March 3, 2024 Sermon

The Third Sunday in Lent, March 3, 2024

Anita Wallinger

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight Oh Lord My God and Redeemer

Sounds familiar? It comes from our Psalm today. It seems that a lot of what was read today is familiar, or is it? Sometimes we hear part of a reading and think it is the same as we remember and therefore can miss some of what the scriptures are saying.

Take the intro which is like what we hear in Psalm 19 but not exactly. Psalm 19 ends with either Oh Lord my ROCK and redeemer or Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer. So close but no cigars.

Now let’s look at our reading in Exodus today which is the Ten Commandments, not the Charleston Heston dramatic one but they are the Laws God gives. The only Laws God gives in person so to say. All the other laws were attributed to Moses. Laws on dress, ceremonies, sacrifices. The commandments are in our opening liturgy today and those found in three different versions in the Bible, Exodus 20;2-17, Deuteronomy 5: 6-21, and Exodus 34:11-26. They are also found in our BCP. What we said at the beginning of the service is different than what we found later in the BCP. They are even numbered different by RC tradition and Protestant tradition. But the spirit remains the same. The Ten Commandments talk of our relationship with God and with each other. God is addressed in the first four, and our relationship with each other, the last six. God is first and center. More important is that GOD gave the commandments unlike the 600+ laws which came much later and are attributed to Moses.

Cleansing of the temple is remarkably familiar and found in all 4 Gospels. BUT they are a little different also. The first difference is the Synoptic Gospels all have it happening at the end of His ministry. In John’s Gospel, the Cleansing of the Temple is at the very beginning of His ministry. John had a particularly good reason for this, though it is thought that the cleansing did happen at the end of Christ’s ministry. For it is so disruptive and challenging to the temple cult that the authorities would not have let him get away and the ministry would have ended before it truly began. John’s author puts it early because of symbolism and John is all about symbolism. The Wedding feast which we heard two weeks ago, shows God’s glory and the Cleansing shows His authority. This is according to what I read in The New Interpreters Bible commentary. John lets you have a quick glimpse of Jesus’s whole ministry upfront. He is not interested in following a timeline at this point.

What struck me is that this Jesus is not what we are used to. He is NOT meek or mild but a person of action. He deliberately makes a whip (all movies have him grabbing one) and uses it to drive the animals out. This deliberate making of the whip took time and shows a righteous anger. Not a sudden explosion of temper.

Then He lets them know whose authority He has, GODS authority for he is God’s Son, as indicated by his statement where He says, “my FATHER’S” house. HE CLAIMS authority. According to Connections, A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship, many commentaries’ stating that his anger is just evidence of the human side of him do not take in account of incarnation because this train of thought negates the incarnation. Jesus shows humanity in everything he does.

The temple authorities challenge him to show his authority in v 18 when they ask for a sign. Opps here is an echo to our reading in 1 Cor., when Paul says the Jews seek signs. Jesus really ignores their question and starting in v 19 he talks about the resurrection when he talks of the destruction of the temple, which really is him talking of his body and his death and in three days HE will raise the temple, namely, his body. John shows the Glory, Authority, and Resurrection all in the first two chapters.

Now Jesus was a good Jew. He was at the temple during Passover, but he is correcting the strict law followers. They are so engaged with the LAW and the Physical Temple they are forgetting the people. He is there to make them turn (another word for repent) and get back to GODS law and the relationships between people. Remember I said that the Ten Commandments were the laws directly given by GOD. Instead of strictly following the 600+ additional laws that are burdening the people Jesus wants the authorities to turn back to the laws God gave which are all about relationships and putting GOD in the Center of life instead of the Temple Building.

Can you see that in our world today? Some churches are so focused on the rules, separation, money, buildings instead of people. This is what turns many people away from organized churches because they think the churches are so focused on numbers in pew, pledges, my way, or the highway attitude. Therefore, they paint all the churches with the same brush. They see the organized religions as being more like the temple authorities. The term I am spiritual not religious is used. So how can we address this?

Our questionnaire for renewal works asked some really pointed questions. I hope you all had the opportunity to take the survey for the questions addressed where you and All Saints are now and where you and All Saints want to be. The one that grabbed me was asking if God was the center, the most important thing in my life? I know what I wanted to say but truly do I act like that?

How can I put God in the Center? Wasn’t that what Jesus was trying to get the temple authorities to do? Not make the temple the most important but to make GOD most important by the relationships with people. People are starving, feed them and not the temple coffers. Show love for God by loving all His people. What does this look like for All Saints? An example was our Shroventine’s celebration. We invited our friendship meal patrons and the Boy Scouts. Because of this the donation envelope was put aside. None of our guests were asked to donate or even knew where the envelope was. We fed them and weren’t there to ask for money. What does putting God in the Center of your life look like? Is it serving others, enriching your prayer life, taking formation classes, hosting coffee hour? I don’t know exactly how I can do this, but I want to try and if I fail to try again. We heard today during the preludes Be Thou My Vision, in the complete song, the third verse which is left out of our Hymnal contains the words, Thou and thou only first in my heart. Let’s put God in the Center. Amen.