Based on the readings from: Exodus 20: verses 1-17 “The Ten Commandments”
and John, Chapter 2, verses 13-22 “Jesus clears the Temple”
Each week of the Lenten season for this calendar year, our readings from the Hebrew Scriptures have lifted up God’s covenant, God’s promise to be in relationship with God’s people. Two weeks ago, we heard tell of God’s covenant not only with Noah, but with all of Creation. Last week the Hebrew text focussed a little more narrowly on God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah, ninety somethings whose good news was that they would become progenitors of a multitude of nations and peoples. This week, we have a very specific covenant named in our reading from Exodus with the story of The Ten Commandments. Given to Moses and Aaron and the community gathered together at the foot of Mount Sinai, this giving of law will be both gift and grace for them as their journey from oppression to liberation leads them into the Promised Land.
Over and against those readings, we’ve had two stories from the gospel according to Mark about Jesus’ divine formation and the beginnings of his journey to Jerusalem and the cross. This week, our gospel reading shifts to the second chapter of the book of John. Here we encounter a Jesus who is anything but meek and mild. Instead, we encounter a Jesus consumed by zeal at what he sees happening in the Temple. It’s a jarring story full of foreboding of what is yet to come for all present. It’s a powerful story, too, for our consideration as we mark the midway point of our journey to the cross with Jesus this Lenten season.
As we hear in the words of our Psalm this morning, we come to prayer: Holy, gracious and amazing God, may the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings we carryiIn our hearts, minds, and bodies be acceptable in your sight as we continue to discern together the meaning of your Word for us this day. Amen.
No doubt some of you will remember the story of God’s giving of The Ten Commandments to the Ancient Israelites we heard back in the early fall when I first came into your midst. No doubt our earlier discussion this morning during our Time with All Ages also provided you with further food for thought.
Really, though, here and now, in our postmodern Canadian context, the question arises: How important, relevant, or helpful are The Ten Commandments as blueprints for living both personally and as the body of Christ in this time and in this place?
Not a trick question, but an important one for our reflection this morning, I think.
You see, it seems likely to me that some of us here might be quick to affirm that The Ten Commandments are foundational for our individual lives and for our life as a church community. Others among us might be more inclined to follow an ethic of everyday living that takes as its form from something else altogether that can’t be defined in concrete ways.
Still others among us might favour a more generic synopsis of the Ten Commandments summed up as the Golden Rule.
Or you might be thinking “my go to guidelines for living are grounded in Jesus’ paraphrase of the Deuteronomic Shema:
“Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And more than that, love your neighbour as yourself.”
Given all of those options, I like Walter Brueggemann’s understanding of The Ten Commandments as being about “helping folks get it right about their relationship with God so that they might get it right with each other”. To me that sounds like a “Best Practices” initiative to shoot for.
One with the proviso, however, that God is at the centre of it all.
This, I believe, is also what is at the heart of our story from John’s gospel this morning as Jesus has what seems like something of a temper tantrum about what’s happening in the Temple.
Turning over the money changers’ tables in a fit of rage and holding those gathered together to account for inappropriate use of sacred space for secular gain puts Jesus at great personal peril.
“Consumed with zeal”, we are told, Jesus upends everything. Once again, I’m reminded that what Jesus is doing here matches up with Walter Brueggemann’s understanding of The Ten Commandments as a set of tools for getting it right with God so that we might get it right with each other.
Regardless of what we might claim as personal blueprints for living, in our humanity, the living out of what we believe in ways that build up rather than causes harm and that emphasizes care for neighbour balanced over and against care for self is always much, much more challenging than we might imagine or prefer.
But then we remember: “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, 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 with 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.” (A New Creed, VU p. 918).
Here, this morning, as we anticipate taking part in the sacrament of communion, we remember the brokenness of Gods’ world in the bread broken and in the cup shared.
As stewards of God’s good creation, we remember too, our own identity as a covenant people, open and ready to receive and be nurtured and sustained in our thanksgiving and, then, like Jesus, called into service and the abundant sharing of all that we have and are.
All of this and more, we do, trusting in this morning’s good news: Our covenantal and compassionate God loves us more than we might ever ask or imagine.
May it be so, amen.