3rd Sunday in Lent Lessons & Mediation

3RD SUNDAY IN LENT   03-07-2021

FIRST READING:  Exodus 20:1-17

The FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT we were reminded of the covenant God established with all living creatures, using a rainbow in the sky as a self-reminder of the promise not to ever decide to destroy the earth again with a flood. That covenant, the first in the Old Testament, was an assurance of God’s abiding love. God spoke it to Noah and his wife, to their three sons and their wives… eight chosen survivors.

The SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT we looked at a second covenant, the one God made with Abraham and Sarah, an old and childless couple that God chose to become the ancestors of many. God promised them “a multitude of nations”, the land of Canaan that would become theirs, protection and blessing along the way, and blessing to other nations through them. God required circumcision of all males (both family and any that became linked to the household through purchase) as a sign of the covenant, a concrete way to ratify acceptance, to show commitment.

The covenant we remember today is the one God established at Mount Sinai after delivering the Israelites (the descendants of Abraham and Sarah) out of slavery in Egypt. In this covenant God instructed his people how to live together in community as the people of God. Today’s reading is known as the Ten Commandments. [By the way, different Christians divide and “number” the Ten Commandments differently.] The Ten Commandments recognize that God is the creator of all things and the ruler of all things. The Ten Commandments are an outline of God’s will, God’s expectation, expressed as an imperative – “DO this… DON’T do that.”

How does one live in covenant relationship with God and in covenant relationship with other persons? The basic building blocks recounted in today’s reading: humility, faith, and obedience toward God… honesty, trust, fidelity, and respect for life, family, and property in our relationships with each other.

Because God alone has freed us from the powers that oppressed us, we are to let nothing else claim first place in our lives. Not only that, being centered in God’s liberating love shapes our values and our ways, so that we strive to live out justice and mercy in our communities and in our world.   

To see how Jesus talks about the Ten Commandments, look at Matthew 5:17-48 and also Matthew 19:16-22. What is the difference between how Jesus views the Ten Commandments and how you or I or others might view them?

The Ten Commandments, in this reading and in Deuteronomy 5, form a central core of morality that was, it is believed, a major advance from other legal codes of the day. And they are not really tied exclusively to a particular historical situation… they continue to be relevant today. What role do you think the Ten Commandments play in the church today? In society?

The following is “borrowed” from someone else’s thoughts that, I believe, copied by the source I used:

If the Ten Commandments enable true life, a reversal of them describes the false life. If you want to ruin your own life and the life of others, just follow the list of the Ten Commandments reversed:

  1. You can have all the gods you need, as many as you want, to try to secure your future.
  2. You can make idols of anything that exists, even something you imagine, and you can worship
  3. them as your gods.
  4. You can curse God.
  5. You can work seven days a week because economics is the meaning of life.
  6. You really shouldn’t respect your parents or elders or anyone like that because they are all old and know nothing about your life.
  7. You can kill, with or without a valid reason.
  8. You can have sexual relations with anyone you please whenever you please.
  9. You can take as your own anything you want.
  10. You can lie anytime you want.
  11. You can desire anything your neighbor has for your own.

 

SECOND READING:  1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Paul’s preaching about the salvation God offers through the cross was met with suspicion. How can victory come out of death? In Paul’s day and our own, this message has seemed to be nonsense. In Paul’s day crucifixion was not only a horrible death; it was a shameful death.

But Paul announces that God’s wisdom overturns common expectations about who God is and where God intends to be. We dare not mix God’s wisdom and human wisdom.

God’s wisdom is especially revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ. Not everybody sees and accepts this. Some stumble at the cross. Some laugh at the cross. And some experience the power and wisdom of God in the cross.

What is foolishness? What is wisdom? Things are not always as they seem. Jesus Christ, the source of our salvation, died for our sins on the cross – once for all. It is in his death – and then his resurrection – that we find forgiveness and grace, God’s wisdom and God’s strength, new and eternal life!

 

GOSPEL READING:  John 2:13-22

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include this violent, angry outburst by Jesus – his “cleansing of the Temple” as it is called – at the end of Jesus’ ministry, sandwiching it between his triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem for the Passover festival and his telling of a parable about the rebellious tenants who murdered the owner’s son. This morning’s text – the Gospel of John – places “the cleansing of the Temple” at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, right after Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding feast. I think that John wants us to understand that Jesus right from the start of his ministry was on the offensive, zealously stirring up things and fighting against distorted religion – all this self-centered striving and phony pretending, the confusion and the distraction of commercialized religion – so zealous that he got very angry, so zealous that he almost seemed to go berserk, throwing furniture, screaming, flinging money, chasing animals, releasing birds.

Initiating such a disturbing disruption of the business of the Temple brought conflict and questions about the authority of Jesus to speak and to act that way. When challenged, Jesus responded mysteriously, with the first mention in this Gospel of his own death and resurrection. But he also alluded to future doom for the Temple. The Temple structure at that time was actually the third one that was built on a hilltop in the city of Jerusalem:

  1. King Solomon had built one that lasted about 400 years until Babylonian soldiers looted and destroyed it.
  2. The second Temple, built by Jews returning from Babylonian exile, was a disappointment to older Jews, who remembered the majesty of Solomon’s temple. It survived nearly 500 years
  3. The third and grandest temple was built by King Herod, an unpopular ruler representing the Roman Empire, who began to dismantle the old temple to build a new one. Though it took some 80 years to complete (and was not finished when Jesus was alive on earth), this structure lasted only about 7 years. It was demolished by Roman soldiers when they crushed a Jewish rebellion in 70AD.

Those religious authorities at the Temple in New Testament times, they probably considered Jesus a terrorist someone who was trying to destroy their entire religious system. And, as a matter of fact, he had even threatened, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  His zeal seemed dangerous. It seemed that it would be better to eliminate him, to kill him. Early on, there were, no doubt, thoughts and conversations about this.

I want to remind you that Jesus did not act violently. In the end he humbled himself, surrendered everything, and died on a cross to achieve his mission. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that it seems foolish, it doesn’t make sense, but God loved you enough to send Jesus, and Jesus loved you enough to suffer and die on your behalf, gasping like a criminal on a cross. Jesus had so much zeal for true worship of God, for genuine service to God that it consumed and crucified him. But it saved us.

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