Third Sunday in Lent, Year B

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Second Sunday in Easter, Year B April 15, 2012 Second Sunday of Easter, Year B John 20:19-31
Easter, April 8, 2012 April 8, 2012 Sermon, Easter Sunday, Year B Mark 16:1-8
Good Friday, April 6, 2012 April 6, 2012 Good Friday John 18:1-19:42
Maundy Thursday, April 5, 2012 April 5, 2012 Maundy Thursday John 13:1-35
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B March 25, 2012 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B John 12:20-33
Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B March 18, 2012 Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21
Third Sunday in Lent, Year B March 11, 2012 Third Sunday in Lent, Year B Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
Second Sunday in Lent, Year B March 4, 2012 Second Sunday in Lent, Year B Mark 8:31-38
Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B February 26, 2012 First Sunday in Lent, Year B Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15
Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012 February 22, 2012 Ash Wednesday Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B February 19, 2012 Last Sunday after Epiphany 2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 12, 2012 Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B February 5, 2012 Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 29, 2012 Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B January 22, 2012 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B Mark 1:14-20


Third Sunday in Lent, Year B

Sermon Date:March 11, 2012

Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

Liturgy Calendar: Third Sunday in Lent, Year B

Can you possibly imagine the following scenario?  The door swings open, and Jesus himself comes among us, with his whip of cords.

He goes straight to the altar, and knocks everything from it.  Wine from the overturned chalice stains the altar cloth.  Candles go tumbling to the floor, wafers scatter. 

“Take these things out of here.  Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” he states in no uncertain terms.  By now, someone has surreptitiously called 911, while some of you men may have moved forward to escort this obviously crazy person out of our sacred space.

This image is so shocking that I hesitated to even use it in a sermon.  It seems so full of blasphemy, and yet, I think our shock over this scene helps us to imagine what the people in the outer courtyards of the temple must have experienced that day in Jerusalem—total shock that someone should come into their midst and so forthrightly interfere with the way of worship and sacrifice that had been established as the norm.   The people selling animals and the money changers plied their trade in this area for very logical reasons, based on the sacrificial way of worship in the temple. 

This scene also reminds us that Jesus is anything but the rather pale and ethereal looking, meek and mild mannered man portrayed by Victorian painters.  

Make no mistake, Jesus is a man of power and might. 

What does this story have to do with us, other than to arouse our imaginations?  What are we to learn from the scriptures assigned on this third Sunday in Lent? 

Looking back for a minute, in each our Old Testament readings this Lenten season so far, we have heard the stories of God’s covenants with God’s chosen people.

First, we heard about the covenant that God makes with all of creation in the wake of the great flood, an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature, and the whole earth.   God promises that  the waters will never again become a flood to destroy the earth. 

Last Sunday, we heard God making  a covenant with Abraham.  Abraham’s part of the covenant is to walk before God and to be blameless, and God is going to make Abraham the father of many nations. 

This week, we hear God spell out how the Israelites are to live if they are to be in covenant with God, the God of power and might that brought them out of the land of slavery into the Promised Land.

And to be in covenant with God, God expects them to live in a certain way, so God gives the people the Ten Commandments, so that they can understand what they need to do to walk before God and be blameless.

Now let’s look at Psalm 19.  The psalmist captures the essence of these covenants in this psalm.  In the first six verses, we find vivid descriptions of the glories of creation, the creation that is the work of God, and God is also in covenant with this creation, as we know from the Noah story.  And the heavens are telling the glory of God. 

Then the Psalm moves on, in verses seven through ten, to describe the law, which we already know is the essential guide for human conduct. 

But the psalmist does not stop there—this wise poet knows that even though we have the law as a guide to right conduct, we are incapable of keeping the law. 

The psalmist says that we can’t even know how often we offend God, that we are full of secret faults unknown even to us.

The psalmist asks God to keep him from presumptuous sins, because the psalmist knows that he cannot walk blamelessly  on his own, even with the law in front of him.  And like the Psalmist, neither can we walk blamelessly on our own. 

Now we come to our New Testament passages. 

The words that we have just heard from Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians are nearly as shocking as the actions of Jesus in John’s gospel.

Don’t we all want to be wise?  Don’t we all seek to back up our beliefs with facts, and with scripture, to justify our particular wisdom and understandings in the eyes of the rest of the world?

And yet Paul tells us that these efforts are nothing short of foolishness. 

For Paul, the cross stands in front of and overshadows any wisdom, justification and self-righteousness that we have constructed for our own salvation and for the salvation of those around us. 

If we look  back in church history, we see the church itself making the mistake of  coming up with its own wisdom, justification and self-righteousness throughout its history, in events such as the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, and  the financial abuse of the poor as the church amassed more and more wealth.  Throughout its history, the church has lived, and continues to live, with the very real danger of putting itself in the place of God, making of itself an idol greater than God. 

Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians is still as fresh today as the day he wrote these words to the contentious Christians in Corinth.  The one thing that unifies and saves us is the cross itself.  Christ crucified.  Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 

Because no matter how hard we try, we can’t walk before God and be blameless, even with the Ten Commandments in front of us and our best efforts to keep them. 

We become righteous before God through Jesus Christ, by walking before God with the cross in front of us. 

And now we come again to the gospel. 

Consider this sign that Jesus performed in light of your own life.    

If we are God’s temples, which we believe ourselves to be, then this passage challenges us to open the doors of our hearts to God, and to let this man of power and might enter, yes, even with a whip, to shock us, and to drive out the things that we have made idols in our lives, the things  that  keep us from being worthy dwelling places for our Lord and Savior, to pray that he will drive out those  things  that keep us distracted, those things that are just as essential to us as the sacrificial animals and the untainted coins must have been  to the worshipers in the temple that day when Jesus came thundering in with his whip.    

Rite I contains the prayer of Humble Access,  a valuable prayer that we find convenient to skip over.  In fact, the prayer book rubrics remind us that the use of this prayer is optional and it appears only in Rite I. 

However, this prayer reminds us that self righteousness puts us  only into right relationship with me, myself, and I, leaving very little room for God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In our self-righteousness we end up worshipping ourselves rather than the God of power and might. 

Maybe we should return to this prayer on a regular basis, to be prayed as the psalmist reminds us, to help keep us from the presumptuous sin of self-righteousness, because self-righteousness can so easily become the norm in our lives, just as the temple had become an emporium, a marketplace justified by the way of worship that required animal sacrifice and money changers, all of which seemed to bother no one except Jesus himself.    

The prayer of humble access begins with this sentence.

“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.”

During this Lenten season, join me in asking Jesus to enter in and drive out of our hearts the idols that we have all set up to protect ourselves, to clear out all of the things that have become our own private marketplaces, the things that we look to instead of to God, the things that distract us from God, especially our own wisdom and knowledge–

and to leave in our hearts only one thing– Jesus Christ himself, the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Then we can pray wholeheartedly with the psalmist

“Above 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.”





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