First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
1God spoke all these words:
2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me.
4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13You shall not murder.
14You shall not commit adultery.
15You shall not steal.
16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Psalm: Psalm 19
1The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky proclaims its maker’s handiwork.
2One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,
4their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world, where God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5It comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to the end of it again; nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7The teaching of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to | the simple.
8The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever;
the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11By them also is your servant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can detect one’s own offenses?
Cleanse me from my secret faults.
13Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion over me; then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Gospel: John 2:13-22
13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
CHILDREN’S SERMON: The Tortoise and the Ducks
Aesop tells how we all know that the tortoise carries his house on his back. It is said Jupiter punished him for not coming to his wedding and being so lazy. The tortoise bemoaned his plight in life, crawling around on short stubby legs with a house on his back. Two ducks came by and offered a solution. Hold on tightly to this stick and we will show you the world – and so the tortoise did. The ducks picked up the stick and carried the tortoise high into the sky. A passing crow exclaimed, “This must be the king of tortoises!” The tortoise was so pleased, he answered, “Why certainly…” but as he spoke, he let go of the stick and fell to his death.
Let us pray: Lord may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you and may I never forget that your word is the stick that carries my life to heights I never imagined!
This Lent our Old Testament readings are reminding us of different “covenants” God has made with us that help us remember who we are and whose we are. Lent 1, we worshipped a God who gave us the rainbow with Noah and promised never to destroy us again by water. In the waters of baptism Jesus started his public ministry. Lent 2, we worshipped a God who gave us a promise through Abraham that God’s intention is to bless us so that we might be a blessing to the nations. There may be suffering, rejection and death but resurrection will follow. Today, Lent 3, we continue our journey of remembering who we are and whose we are. The Old Testament reading is the passage concerning the giving of the Mosaic Covenant, Ten Commandments, that if followed bring blessing and if disobeyed bring trouble.
The third commandment tells us
“8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”
Sundays are days designed for blessing and renewing us as we remember God.
One of the few times we see Jesus display anger comes from our passage today. It is approaching Passover and Jesus is in Jerusalem, at the Temple, the center of worship. At first glance, we see Jesus’ anger as he sees the temple being treated like a “marketplace.” Jesus erupts in zeal and overturns the external activity. The Jews then ask for a sign of his authority to act like this and Jesus talks of destruction and raising of the Temple. Lastly we learn that Jesus is talking of the temple of his body, not the building, the Temple, that he knows will be destroyed in 90 AD. Marketplaces, destruction, and bodies – three points for today to remember on our Lenten journey. Creation, recreation, and new life, these patterns define our lives.
We Lutherans tend to be a bit tight-lipped about our identity and if asked who we are, will probably answer relationally or vocationally. We identify by sharing the marketplace of our life. My name is …. I’m the wife or husband of …. I work at ….. I live over there. These are all descriptors of our marketplaces. Introductions are important. Six, sometimes seven days a week we spend in the marketplaces of our life. Jesus is standing in the Temple courtyard, the religious marketplace of that day.
I was struck upon returning to the United States, how often many modern churches resemble airports, having book stands, cafes, announcements of activities and programs of the church in the entry way. Of course it is all done tastefully but it reminded me of the airport waiting areas with duty free shops, restrooms, play areas for children and TVs. Our churches, even like the Temple in our reading, take on the atmosphere of a marketplace. The creation story opens the Bible with a flurry of activity also. It is not until the seventh day that God seems to sit back, appreciate, and rest. The Sabbath is the last day of the week.
Interestingly, though, when God gives the Ten Commandments, he does not start with the marketplace of creativity and activity but starts with
“2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me.” Most important is not what we do for God but who God is to us. Jesus confronts the Jews with anger. They have their priorities wrong. God reverses our value hierarchy in the giving of the Ten Commandments. Our first priority is not to buy a sacrifice for our sin, for what we have done in the marketplace, but to get our spiritual identity clear. We start, the commandments, with God, his name, and the Sabbath.
Also I find it interesting that “marketplace” has become “in” lingo with the Affordable Care Act. It implies health care that even the poor can afford to invest in. It implies that not just the “select” but the “ordinary” person can participate. It offers an option that is competitive with other plans and hopefully will drive the price of insurance down. Perhaps we might ask ourselves if faith these days is a competition for the involvement of people as they pick and choose which church, which faith they want to invest in. We, the shopper, have been given power as we choose and the market offers us a menu to fit our need. My son would say, “Drink your kool-aid, Mom, and I’ll drink mine.” Thus Sunday becomes a choice among many options and we shop for the alternative that fits our budget, that suits us. Enter Jesus who turns the tables upside down.
Jehovah, God, is not a choice among many Gods. Jehovah is the I AM. He is the only God. We don’t buy shares and invest hoping for a future profit. There are not varying prices to fit the amount of sin we want forgiven or the poverty of our life. Like the Jews, we tend to make faith and religion, a marketplace like our jobs and relationships. Jesus forms a whip, turns the tables upside down and creates a scene, a mess. Lent calls us to reflect on whether we have put the cart before the horse and if we have not made church into “marketplace.”
Destruction and Resurrection
The Jews are flabbergasted. By what authority can Jesus just enter the Temple and create a mess? What is the SIGN of his authority? Jesus now says the words that will be held against him at his trial.
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
From our historical perspective, we understand that Jesus was talking about his death and resurrection. The leaders, though, do not have our advantage and think he is talking about the Temple, the outer courts where the marketplace is happening. But, as usual, Jesus is digging deeper. He has gone from upturning a marketplace for buying for a sacrificial system to reminding the Jews, the commandments are about relationship. Sacrifices allow the person to “purchase” a clean conscience with the earning of their hands, six days of the week. He is going to a more core issue. Our first priority is God.
More over, the Jews should remember that if the Temple is destroyed, faith will survive. The Jews have survived the destruction of the Temple in the past and will survive the destruction of the Temple in the future. In the face of persecution, faith survived because faith is not based on sacrifices but on God. Jesus points to the past and to the future and prophesies the present that is unfolding. It is not the Temple but faith that governs the choices we make.
How faith works in our lives must be turned upside down. We advertise for Jesus, “try it, you’ll like it” but here Jesus clearly says that his way of faith will create tension – suffering, rejection, and death as we discussed last week – with the values of the world. Faith cannot center on the Temple and its sacrifices. Faith centers on people and challenges us to recreate, reconstruct our value system, not just offer a sacrifice for our breaking of rules. We must not only offer sacrifices but also make choices that will feel like death but result in resurrection. On Sunday we choose if we are we going to get that rest we so dearly need from the stress of the marketplace all week or are we going to go to church? Are we going to forgive that stupid offense of the other, one more time!, or are we going to keep carrying the grudge? That memory of ourselves or the other that just won’t get buried in our subconscious or forgotten keeps popping up at awkward moments and won’t stay put at the foot of the cross! In so many ways, the life of faith challenges the values of the world. Sacrifices will continue but do not put the end to sin. It is only as Jesus is sacrificed that there can be resurrection.
The first three commandments focus us on God and the last seven focus our lives with each other, and confront our selfish tendencies. Judging from the divorce rate today, honoring of marriage is a genuine challenge. Murder still fills our courts not to mention demonstrations and riots. We call slander, “misinformation” as if truth of events depends on the point of view of the reporter. Coveting and want are never satisfied as we champion “the good life” that we all deserve, right? We don’t want life as it is but want…what is it we want? It is the sign of our actions, our life, as we consistently die to self and grow, rise up, by the power of God that give Christ and us the authority. Ultimately Jesus has authority because he is God but the sign that gives him authority is his life that is a living demonstration that the Ten Commandments are right.
The sign of authority of Jesus is the life he lived, his embodiment of the principles he taught. “Destroy this temple,” destroy this marketplace, take away all the trappings of religion and what are we left with? Without the marketplace of religion, we are left with faith. But I think Jesus is saying more than getting our values straight. People who are not Christian often do all sorts of good. Other religions have wonderful gurus and leaders that have been exemplary. Jesus points to something more ominous – his upcoming death. He must be destroyed, must be eliminated, and rejected, die and his resurrection will be the sign of his authority. He will be the ultimate sacrifice that destroys death. The empty cross is his sign.
The New Temple
Jesus has shifted the conversation from marketplace works. Jesus has pointed to his death and resurrection as the sign of faith that survives the destruction we go through in our battle with the world. The disciples later realize that Jesus was voicing an astounding fact about the temple. That focus on temple as building is about to change. “He was speaking of the temple of his body.” Jesus predicts the shift that is going to happen as faith moves from faith in a place, the Temple, to faith in Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for sin, to a new kind of temple, “the body of Christ,” the church. 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul asks us “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” We believe that Jesus’ body and ours is the real Temple that can go anywhere, that will be transformed for eternal life, and that testifies to the truth of God’s love that is stronger than religious rules and laws, stronger than death, and always is as close to us as our own heart.
The Noah Covenant was God’s promise to not destroy us by water and is demonstrated in the rainbow. The Abrahamic Covenant was God’s promise to form a nation of people that will bless all nations. The Mosaic Covenant found in the Ten Commandments is a covenant of what that kingdom God is forming will look like. New laws will not be voted in with each leader and each congress. God’s favor will not depend on the sacrifices we can afford to offer nor the good deeds of our life. God’s favor will be a gift available to all languages and people as Jesus satisfies death and his temple will be found in his body, the church.
The tortoise was wrong. He was not cursed with carrying his house but was blessed that wherever he went he was home. Even so is the Christian who carries the Holy Spirit in his heart. The tortoise was wrong to think he might be the king and not to acknowledge that he was carried by holding on tight to the stick, the Ten Commandments that carry us to new heights. The ducks or the “goose” is the Holy Spirit who carries us to see the world. Thank you, Lord. Hold on for the rest of Lent.