of the movie Moses is a murderer. In the bible we are told that not only did Moses make sure no one was watching when he kills the Egyptian, but afterwards, he hid the body in the sand. He only fled Egypt after his crime was discovered. The movie Moses is painted in a slightly kinder light. He kills, not in a calculated, premeditated way, but in the moment, in defence of another Hebrew slave, who turns out to be Joshua, the man who would eventually take Moses’ place as leader of the Israelite people.
When God called Moses, the bible tells us the Moses basically used every excuse he could think of, to try to get out of going back to Egypt. One of the excuses he used was that he was not a good speaker, or as the King James Version of the Bible puts it, he was “slow of tongue”. So, God agreed to send Aaron with him to do the speaking. Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine anyone saying that Charlton Heston was “slow of tongue”. In the movie he comes off as a much stronger version of Moses, who is self-assured, extremely eloquent, and even, at times, somewhat arrogant.
But this summer, it is the image of God in the movies that we are focusing on. Although the other characters in each of the movies we are going to be looking at, play an essential role in revealing the image of God, it is these images of God that are the focus of this series. So, what do we learn about God from the image offered us in The Ten Commandments? This is the only movie we will be looking at this summer in which God is not portrayed in physical form. In both the Bible and the movie, God is a disembodied voice that speaks in flames of fire.
For most people, this is likely the most comfortable image of God that many of the others we will be looking at all summer. It is interesting however that the image of Moses depicted in this movie, as an old man with a white beard, is remarkable similarity to traditional images of God as an old, white haired, bearded man sitting on a throne. This may be particularly poignant as it is Heston himself who is the voice of God in the scene with the burning bush.
I can’t help but wonder if we were to encounter any of the images of God that we will be exploring this summer, which one would we have the most difficult time dismissing. Would we dismiss a human version of God as someone in need of mental health intervention? Or would we dismiss a disembodied voice as a figment of our own imagination?
Both the bible and the film The Ten Commandments clearly state the traditional belief that anyone who “sees” God will die. Does this warning affect our own ability to imagine God as a living, breathing person who talks to us? And if so, does ‘hearing’ rather than ‘seeing’ God make us more comfortable?
But why does it have to be either/or? Is it possible to both see and hear God in our own lives today? I would argue that it is definitely possible. I firmly believe that God is revealed to us in many different ways and at many different times throughout our lives. I believe that I have heard the voice of God speaking to me. In my case it has never been accompanied by a burning bush, but it has been accompanied by the sound of waves breaking on the shore, the rustle of wind through the trees, or deep, though-provoking silence. I have also heard God speak though the words of someone else, or through the written word.
And I have seen God in the beauty of nature, in the smile of a friend, in the deep sadness of someone’s eyes or in the funny quirky things that make me stop and say, “OK God, I get the point!”
Does God reveal God’s self to us in both visual and auditory ways? For me, the answer is a definite “Yes”. Sometimes, God is even revealed to me, through a movie. Amen
Let’s Sing Lead On, O Cloud of Presence VU#421
We Offer Our Gifts
Whoever we are and whatever we bring, God welcomes us. Whatever we have and whatever we share, God accepts. Here at Beacon we do not pass the offering plates but instead ask that, if you would like to support the work of this church with your financial contributions you place your gift on the plates in the entryway either on your way in or on your way out. You can also donate online or by pre-authorized remittance. And so, whatever gift you bring, financial or not, let us offer them to God.
Offertory Response MV#191
What can I do? What can I bring? What can I say? What can I sing?
I’ll sing with joy. I’ll say a prayer. I’ll bring my love. I’ll do my share.
© Paul Rumbolt and Michele McCarthy used by permission OneLicense #A72375
We Offer Our Prayers
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
God of all things seen and unseen, in you we glimpse the wonder and awe of what creation was truly intended to be. We see the love with which you created and continue to create and sustain all that is. Yet we also see how far we have drifted from that perfect intention. We thank you that, despite all of this, you have never insulated yourself from us or from the pain of this world. Instead, you reveal yourself to us in so many ways. We thank you for all the ways in which we connect with you and we thank you that, through Christ, we see the human refection of all that is right and good.
We see reflected in your love all that creation could be. We pray that your healing love will be revealed this day by all who suffer physically, mentally or spiritually. Teach us to be part of your healing …
We pray that your intimate love be revealed today by all who feel forgotten or lost, and all who walk alone in times of anxiety and despair. Teach us to be part of your compassionate caring …
We pray that your suffering love will touch the hearts and lives of all those who live with war and violence, all those who are innocent victims and all those who perpetrate or support the idea that peace and justice can be achieved through violent means. Teach us to be part of your true peace …
We pray that your fierce love will reveal the wrongs of exploitation, injustice, abuse, neglect, violence and discrimination. Teach us to be part of your passionate justice …
We pray that your nurturing love will surround and encourage those who seek to resolve tough issues and make tough decisions, who take on new and often difficult responsibilities, or break free from some bondage. Teach us to be part of your guiding love …
We pray that your reconciling love will illuminate all that separates us by religion, race, culture, sexuality, social status, economics or any of the many other things that people use to divide and discriminate. Remind us of the universality of your love and teach us to be part of your gracious acceptance.
We pray that your inspiring love will renew, rejuvenate and enliven each one of us today so that we may truly become part of your perfect vision of all that we can be. Amen.
Let’s Sing Like a River of Tears MV#98
As the Christ candle is extinguished, the smoke rises and disperses through the air. We are reminded that as we go out from here, the light of Christ is dispersed through the world through us. So, as we go, let us take our faith with us and live it out each day, wherever we go, knowing we are not alone. God is with us, Christ’s example leads the way and the Spirit is with and within us, each step o the way. Go with God.
Choral Blessing VU #884
We shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth before you;
There’ll be shouts of joy and all the trees of the field
Will clap, will clap their hands!
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands,
The tress of the field will clap their hands,
The trees of the field will clap their hands
While we go out with joy.
© 1975Lillenas Publishing Company used with permission OneLicense #A723756