From the OT lesson for Tuesday in the week of Proper 5 (Pentecost 2, 2015)
11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.
12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”
13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”
14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
Every time I read this paragraph from Deuteronomy I think, “He’s saying God’s law is just common sense.” And then I recall college philosophy courses in which I learned that “common sense” isn’t common, at all, and that exactly what common sense is is a matter of some debate and has been since way, way back. From Aristotle’s koine aisthesis through Cicero’s sensus communis to Descartes’ bon sens and even Thomas Paine’s political twist in the pamphlet Common Sense that played such an important role in this country’s founding, there is very little agreement on what “common sense” actually is. Which should come as no surprise; going back almost to the day Moses received the law on Sinai there’s been disagreement as to what God’s law is and what it means. ~ In two weeks, I’ll be with a thousand or so of my closest friends at the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church and, at some point during the legislative hearings and floor debates about marriage equality or church structure or budget or whatever, I know I will hear someone say, “It’s just common sense” and some people will nod in agreement and others will shake their heads in negative wonderment, because for Episcopalians there just isn’t any such thing as a common “common sense”! There’s only common prayer.