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READING: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; I Corinthians 1:18-25; and John 2:13-22|
COLLECTFor the Third Sunday in Lent (also known as "Oculi" Sunday - "Look upon")
Almighty God. Look upon your children gathered here. Let your gaze penetrate us to our core. Come to us in the Light in our sanctuaries, in the Word in our scripture readings, in the Body you have clothed yourself in this morning. Shape our thoughts and our responses as we hear your Word and ponder it in our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit. When we leave this sanctuary to go out into your world, help us to recognize the gifts you have given us in your Law and by your Spirit so we can be your Light in the darkness. Amen.
It is strange how we view the Law as something to hinder our happiness rather than as something designed to maximize it. Any parent, worth her salt, can tell you that she doesn't make up rules just for kicks, just to be arbitrary. She makes up rules to keep her children safe and to enhance the peace and harmony of the home and of family life together. On the other hand, there are those who are so rule bound that the rules are elevated to the position of idols, more important than those who use them. We live these days, my friends, between two extremes.
The Law, the Ten Commandments are "cords of love," fences if you will, demarcating our healthy boundaries, our safety and our freedom to live in peace and harmony.
Why the Law? Why not the Law? The perfection of the Law is most manifest in the workings of the stars, in the glories of the heavens, in the daily renewal. Sunrise, sunset. In these physical things one can see the imprint of God's perfection. Timely, filled with wisdom.
I Corinthians 1:18-25
What stumbling blocks today keep us from embracing the fulness of our faith and witness? What do we choke on in our own manifold wisdom? What is it we can't get past?
The wisdom of this world suggests to us that things like self-sacrifice and self-discipline are deterrents to our happiness; that weakness is folly.
The Cross is an embarrassment to us. So antiquated, so barbaric. Yet what barbarisms we "swallow" on a daily basis! Abortion. Euthanasia. Violence in our entertainment. War and bloodshed if it's not on this continent. Obscene sports salaries. The homeless. We lift our noses in disdain at the norms of Third World cruelty. First world smugness suggests that righteousness is whatever I say it is because I am educated and advanced in my thinking.
Jesus cleansed the temple. Jesus "upset" the perceived, the accepted, the here-to-fore unchallenged way of doing things. Could it be that what was the rule, the norm (selling merchandise at outrageous exchange rates) was unhelpful to the safety, the peace and harmony of the home, the family? What prompted Jesus? Was it just justice? Or was it a sense that the most loving thing to do in this instance was to radically alter the perceptions of those watching?
Jesus, with rod, a whip of knotted rope, swept the merchandise and the merchants from the temple; much like an unhappy parent would sweep the party-goers from her home. "Out! Out! You have shown no respect for my home or for yourselves. Enough! Out!" I suggest to you that the cords of knotted rope were cords of love.
LENTEN THOUGHTSIt is still Lent. This week we look at the demands of Law or is it the demands of Love? Real love? Love that suffers to be misunderstood? Love that cares enough to risk? Love that acts as a "stumbling block" to our base appetites and desires?
I find myself struggling to sort out in my mind what it means to me to submit to God. What does God ask of me, His creature. (Just so you all know, I subscribe to the notion that Jesus called God, "Daddy" so I will refer to God as "He" given that example. I am less interested in my "rights" and more interested in my responsibilities as God's daughter.) What does it mean to make God sovereign in my life? Where will that lead? What must change? These are questions that I try to understand as I write in my spiritual journal or as I walk with my little dog, praying and pondering. They have led to some insights and some resolutions. This Commentary is the result of my struggles with what God would have me be about. I pray that I may be faithful to His leading and that God is able to use my ponderings even if they are inferior on occasion.
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