“It Took A Coach Like Moses To Build A Team” (Exodus 20:1-17)

By | January 25, 2015

Superbowl Sundays #1 in Series


     It had been a rough day and Ruth slipped into the Sanctuary of the church to soak up the beauty of the stained glass windows and spend some quiet time with God. She had just settled in and gotten her mind quieted down, when all of a sudden the main doors of the Sanctuary burst open like the saloon doors in an old John Wayne movie. Amanda’s unmistakable giggle of delight came through loud and clear. So did the clomp, clomp, clomp of little feet running down the center aisle.

     Amanda was a precious, precocious, little five year old with china doll features. Her big blue eyes shown like crystal and would totally captivate the heart of some young man one day. They did a pretty good job right now. Her china doll face and crystal blues eyes were framed by almost jet black soft curly hair. All of this gave her a delicate almost fragile appearance; at least while she was sitting or standing still, which was almost never.

     In contrast to her appearance, Amanda was anything but fragile or a china doll. She was more like an unfettered colt. She looked like sugar and spice and everything nice but there was plenty of snips and snails and puppy dog tails and even some hot tamale in Amanda. She was the proverbial ball of energy. She didn’t walk anywhere she couldn’t run. She didn’t whisper anywhere she couldn’t shout. Her giggles preceded her everywhere she went. And her bursting into the Sanctuary like a thundering herd wasn’t unusual at all.

     As Amanda ran down the aisle, Ruth quietly stood up and said, “Amanda, please don’t run in God’s house.”

     Amanda came to a screeching halt right in front of Ruth. It was obvious from the look she gave Ruth that she wasn’t used to being told “No!” or “Stop!” Ruth remembered that Amanda was an only child, whose parents both worked. Family Night Out at the Church was a treat for all of them.

     Amanda looked up at Ruth, those sweet blue eyes filled with mischief and rebellion and said, “You’re not my Mother. You can’t tell me what to do.”

     Without even blinking, Ruth replied, “No! I’m not your mother. But I AM your big sister.” And before Amanda knew what was happening, Ruth had scooped her up in her arms.

     Rather than squirming or fighting, Amanda was stunned by what Ruth had said. “What do you mean you’re my big sister? I don’t have any sisters or brothers. Besides,” she said, looking at Ruth’s well-worn and wrinkled face, “you could be Daddy’s Mommy.”

     Ruth laughed. “Yes, I sure could. But that doesn’t mean I’m not your sister. I am.”

     Amanda was even more confused and simply said, “Huh, how?”

     Ruth swept her hand with a gesture that encompassed the whole room. “Well, it all started right here. Your Daddy grew up in this Church. He and your Grandma and Grandpa started coming here when he was your age.”

     Amanda, settled down even more. She liked stories, especially stories about her family. Ruth continued. “Yes, they started coming every Sunday. I remember the Sunday your father joined the Church. He was fifteen and he gave a personal testimony.”

     “What’s that?” Amanda asked.

     By this time Ruth had moved up to the pulpit. Standing behind it, she turned and faced the empty Sanctuary and then said, “Your father stood right here and told everybody how much he loved Jesus. And how much Jesus had done in his life. It was beautiful.”

     “I love Jesus, too,” said Amanda.

     “I know you do, little one. This is also where the preacher stands every Sunday to tell us about God, and how to love one another and how to live a life that makes God happy.”

     “You mean like not running in Church?” Amanda asked.

     “That’s right.”

     Ruth started walking back down to the center aisle. When she came to the space right in front of the altar she said, “This is the spot where your Mommy and Daddy stood when they got married. I was there. They promised to love God and to love each other forever. All the people here that day said we would help them do that.”

     Ruth then walked over to the Baptismal Font. Amanda’s eyes got big as Ruth lifted off the lid and said, “This is where you were baptized.”

     Amanda was thoroughly hooked now and asked, “Babatized, what’s that?”

     Again Ruth grinned and said, “Well, you were just three months old. Your Mommy and Daddy came forward one Sunday. The preacher asked your parents if they believed in Jesus and God and would promise to raise you in a Christian home. “

     Amanda interrupted, “We pray every night. And say ‘God is great. God is good. Now we thank Him for our food. Amen.’ every time we eat.”

     Ruth laughed. “That’s good. That day the preacher took you in his arms. He took a little water from this bowl. Then he put it on your head. You didn’t cry or anything. And then the preacher said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

     Amanda’s big blue eyes sparkled with interest. “Then what happened?”

     Ruth went on, “Then the preacher turned to everybody in church and said, ‘It is our joy to welcome our new sister in Christ.’ And he walked right out into the congregation. He held you up so we could all see you. And then leaned over to the first person he saw and said, ‘Would you like to hold your new sister in Christ?’”

     “That person was me, Amanda. I was the first person to get to hold you after your baptism. Your hair was still wet. So, you see, we really are sisters. Sisters in Christ. And I remember that day every time I see you. So, when I told you not to run in the Church, it was just your big sister trying to help you make God happy. That’s why we have rules. They help us know what’s right and wrong. They help us love one another. And they help us make God happy.”

     The door of the Sanctuary opened and Amanda’s mother stuck her head in. “There you are. Come on, it’s time to go.”

     Ruth put Amanda down and Amanda started walking to the back of the Sanctuary. Mom said, “Hurry up!”

     Amanda stopped, put both hands one her hips and said, “But Mommy, you’re not supposed to run in God’s house.”

     Mom looked startled and asked, “Where did you learn that?”

     Amanda grinned real big and said, “From my sister.”

     The last thing Ruth saw was a little hand waving good-bye as the doors to the Sanctuary quietly closed. (1)


Let’s look at the Passage from Exodus 20:1-17 (NRSV)

[1] Then God spoke all these words:

[2] I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;

[3] you shall have no other gods before me.

[4] You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

[5] You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

[6] but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

[7] You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

[8] Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

[9] Six days you shall labor and do all your work.

[10] But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

[11] For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

[12] Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

[13] You shall not murder.

[14] You shall not commit adultery.

[15] You shall not steal.

[16] You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

[17] You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

     In this passage we find out that rules are a necessary part of life and faith. They’re not the end all like the Pharisees thought but rules and laws define the parameters of what is acceptable and what isn’t. They define Teamwork or what we call Community and Fidelity. Through rules, through the Law of the Ten Commandments, Moses was able to transform an unruly, self-centered mob of individuals (sounds like any NFL team at Training Camp doesn’t it?) into Team Israel, or a working community of faith. The Ten Commandments are not only God’s Playbook but the rules of play, as well. They defined a people and their relationship with God.


     A. It wasn’t easy for Moses to build Team Israel. If you track their behavior you can see what I’m talking about. As they approached the Red Sea, Pharaoh and his armies were hot on their heels. God interceded and slowed down the army by clogging the wheels of their chariots. God delivered them through the Red Sea, destroyed their enemy. When Team Israel saw it, they let out a cheer and rejoiced in their God who had saved them from slavery and delivered them to safety.

     But then they turn schizophrenic on us. They rejoice and then they complain. It’s almost as if nothing can make them happy. They are free, but are thirsty and start their grumbling. They get water, they rejoice. But then they’re hungry and complain. God sends Manna and their first reaction is: “What is that?” They forget what God has provided and they grumble because they can’t gather more than a day’s worth. And thus the pattern begins. Rejoice, forget and grumble. Rejoice, forget and grumble.

     No wonder God called them a stiff necked people. They gave Him a stiff neck from shaking His head in despair so much.

     The biggest challenge came at Mount Sinai. Moses, the Head Coach, went up to speak with the Owner, God and came down with the new play book and rules of play, the Ten Commandments. He read them to the people and then almost as a confirmation, God descended upon the mountain in a cloud of thunder and lightning and trumpets blowing which left the mountain smoking. Nobody missed the significance of that, unless they were dead. And then God interpreted the Ten Commandments for Moses and the people and they all agreed to obey.

     Moses went up again and again. And then one time he stayed longer than usual. The people got worried and they lost faith in the Covenant God had just created. And like a bunch of ten year olds with nothing to do, no adults around to tell them “No!” they got into trouble. They built an idol. God got wind of it, the stench of their infidelity and revelry invaded God’s Holy space.

     They blatantly broke the first and foremost Commandment of all, “I am the Lord, your God, you shall have no other gods besides me.” Not to mention the Second Commandment about making and worshipping idols. To put it into football terms, they started negotiations with another team before their contract was up. Some of them had even suited up in the other team’s uniform.

     Boy was the Owner irritated. God was ready to call it quits and destroy them all. It took Moses, the Head coach intervening on their behalf to save them all from destruction.

     B. So, why were and why are the Ten Commandments so important? Well, like I said earlier, the Ten Commandments are God’s Play Book and Rules of Play, which defined Team Israel, God’s people. They defined their relationship with the owner, God and with each other. The Ten Commandments established a community of faith. It was out of that faith relationship with God, that all other relationships were defined. I’ve always looked at the Ten Commandments through the words of Jesus when asked which was the greatest commandment.

     If you remember, Jesus didn’t even pick one of the Ten, instead he quoted other scripture and in Matthew 22:37-39 said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” [NRSV]

     That’s the best summary of the Ten Commandment ever given. The first four are about loving God. The last six are about loving our neighbor.

     Ross Marrs in his book, Be My People: Sermons on the Ten Commandments (Abingdon Press, 1991) suggests that the Ten Commandments are actually “the four essential bases for community.” Those bases are:

     1. God (No other gods, no idols, no wrongful use of God’s name),

     2. The Individual (remember the Sabbath)

     3. The Family (Honor parents)

     4. Society (no murder, no adultery, no stealing, no false witness, and no coveting). (2)

     These rules, these Ten Commandments establish what is right and wrong in God’s eyes. They establish the parameters of the peoples’ relationship with God and with each other. These rules, these Ten Commandments moved this rag tag bunch of wanderers, with no purpose, nothing to occupy them except gathering daily food and grumbling; these Commandments transformed them into a Team, a community. This Team, this community was bound together with a single identity and a single purpose.

     Their identity? They were the Israelites, God’s children, God’s Chosen, Team Israel.

     Their purpose? To be faithful and to follow the Owner, God. And to follow as God, through the Head Coach, Moses, lead the team to the promised land.


     A. And while not spoken, the one implied attribute that every man, woman and child needed to make Team Israel work and become a community of faith was Fidelity; Fidelity to God and Fidelity to each other. That can simply be summarized as Fidelity to the Covenant.

     Fidelity is simply faithfulness. It is being faithful to the Covenant and faithful to the relationship. And that faithfulness is important to the stability and success of any community and any team. The Covenant is the foundation upon which the community is built. Faithfulness to the Covenant is the building material of both a team and a community. Faithfulness to the covenant builds a Common Unity between all the members of that community. Faithfulness is important for the future of the community.

     Life without community, especially a community that’s built on trust and love and mercy is lonely. Without Community, is there really life? WATCH

     B. Without each other, without community life is lonely and disappointing.            Helen Keller once said, “Many persons have a wrong idea about what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratifications, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” (3) She was right.

     Life without Community is lonely. But Community without Fidelity is worse. Infidelity to the Community breaks not only the Covenant but it breaks our relationship with God and each other. And it breaks God’s heart.

     Faithfulness and fidelity to the covenant which is laid out in the Rule book and Play book we call the Ten Commandments is important not only to God but to our own sense of self and our own self-worth. Jesus was probably the happiest person who ever lived. Despite knowing that He would face the cruelty of the Cross He continued to invest Himself in the lives of those around Him and found joy in life. Have you ever wondered what the source of that happiness was?

     It was His Faithfulness to the Covenant. It was His Fidelity to His Father and his Disciples. His Fidelity and His faithfulness challenges and encourages us to faithful to God and the Community, as well.


     I remember going through the new High School building in Groesbeck before it was opened. The School Superintendent was giving some of us a personal tour. This was 25 years ago but I remember him calling our attention to the clocks in all the rooms and halls, he told us that all the clocks were tied into a central control system, and they would automatically reset themselves every day at a certain time.

     Wouldn’t it be great if our lives were equipped with the same sort of mechanism? If we got a little off track or a little behind, we’d be put back on the correct course automatically. That sounds great doesn’t it? But then that would take away all free will wouldn’t it?

     We don’t have anything that puts us back on course automatically, but we DO have something that helps us get back on course. Actually we have several somethings.

     We have the Covenant which is our Play Book and Rule Book for both faith and life. That Covenant is found on every page of Scripture.

     We have Jesus, who gave his life on the cross for our sakes so we could know the forgiveness which God offers through Him to everyone who strays from the Covenant.

     We have the Holy Spirit who is our spiritual compass, if we’ll just listen and obey.

     We have worship and study which reminds us of the Covenant and helps it live in our heart.

     And then, of course, we have each other, Team Glen Rose, brothers and sisters in Christ who remind us through both words and example, just what it is that makes God happy.

     It Took A Coach Like Moses To Build A Team but it takes the faithfulness and participation of everyone on that team to keep that team alive. The challenge is to focus less on what we want individually and focus more on what the Team or Community of Faith needs. The challenge is to focus less on how we can take care of ourselves and focus more on how we can meet the needs of others and empower the Team to be a true community of faith in Covenant with God and each other. The challenge is to do our part.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.



1.  An original story, please give credit if you use it.

2.  Ross Marrs, Be My People: Sermons on the Ten Commandments (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1991)

3.  The Pastor’s Story File (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), January 1987

Other References Consulted