Truth in the Heart (Grade 4) – From Slavery to Freedom

♪ ♪ Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a slave? When I was younger, my older brother used to tease me by telling me I was his slave. Because he was older than me and a lot taller and stronger, I didn’t argue with him when he told me I had to do what he said. He used to command me to do things like go get him soda and chips while he was sitting around watching TV. He’d also make me go upstairs and get things he didn’t feel like getting himself. I used to think that was pretty miserable, but let me tell you, I realized that was nothing when I learned what the life of a real slave was like! Imagine the chore you like the least. Now imagine that you have to do it all day long, seven days a week, without a break, forever. That gives you just a tiny hint of the life of real slaves. Real slaves work from sunup to sundown–or longer– every day of the week, 365 days year. Slaves never get breaks. Slaves usually only get enough food to give them the energy they need to keep working, and no one cares if it tastes good or not. They’re only allowed a minimum amount of sleep, and they never get to take naps. The worst thing about being a slave, however, is that no matter what job slaves have or how nice their master are, slaves aren’t free. That’s the definition of a slave–a person who is not free. They can’t just decide to get another job or move to another city. A slave can only do what his master tells him. Hello and welcome to “Truth in the Heart”! My name is Sr. Elizabeth Ann, and I am a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor, Michigan. So, why all this talk about slavery? During this season of “Truth in the Heart”, you’re going to learn about the 10 Commandments. We’ll hear the story of Moses and how he led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt and into their own land. We’ll also learn that God didn’t just want to free His people from slavery to the Egyptians, He also–and even more–wanted to free them from their slavery to sin. The 10 Commandments are God’s law of freedom. We’ll learn what it means to be a slave to sin, and how the 10 Commandments teach us true freedom. Over 3,000 years ago, God’s people were slaves in the land of Egypt. God’s people, who were called Israelites, had left their own land during a time of famine. A famine means there is a shortage of food–and settled in Egypt. After the Israelites had been in Egypt for many years, they became so powerful and numerous that the Egyptians began to be afraid that the Israelites would try to take over their land. So they began to make life difficult for the Israelites. The Egyptians forced them to do hard labor, and generally did all they could to make their lives miserable. The people cried out to God in their sorrow, and God heard them. He called a man named Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and into their own land. Let me read to you from the book of Exodus what God told Moses… When Moses went to Pharaoh and asked him to let God’s people go, Pharaoh said, “NO WAY!” Pharaoh didn’t want to lose his slave labor! As long as he had control over the Israelites, Pharaoh could make them build cities and do all sorts of backbreaking work for him, and he didn’t even have to pay them. Scripture says Pharaoh “hardened his heart” and refused to let the Israelites go. But God knew that Pharaoh wouldn’t want His people to leave, and He used Pharaoh’s hardness of heart to show His power even more. Here is what God said to Moses… God really did work wonders in Egypt, and afterwards, Pharaoh finally relented and let God’s people go. But after Moses and the Israelites left, Pharaoh regretted his decision and chased after them with his chariots and charioteers. Moses led the people to the shores of the Red Sea, and there they were forced to stop. The sea was too deep for the people to cross, and they couldn’t turn back because Pharaoh and his army were behind them. In a magnificent show of power, God parted the Red Sea before them and the Israelites crossed on dry land. Pharaoh was so stubborn that he and his army followed them! When the Israelites were safe on the opposite shore, but while the Egyptians were still in the midst of the sea, God caused the waters to flow back on Pharaoh and his army, and every one of them drowned. The Israelites rejoiced and sang God’s praises. After God led the Israelites out of Egypt with many signs and wonders, He brought them to the desert, to a mountain called Sinai. Through Moses, God spoke to the people and invited them to enter into a covenant, or a special agreement, with Him. Here are the words God spoke to Moses… God’s words to Moses reveal that He had a bigger plan in mind in leading His people from slavery to freedom. God wanted His people to enjoy a greater freedom than just freedom from bondage in Egypt, and He wanted to deliver them from a worse slavery than slavery under Pharaoh. God wanted to free His people from their slavery to sin. God worked great signs and wonders so that His people would know He has power to save them even from sin. What does it mean to say God’s people were slaves to sin? To answer that question, we have to go back even further than 3,000 years. We have to go back to the very beginning of creation. Of all the creatures God made, only human beings were made in God’s own image and likeness to share in His life of love forever. Only human beings have the power to know God and the freedom to choose to love, serve and enter into a relationship with Him. Our freedom isn’t simply the power to act or not to act. It’s more than just being able to decide to do something like, say, walk across the room, or eat a cookie. Freedom is the power to choose the good. The first human beings, Adam and Eve, abused their freedom by choosing to reject God and His offer of friendship. They chose loving and serving themselves over loving and serving God. The sin of Adam and Eve is called Original Sin, and the effects of this sin are passed on to all people. Because of Original Sin, our free will, our power to choose, is weak, and it is difficult for us to choose what is good. Not only that, but every time we give in to temptation and fall into sin, it becomes more difficult to say no the next time we’re tempted. So the more we sin, the less free we become to choose what is good. This is why sin is compared to slavery. After the first sin, human beings kept sinning, and the human race wandered far away from God. They became more and more slaves to sin. But God did not abandon them. The human race rejected God, but God did not reject them. God reached out to His children, scattered by sin, and began to gather them together. God called certain individuals, such as Moses, and invited them to enter into a covenant with Him. When God makes a covenant with His people, He promises to be faithful to them, to protect them from harm, and to provide the good things they need. The people, on their part, promise to be faithful to God and to follow His ways. A covenant is two-sided. Both parties who choose to enter into the covenant agree to do something. Both gain certain rights from the agreement, and both take on certain obligations. When God invited His people to enter into a covenant or a special relationship with Him through Moses, He told them exactly what they needed to do to be faithful to their promises. God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. Far from being just a list of rules to obey, the 10 Commandments told the people what they must do and what they must avoid in order to live in friendship with God. God told Moses that he wanted the Israelites to be a holy nation. He wanted the Israelites to belong to Him in a special way. He wanted His relationship with the nation of Israel to show the world what a right relationship with God looks like. Just as God chose Moses to be His representatives among the Israelites, God chose the whole nation of Israel to be His representative to the entire world. In the fullness of time, God would send His Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross in order to free all people of all time from their slavery to sin, and so once and for all restore His friendship with the whole human race. The 10 Commandments are God’s law of freedom. God made us for Himself, and He gave us free will so that we could freely choose to love and serve Him. We are only truly free when we are living in friendship with God. The 10 Commandments showed the ancient Israelites, and they show us today, what a life of true freedom looks like. Unless we understand the 10 Commandments as God’s great gift to the Israelites after freeing them from slavery in Egypt, teaching them how to live in freedom, we’ll think of the Commandments as just a bunch of rules God wants us to follow so that we can’t have any fun. We’ll think of the Commandments as something that boxes us in and limits our freedom. But that’s not a true image of the Commandments. A true image is that of the arms of a loving Father, protecting His children from harm. Do you remember when I said a few minutes ago that after the human race was scattered far away from God by sin, God began to gather them together again by calling people like Moses to enter into a covenant with Him? Well, the Commandments are an important way God does this. The Commandments are those loving arms keeping the children He’s gathered back to Himself close and safe. We’re going to take a short break, and when we come back, we’ll learn more about how the Commandments don’t limit our freedom, but actually make freedom possible! ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Welcome back to “Truth in the Heart”! We just heard the story of how God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt and gave them the 10 Commandments to teach them how to live in freedom. Now we’re going to learn about…♪ ♪As I was saying…♪ ♪ ♪ ♪Hold on a minute. One of the Sisters seems to have decided that this would be a good time to practice the recorder. Hi, Sr. Teresa Benedicta. Sr. Teresa Benedicta: Hi, sister. How are you? Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Uh… would you mind practicing somewhere else? We’re trying to learn about the 10 Commandments. Sr. Teresa Benedicta: I’m not practicing! I’m playing a piece. I wrote it myself. Do you like it? I think it’s pretty good.♪ ♪ ♪ ♪Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Well, no offense or anything, but it doesn’t really sound like music. Why would you want to play the recorder like that? Sr. Teresa Benedicta: I like it. I know I could take lessons or get a book, but then I wouldn’t be free to play the way I want to. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: No, wait– don’t! It’s true you’re free to choose not to have a book or a teacher, but why would you want to do it that way? If you actually knew how to play the recorder–if you knew where to put your fingers, and you knew what notes to play, you could play any song you wanted to. In fact you can even make up your songs. I think that’s a better choice. Sr. Teresa Benedicta: Well, I’ve tried that, but it’s a lot of work. It’s a pain, and you have to practice. And it’s just not as fun as doing my own thing. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: It’s true. When you’re first learning how to play an instrument –or learn anything–it does feel like drudgery in the beginning. But all that hard work pays off and soon you won’t even think about it. You’ll just be playing the recorder as if you’ve always played the recorder. And you can play any song you want to. And you can even make up your own songs. You won’t even think about it anymore. Sr. Teresa Benedicta: What if I like the way I play? What if I just want to make noise? Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Well, you’re free to do that. You can make noise if you want to, but if you chose to learn from a teacher and follow the rules of good recorder playing, you’re actually more free than if you just play whatever you want to. You’re free to play all kinds of music, and you can even make up music of your own, like I just said a minute ago. If you don’t know how to play, then all you can do is just play whatever you’ve managed to pick up–and that’s not really playing the recorder. Sr. Teresa Benedicta: I don’t get it. How is following a bunch of rules that I find difficult really going to make me free? Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Let me give you a different example. You like playing soccer, right? Sr. Teresa Benedicta: I’m not really good at soccer, Sister. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Okay, how about basketball? Sr. Teresa Benedicta: I don’t like basketball. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Oh. Well, what sport do you like then? Sr. Teresa Benedicta: Well, how about volleyball. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Okay, volleyball. Let’s say that you got a bunch of Sisters together and you’re playing volleyball. And let’s say another Sister comes up and she wants to join you. Sr. Teresa Benedicta: I’d say, “come join us. You’re on my team.” Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Okay. Well, let’s say that this Sister does join you. And then she gets on the court and she starts hitting the ball wherever she feels like. And then whenever the ball comes over the net, she just lets it hit the ground and she kicks it back under the net, because she thinks it’s more fun to play that way. Sr. Teresa Benedicta: That would be really annoying. We’d lose the game. I’d be upset. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Yeah, but who are you to tell this Sister how she can play? Aren’t you limiting her freedom? Sr. Teresa Benedicta: But that’s how you play the game. If you don’t follow the rules, you can’t play volleyball. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Wait a minute. Okay, let me get this straight. You said it’s not possible to play volleyball unless you follow the rules, right? Sr. Teresa Benedicta: Yes, Sister. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: So, isn’t that the same thing as saying you’re NOT FREE to play unless you follow the rules? Sr. Teresa Benedicta: Yeah, I think you’re right! Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Well, that’s my point exactly. In fact, I’d go so far as to say as, if you don’t follow the rules of good volleyball playing or good recorder playing; you’re a slave to bad volleyball playing and a slave to bad recorder playing–or whatever it is you want to do without following the rules. Sr. Teresa Benedicta: That makes sense to me. Maybe I should get a teacher or a book. Sr. Elizabeth Ann: So, you see, God gave His people the Commandments so that they could live in freedom. Usually we think of the commandments as something that limits our freedom. But as my conversation with Sr. Teresa Benedicta just showed us, the Commandments don’t limit our freedom, they make it possible. Just as following the rules of good recorder playing makes a musician free to play beautiful music, or following the rules of a game makes us free to play it, following God’s rules for good living makes us free to make our lives something beautiful for God. Let’s take a break, and when we return, we’ll talk about how we’re going to learn about the 10 Commandments during the next three episodes of “Truth In the Heart”. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Welcome back to “Truth in the Heart”! Did you know that a group of researchers took a poll a couple of years ago and discovered that more people knew the ingredients of a Big Mac than knew all Ten Commandments? Think about that for a second. More people could list the ingredients of a hamburger than could name God’s laws. Now, don’t get me wrong– I love Big Macs! They taste really good. But a Big Mac makes me happy for about ten minutes, max. On the other hand, knowing God’s law and putting it into practice guarantees a lifetime of happiness! So which one do you think is more important to know? During the next episodes of Truth in the Heart, you’ll learn a lot about the Ten Commandments. Let me tell you about some of the things we’ll do in each episode to make sure that, by the end of the season, we’ll know the Ten Commandments as well or even better than we know the ingredients of a Big Mac. For each commandment, we’ll examine both what it is asking us NOT to do, and what it is asking us TO do. We usually think the commandments are just a list of things God wants us to avoid. After all, each one says “You shall not…” and then states what we are forbidden to do. But each Commandment also teaches us to DO something good. We’ll look at BOTH what we are to do and what we are to avoid for each commandment. We’ll use a chart like this one on display behind me, as we talk about each one. I’d suggest that you make your own chart and fill it in as we go along. I’ll help you decide what to write in each column. (O.S.) Notice the title of each column. The column where we’ll write what we are to avoid is called “Living in Slavery” to remind us that when we choose to sin, we’re choosing slavery. We’re abusing the gift of our freedom. God gave us the gift of our free will so we could freely choose to love and serve Him. When we choose what is bad, it makes it more difficult for us to choose what is good the next time. So the more we sin, the less free we become to choose to love and serve God. If we’re choosing to become less free, we’re choosing to become slaves. The column where we’ll write what good we are to do is called “Living in Freedom” to remind us that freedom is the ability to choose the good. The Commandments teach us many different ways we can choose to do what is good. Have you ever heard the word “conundrum”? A conundrum is a tricky or difficult problem. It’s one thing to memorize the list of Ten Commandments and understand what they are asking of us. It’s another thing entirely to know how to put the Commandments into practice in our lives. Often, we find ourselves in a situation where we are faced with a choice, and we honestly don’t know what the best thing to do is. It’s hard to know and to see how the Commandment we learned about in class relates to the situations we find ourselves in. So to help us see the connection between God’s law and real life more clearly, we’ll look at examples of kids facing the same kinds of choices you might face in a day and talk about which commandment applies, and which choices might mess up a commandment, and which choices fulfill it. We’ll call these “Commandment Conundrums,” because they’ll teach us how to apply God’s law to the tricky or difficult problems we face every day. Lastly, you may have noticed that there are some strange sounding words and phrases in the list of Ten Commandments. We don’t use words like “Thou shall not” and “covet” and “bear false witness” every day! We’ll be sure to look more closely at what each of these words mean. We’re going to end this episode with a simple quiz. We’ll call it the Big Ten Challenge. Not THAT Big Ten–the Ten Commandments! ♪ ♪ Sr. Elizabeth Ann: Let’s see how much you remember so far about the Ten Commandments. Here’s the 1st question… The 2nd question… The 3rd question… Thank you for joining me today on “Truth in the Heart”! Come back next week to learn about the first three Commandments, which teach us how to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. See you next time on “Truth in the Heart”. ♪ ♪

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