3rd Sunday of Lent

7th March 2021

3rd Sunday of Lent

Year B

 

Collect

Almighty God,
whose most 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 is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

                                                           

Exodus 20.1-17

God spoke all these words:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

 

1 Corinthians 1.18-25

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

     “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
         the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

 

John 2.13-22

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!”

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 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.

 

Reflection by the Revd Sandie

 

Other than the crucifixion story, there are only two other stories that appear in all four Gospels: the Feeding of the 5000 and the cleansing of the Temple. So the fact that these stories are recorded in all four Gospels indicates just how important they must be. And it’s the second of those, the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple that we are thinking about

      Now, even though the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple does appear in all four Gospels, there is an important difference we need to note. In the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – the story comes during Holy Week right at the end of Jesus’ ministry. But in John’s Gospel, the story comes right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

      Now we know that each Gospel writer had a different intention in putting their story together, and we know that Matthew, Mark and Luke were more historically accurate and that John tends to use stories about Jesus as metaphors and symbols. And so it is not a historical error for the story to be in two different places in the life of Jesus.

      John puts it at the beginning of his Gospel because the Cleansing of the Temple, for John, is a metaphor for the ministry of Jesus in its totality. John’s understanding is that Jesus came to renew the Jewish faith: to challenge the institutional views of God and to bring both passion and purity back into the worship of God

   Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. It was the custom for all Jewish males to go at least once in their lifetime to Jerusalem for the Passover. So when Jesus arrived in the city, there would have been thousands of people there; a huge crowd crammed into the narrow city streets and an incredible bustle and noise in the temple itself. A chaotic but highly excitable and thrilling experience for everyone there.

      And, of course, it was a time for peak business for all the religious artefact traders; selling lambs and oxen and pigeons for sacrifices and appropriate food to eat for that season and all the other bits and pieces that would be associated with Temple worship.

      As Jesus walked into the Temple he looked around him at the pilgrims and the prayerful, the tradesmen and the touts, and his emotions rose to fever pitch. It would be wrong to suggest that Jesus got caught up in the heat of the moment. We read in verse 15 that Jesus made a whip of cords. He took time to reflect and time to make the whip: the actions of temple cleansing were not done in the heat of the moment. He had time to reflect and think through what he was going to do…

      And then the anger of Jesus becomes evident: he drove out the sheep, he drove out the cattle, he scattered the money all over the floor, he overturned the tables, he threw out the dove sellers. No-one was spared the anger of Jesus and he shouts, “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

 This was a moment of crisis for the people of God.  Jesus was saying that the old way of doing faith was no longer appropriate, that the heart of faith had become lost in the ritualism. Jesus is confronting the people of God with a deeply uncomfortable truth: this was a moment for them to re-assess. Was it enough for them to be tied to their ritualism or did they need to find the heart of their faith once more?

     God is not primarily interested in beautiful worship. He is interested in pure worship. And the two are very different indeed: though not mutually exclusive. But, by the time Jesus visited the temple, the Jewish nation had lost sight of the difference. The purity rituals had become rituals of discrimination: Jews in the Inner Court, Gentiles in the outer court, Men in this section, Women in that section, Sacrifices the poor could afford, sacrifices the rich could afford. In the beauty of the ritual, the heart of purity had been lost and that had made Jesus angry.

      Jesus was calling for his religious institutions to forsake exclusive purity and forsake a desire for beauty and embrace instead compassion and acceptance and love for the marginalised.

      And if we are take worship seriously as a church, we must be sure that what we do on a Sunday is only reflective of the values we hold the rest of the week. Our true worship is worked out Monday to Saturday as we care for the vulnerable and the weak and the hurting, as we share the Good News of God’s love with our neighbours, as we model the forgiveness and patience of Christ within our families. That is our worship; that is the worship God requires of us, and what we do on a Sunday is a summing up, a bringing together of all that.

      Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another."

     Micah reminds us, “What the Lord requires of you is to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” Fulfilling that command must be our priority only then can we truly purely and passionately worship our God. Amen

 

 Post Communion Prayer

Merciful Lord,
grant your people grace to withstand the temptations
                   of the world, the flesh and the devil,
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

1 Corinthians 1.18-25 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Exodus 20.1-17 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
John 2.13-22 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (3rd of Lent) ©  The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)