March 7, 2020 Worship (Lent 3)
Jesus took the hard road that led to Jerusalem and his disciples were with him.
Jesus confronted the evil ones of his day. He had the courage to live by
your will and face the cross because you were with him, O God. We give you
thanks for his examples and teachings. We pray that you will guide us too in our
Lenten journeys and give us the courage to transform into your people who follow
Jesus. We give you thanks. Amen.
Scripture Reading 1: Exodus 20:1-17
20 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 You 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. 5 You 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, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But 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. 11 For 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.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.[c]
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You 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.
Scripture Reading 2: John 2:13-22
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making 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. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After 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.
Spiritual Cleansing for Right Relationships
Last week, I watched a documentary that my brother kept recommending to me. It is called Cowspiracy, which explores how animal farming and our meat-eating habits are the biggest cause for destroying the environment, more than fossil fuel. I felt uncomfortable and guilty. I eat meat. I love dairy and fish. But with the new knowledge I acquired from this movie, I cannot continue my old diet in ignorance. I have to be more conscious of the food I choose. It is surprising how we live in such tight interconnectedness today that it is so easy to do others and Mother Nature harm without realizing it. Especially watching this movie during Lent had a significant impact on me. As we prepare ourselves spiritually to follow Jesus to his cross and live as his disciples, we need to cleanse our spirits and lives; that is the purpose for the Lenten practice of fasting and praying that we learned from our Christian ancestors.
Our gospel reading is the familiar story of Jesus cleansing the Temple. All four gospels tell this story, but John’s account is significantly different. In other gospels, this story is presented at the end, after Jesus entered Jerusalem, and before he was arrested and executed. John’s gospel presents this story right at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. In John’s gospel, Jesus cleanses the Temple at the beginning of his ministry because the author(s) of the gospel wanted to present Jesus as the Messiah, who came to cleanse the corrupted religion. The Jesus movement was a reformation movement inside Judaism. The gospel of Jesus seeks to right the wrong relationships; our relationship with God and our relationship with each other, which is the essence of all the Jewish Law also known as the Torah.
In John’s gospel, Jesus starts his ministry by cleansing the Temple (after the miracle at the wedding). We should also start our journey as disciples by examining and cleansing our lives. The Ten Commandments that we also read today, as well as all the other commandments in the Bible, are about establishing and maintaining right relationships. During this Lent and throughout our Christian journeys, we should work towards right and just relationships; with God, with each other, and with all of God’s creation. Being aware of the environmental impact of our diet and participating in environmental justice movement is one way. Fighting racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, and other forms of bigotry is another way. We could add to this list helping those in need such as the economically marginalized, refugees and asylum seekers, and migrant workers. All of these are ways of establishing right and just relationships in our society, which is what spiritual cleansing looks like.
I have already mentioned before that Lent is a preparation period. We are preparing to go out and live as the disciples of Jesus. In God’s kingdom that Jesus preached, no one is marginalized. Then it is our mission to work towards a just society. Let us use this Season of Lent to examine our lives and strive to change all the ways in which we are contributing to the injustice for our fellow humans and all of God’s creation. May God cleanse us and help us grow spiritually.
This week, as the prayer of the people, I invite you to join me in meditating on the New Creed of the United Church of Canada.
We are not alone, we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
Who has created and is creating,
Who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new,
Who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
To celebrate God’s presence,
To live in respect in Creation,
To love and serve others,
To seek justice and resist evil,
To proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.
Blessing and Sending Forth
God of the wilderness, be with us as we wander through the desert of our lives. Keep us from running back to the safety of old assumptions, and walk with us as we learn to live the life abundant. Amen.