God Speaks! Are we listening?

temple cleaning

The Pas                                              Lent 3

Year B

4 March 2018

 

Exodus 20:1-7

Psalm 19

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 2:13-22

 

Almighty God, your dear Son went not up to joy, but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified. Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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 “And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the Land of slavery.’” (Ex 20:1-2)

 

God Spoke! Do you know how incredible that statement is?

 

God spoke, not to deliver condemnation, not to castigate, not through a prophet, but to declare, to identify that God is the one who frees us from all forms of slavery and idolatry in our lives.

 

So, really, this is huge!

 

This is huge because we go through our lives striving to follow the laws God has given, the 10 commandments, as we see listed in the passage for Exodus.

 

We can see this when Jesus tells us the same thing in the summary of the law. He tells us: 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)

 

But today God points out that God removed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. God removes us from slavery to idols. Today God restarts God’s relationship with each one of us because we are freed from slavery, we are freed from oppression, we are freed to love as we are loved by God.

 

God frees us from enslavement to what it is that sees to separate us from the Love of God in and for our lives.

 

To that end, God gives the Law, today, on the mountain.

 

But this only works as long as we strive to hear the will of God in the laws given, today. Laws to encourage us to put God first in our lives.

 

Laws to encourage us to love and care for ourselves, and for our neighbours, always putting God first in our lives, and in our actions.

 

But for all of God’s guidance, for all of God’s direction, but for the fact that God spoke, today, we, human as we are, are gravity prone – we fall off the wagon, we think we can do it ourselves.

 

And this is our downfall, as we can see in the gospel for today.

 

When we come before God, God desires contrite hearts, God looks for honesty in action, yet Jesus encounters anything but, amongst those selling and money changing in the courts of the Temple, today. Instead, he encounters those who have rigged their scales so that they get the upper hand in financial dealings. They claim that their product is more acceptable to God than that which the petitioner to God’s temple has brought with him and lovingly nurtured along the way.

 

They do all the tricks in the books to walk away with more than they are entitled, and more than they can possibly use in one lifetime. So these sellers are in slavery, in bondage to their greed, and those to whom they sell are in slavery to the sellers need to be greedy.

 

I’ve often wondered how long it took Jesus to craft the whip of cords that he uses to clear the temple courts, today?

 

After all, he sat in the courts of the temple, amongst the sellers, and the money changers long enough to gather the materials he uses to make the whip, and to make it, as well. In all that time, he watched how God’s people were made to worship money, how their image before God in the temple hierarchy was put before honest worship of God.

 

14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” (Jn 2:14-15)

 

He sat there, and he watched how those doing the selling and money changing put love of money before the love of God or care of their neighbour, or even themselves.

 

He sat there and watched, in the courts of the temple, because he knows that God spoke, on the holy mountain declaring that he has given freedom to the Hebrew people.

 

He knows that God acted to remove the Hebrew people from Egypt, to free them from slavery.

 

Today we focus on the fact that God spoke. Today we look at the fact that God is active in removing us from conditions of slavery, from places where we are not viewed and honoured as brothers and sisters in Christ, as children of God, as those whom God loves.

 

And I’m sure that this is as difficult a journey for us as it was for the Hebrew people, suddenly finding themselves without taskmasters, overseers and soldiers to keep them in line and working their tails off.

 

We could envision the images of college kids on spring break in Florida as the kind of revelry and shenanigans that the Hebrew people are getting up to, before Moses tells them what God has said, today, on the mountain.

 

God said: “‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the Land of slavery.’”

Yet God attempts to give us guidelines, laws, to guide us to be the people God sees us growing into, all because God spoke, and God acted and continues to act on our behalf.

 

So, when we look at today’s readings, we see God fully active in giving us our freedom, fully active, still today to aid us to keeping our eye on God, on Jesus’ teachings to love as we are loved by God, and on the working of the Holy Spirit in and for our lives.

 

But at the same time, we often find our gaze drifting. I try to do yoga several times a week. It’s a struggle, sometimes, to keep going at what I was so passionate about in regard to loosing the weight to make my self healthier for not only today, but tomorrow, as well.

 

I’ve done well, I believe; and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. But the upshot is that my inner self now wants to sit on the couch and binge on snack foods that I know are unhealthy for me.

 

My inner self is having trouble, in some of the yoga poses, to place my gaze out where it’s supposed to be for the focus of the pose.

 

My inner self wants to put her feet up and to relax, which in the end would allow all of that weight to return, to ruin my self esteem, and to force me to return to where I was 2 ½ years ago.

 

And from the time that God spoke and said: ““I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Ex 20:2) to the time that “Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money” (Jn 2:13b-14)

 

From that one experience to the gospel experience, the faith life of the Hebrew people has been setting impossible standards for itself. They have been hiring the personal trainers, and paying for the gym memberships, yet not utilizing those tools as would be beneficial in their, in our lives.

 

And I say our, because we, too, have so much more that we are able to embrace, if we just listen to God’s words, on the mountain, embrace them, use them as a benchmark guide and reinvigorate our lives of faith.

 

If we just see Jesus actions in the temple as restorative, rather than destructive, today.

 

And we see that the Jews go with the destructive version of today’s events. “17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” (Jn 2:17-18)

 

The disciples see his actions in one light, the Jews who have just been chased out of their impromptu market see it in another, and so they challenge him. And this makes sense because they’ve been on the receiving end of that whip of cords.

 

So, in their upset and in response, they look for his resume, his proofs that he is able to march in and destroy their lively hood, that he is able to disrupt the customary, traditional commerce of the temple, right before Passover.

 

So, then, how do we respond? How do we respond when Jesus comes into our lives, and throws down those practises that cause more harm, more damage, more of a sense of slavery and lack of freedom to our lives, than an honest worship of God?

 

After all, we are free Christian citizens, living in a nation founded on Christian ideals. We’ve never been challenged in our lives of faith, until now, until we read Jesus reactions to how people have lived into the freedom granted by God, on the mountain, away from Egypt and a life of slavery.

 

Yet, the habits we live into enslave us away from Christ and his teachings, away from a life lived in the light of God, and they leave us wanting more, wanting habits, and things that continue to enlarge the separation from God on the mountaintop, speaking, declaring our freedom from slavery.

 

Like my inner self who wants to celebrate the progress of 2 ½ years of personal progress toward a healthy life with all of the bad habits she has embraced over a lifetime of eating, so do we fall away from the goal that we set for ourselves, that God puts us in a position to realize for ourselves, that Jesus teaches us how to renew our focus upon God, and the teachings of God in and for our lives.

 

After all, today, on the mountain, in the midst of declaring that we are free because of God’s actions in our lives, God gives us the law to help guide us in ways that will continue to put God first, in our lives, and will encourage us to look after ourselves, and to look after our neighbour.

 

Today, Jesus sees how fallible we are as a people and strives to remove a layer of self imposed slavery between us and God so that we may more fully enter into a relationship with God. So that we may love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves.

 

Jesus opens they way to eternal life, and this is one step along that road, clearing away the self-imposed debris of our lives, to let in the light of God’s love.

 

In my life, I will keep prodding my inner self off that couch and away from those snack foods, at the same time, Jesus tells us: “19b “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” … 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” (Jn 2:19b, 21-22)

 

Amen.

 

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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