Here are some of my thougths about this weeks readings. There will be no sermon posted as we are having a guest preacher.
Over the last weeks I have suggested that Lent is a time for us to pay attention to one of our central questions – whose are we? It is a time to reflect on how our experience and understanding of God shapes how we see ourselves and what our lives are about. Lent is a time then to hear the invitation to deepen that understanding, to let go of some images and embrace new images. Last week we wondered how we are shaped by the character of God. This week we are offered readings that invite us to reflect further on that character.
Our first reading from Exodus 20 is well known – the 10 words or 10 commandments. It is easy to read these as legalistic or moralistic. Howard Wallace reminds us that they “were given so that people may live fully together and before God. They were not given so that people may be worthy to come into God’s presence. On the contrary … they are given after God liberated his people from Egypt and led them in the wilderness. Law or torah in the Old Testament, is always a way to live in the presence of the gracious God who first comes to us in our despair and need. They are also a reminder that living in the presence of this God brings responsibility toward God and toward all God’s creation.” These commandments invite us to see afresh a gracious God who offers us grace and comes to us first. How are we marked by that graciousness and generosity?
Both New Testament readings offer Jesus as the means to enter into the character of God. John tells the story of the cleansing of the temple very differently from the other three gospels. It comes at the beginning of the Jesus ministry, rather than the end. Commentators suggest that it is difficult to be absolutely clear about what Jesus objection is, but it seems he is incensed that the Temple, which was to be the ultimate representation of God’s presence among the people of God and God’s reign of grace, generosity, justice and peace now has come to represent a system that abused power; exploited the poor, especially Galilean poor (remember “Jews” is better translated as Judean elite); and colluded with Rome. The clear message is that the temple is no longer the place to find God. Jesus becomes the one in whom God is known. In John the signs Jesus perform point not only to his authority but also beyond Jesus to the Godhead. In Jesus we meet God afresh. Paul reminds us to let go of our assumptions and baggage when we come to Jesus, and to allow Jesus to shape us instead.
Finally, we are invited to wonder how we as the new temple community reflect the character of God here in Tauranga. If we are a people shaped by God’s grace, generosity, justice and peace, how do we live that out for others to see? A good question for us to pray about this Lent.