Lent 3B - March 8 2015
Old Testament Reading - Exodus 20:1-17
This is one of those passages that we tend to believe that we know, inside and out. We may not have it memorized, precisely, but most anyone who has grown up in the church can recite the ten commandments of God that have been laid out here. Even those in the United States who are not a part of the Christian faith are going to be fairly cognizant of what these verses say, as they tend to be printed and posted in many places and public forums.
For the most part, in our culture, we take them as a distinct set of rules and regulations to follow. We treat them almost like a checklist of "Don'ts" that, as long as we don't do those things...we'll be just fine.
But it's a lot more complicated than that, I think. Jesus references how complicated this can be when he talks about the issue of adultery in Matthew 5, extending the commandment against adultery from beyond the actual act of adultery into how we think about another person.
In this example, Jesus helps us to see that the "rules" are not black and white, nor are the way that we should live into them, but instead that we need to look at the spirit of the rules, and understand what it is that God is saying about our lives and our lives in relationship to God, others, and the world... i.e., it is not enough for us to say, "Oh, I didn't murder the guy" if our actions and/or inactions lead directly to his death. You may not have killed him, but you were responsible for the death.
A couple of quick technical notes:
- The first four commandments are about our relationship with God.
- The last six are about our relationships with others.
- The Hebrew that makes up these commandments are typically two words. By the nature of the structure of Hebrew, these words include the subject, verb, and the negation, but it somehow comes out cleaner, more direct and more precise, in my opinion.
New Testament Reading - John 2:13-22
Oh, I am so excited about this scripture passage! I absolutely love the image of Jesus turning over tables and chasing people out of the temple with a whip. I think that it helps us to understand the humanity of Jesus (fully God, fully man), but I think it also helps us to understand God's anger, because it humanizes it, taking it out of a place of celestial retribution and into a place of divine disappointment.
God's anger comes from a place of being profoundly disappointed in us, in the ways that we muck up. The ways that we hurt each other. The ways that we hurt ourselves. The ways that we defy and deny God.
In this particular case, God's divine disappointment in the people in the temple comes from a place of seeing how they were taking something that was holy and turning it into something seedy and wrong. And, in the connection to my thoughts about the Old Testament passage, it's not like they were doing anything explicitly wrong. Everything that they were doing was perfectly within the bounds of what was acceptable, there were no regulations against what they were doing...it just was wrong. It violated the spirit of the place. It was taking advantage of the needs and desires of others to connect with God, and making a profit off of the expense of others.
What do we do with it?
Last week's sermon dealt with examining when and where it is right to stand and speak...this week I think that I am going to explore a bit more about this, particularly in regard to when using/feeling/experiencing anger is right and just, particularly in regard to injustice and cruelty. Very likely there will be a lot of discussion on how we channel that anger into something that is productive and good.
Check the sermon blog next week to hear the results of these wanderings and wonderings!