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Synod: Presidential address

18 July 2014

Sam Atkins

ON THE day when the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey wrote in the Daily Mail that he was now supporting Lord Falconer's assisted-dying Bill, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, used his presidential address to deliver a sermon on the Ten Commandments, and, specifically, the need to "choose life over death".

"Choosing life rather than death is built on in all God's revelation, in all Jesus Christ's atoning work, in all the Holy Spirit's renewing work," he said. "This is a choice we must each make not just once, but day by day, continually. And make it together as members of the Body of Christ."

The decision to choose life over death was "the granite on which all morality, religious belief, and the rule of law rest", he said.

He emphasised that he was not calling for a "return to the Ten Commandments as an invincible barrier against the tidal waves of aggressive and intolerant'-isms' whose momentum seemsto threaten to sweep us aside". This approach was to "misunderstand the nature of the Commandments, and the gospel of Jesus Christ".

In Hebrew, the Commandments were not negative commands, but "a tense equivalent to the future indicative", he said. "Do not steal" was actually "You will not steal" - "the Ten Commandments are not so much a series of commands as promises.

"Here we are at the opposite extreme from a narrow legalistic outlook, so often attributed wrongly to the Jewish people. God's word is a promise of life, pointing towards a world of freedom and blessedness, where justice and peace reign."

The Torah and the Sermon on the Mount were "Jesus's manifesto, his programme of change, his mission statement", the Archbishop said. "He does not water down the divine commands or minimise their importance or relevance. He himself practised and upheld the Law of Moses.

"Jesus of Nazareth affirms the Ten Commandments, and raises them beyond what seems to be the bounds of possibility. . . The God who calls us to 'choose life and not death' sets the bar as high as the Kingdom of heaven."

He continued: "The Ten Commandments do not cease to be valid for the followers of Christ. It is simply that the centre of gravity has shifted from an outward law or command to an inner law, heard and kept in the heart by the indwelling Holy Spirit."

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