Lent 3, March 4, 2018

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Title:Lent 3, March 4, 2018

 Lent 3, March 4, 2018 (full size gallery)

March came in like a lion this year with ferocious noreaster accomopanied by gusty winds on Friday. This week the daffodils came out and many blossoms blew away.

On Wednesday there was the regular Ecumenical Bible Study at 10am and then the first session in a study of Revelation at 6pm. In between was the Enslaved tour at Belle Grove. Eights ladies participated. It was an appropriate Lenten activity, remembering our sins against people of color in the 19th century.

Today we had a break in the gloom – plenty of sunshine, temperature in the low 50’s . The Japanese magnolia was partially open as well as other plants. We had 36 in the congregation.

The children studied the Parable of the Mustard Seed and ended up with a mini-party of rice crispy treats.  The adults in "Thy Kingdom come" studied #Thanks—For what do we offer Thanksgiving? "Thanksgiving is offered to God for all the blessings of this life, for our redemption, and for whatever draws us closer to God. "

We celebrated a number of birthdays – Karen Richardson (March 4), Becky Fisher (March 8), Samuel Boyd Paterino (March 8) and Virginia Bowen (March 11).

We had our second first of the month potluck coffee hour with fish, numerous casseroles, pork and a table of sweets.

Today’s readings invite renewed commitment to our covenant relationship with God. In Exodus, the Ten Commandments become the standard of life for God’s people. Paul assures his Corinthian community that their commitment to Christ is the powerful core of Christian faith. In today’s gospel, Jesus’ passionate love for God ignites his anger against those who treat God’s house with disrespect.

The sermon covered the Gospel cleansing of the temple and used Oscar Romero as a contemporary example illustration. In Jesus time, the priestly class "were making a killing by bilking the people who came to the temple to buy the perfect sacrificial animals to offer in worship, which could only be bought with temple currency, which was exchanged at an exorbitant rate.

"In our times, Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador, saw that the Catholic Church, the state, and the military all worked together to benefit the ruling families of that country while most of the people lived in abject poverty.

"In 1980, Bishop Oscar Romero was murdered as he celebrated Mass in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, because he dared to speak out against the government’s injustice to the poor and its policies of torture. Romero and the other martyrs hoped that God would eventually establish justice, and so they chose to stay and endure in El Salvador and to speak up for the poor and to stand against injustice, even in the face of death.

"Like Jesus cleansing the temple, Romero cleansed the temple, so to speak, and thanks to the work that God did through him, the Catholic Church ended up standing in solidarity with the poor of El Salvador, rather than remaining aligned with the rich families and the government and the military all intent on perpetually holding the poor in economic poverty."

In the Old Testament reading today, The Ten Commandments set forth the duties of the Israelites to God and to those within the community. The commandments are covenant demands founded on their special relationship to God that specify ways that right relationships are endangered or violated. The commandments concerning human interrelationships have parallels in other ancient cultures, but those concerning the people’s relationship to God are unique to the Old Testament.

#1-#4 concerns our relationship to God -I am the LORD thy God; No other gods before me -No graven images or likenesses; Not take the LORD’s name in vain; Remember the sabbath day;. #5-#10 concerns our relationships with others – Honor thy father and thy mother; Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shall not steal, Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s house – Thous shall not covet your neighbor’s wife

Paul sets forth the general principle that the wisdom of God appears to be folly to those wise in worldly terms, while to those in the process of salvation, it reveals the power of God. Human-centered wisdom, which is itself closely related to our efforts, will be overturned by God.

In the Gospel Jesus personifies the title given him in 1 Corinthians: stumbling block.  This week is the familiar story of Jesus’ anger at the temple priests making money off of those coming to sell animals for sacrifices to exchange for the temple currency. This story usually is associated with Holy Week with Jesus overturning the tables. In John it is in Lent 3, three weeks before Holy Week. In Matthew and Mark the words are "overturning the tables of the money changers and the seats of of those selling doves." We don’t the means he used. John’s version is more specific and possibly more serious – he is making a whip of cords, a more violent response.

Take down the walls! Jesus desires to end these boundaries in relationship with God, especially since these boundaries were man-made. No longer will the poor, who do not have the money for the temple currency or to afford the clean animals for the sacrifice, be turned away, and no longer will those in the temple appear to have special access to God. The temple of God will no longer be in stone, but in Christ, and in our very selves, the body of Christ. From Corinthians 12:27, "All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” There are no boundaries. How do we erase the ones we have?

I like what Dean Randy Hollerith wrote about this scripture today -" Here is my question for this morning. If Jesus were to walk into our lives today, what might he want to overturn and toss out? If he were to enter the Temple of our hearts, what thoughts and behaviors and beliefs would he want to drive out? Maybe we still find it impossible to let go of our anger at someone in our lives. Maybe, we find it impossible to let go of some negative understanding of ourselves. Maybe we cling to jealousy, bigotry, or pride and Jesus, if we let him in, would want to pull these things out of us so that we can let them go. Whatever those things are, they are precisely the things that stand between us and God. They are what separate us from God and from our better selves. During these forty days of Lent, pray for God to help you purge the Temple of you heart so that when you arrive at the empty tomb on Easter morning you are ready to welcome him who would give you the gift of life eternal. Blessings, Randy."

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