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Back The Third Sunday of Lent
Friday, March 5, 2021
When Deacon Don preached on the First Sunday of Lent, his main point centered around how hard it is for us to change. Though some of his examples hit a sensitive nerve with some of our congregation the point was indeed made that “change is hard.” Lent is a season of “change!” It is a season to “repent,” think again, consider another possibility rather than the rut we may be stuck in or possible sinful ways we have all accepted too easily.
On this Third Sunday of Lent, Year cycle “B,” our first lesson is from Exodus and is very familiar to us all. The “Decalogue,” or the “Ten Commandments.” These rules for life give us a rather simple yet profound basis for our moral life. They emphasize both our respect and honor of God and the expectation that we respect and honor each other. It seems to spell things out simply in black and white. But even the fourth graders at Nativity of Mary School know that these simple commandments get rather complicated when applied to real life situations. The fourth graders asked the same questions many in the early church asked as well. If the fifth commandment is “thou shall not kill” what is one to do when one is enlisted into military service and is expected to use weapons against an enemy? Wow! That was a great question and is an example of just how these rules for life may look simple but they challenge us to reflect on the wider meanings that they convey. At the time of Jesus, to live out the prescriptions of law of God was to be holy. The scribes, Pharisees, and Rabbis worked hard to come up with guidance that would help a good Jew apply all the commandments to real life situations.
The worship of God was a most solemn responsibility and the whole Temple of Jerusalem economy was set up to aid Jews from around the Roman world to be able to worship well. That is why the money changers were there, the availability of animals for purchase for blood sacrifice, the cereal offerings as well as incense and other elements of suitable offerings to God.
Jesus’ “cleansing of the Temple” was more symbolic than just not wanting “profit making” or sometime corruption within the temple precincts. His action indicated the need of repentance or change from one way of organized worship to another way of worship.
This story comes from the second chapter of John’s Gospel just after His first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. This is Jesus’ first lesson in teaching the Good News. His “cleansing of the Temple” scene “rocked the boat” of the status quo. He made no friends with this gesture. The angered administrators asked: “What sign will you show us for doing this?” (John 2:18). Jesus’ response is both a play on words and prophecy as well: “destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19. Of course, John recalls, “He was speaking about the Temple of His body.”
Jesus was challenging His hearers to “repent;” to consider a new dimension of worship. Many responded negatively to Jesus. I’m sure many told Him to return from where He came and leave the worship of God to the professionals.
The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus challenges us to change and change is hard for us. This Lenten season let us examine ourselves to identify what needs to change in us in order to free us to follow Jesus more faithfully.