Third Sunday in Lent, 3 March 2024: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22; Psalm 19

I always find it interesting how a Sunday’s readings echo and connect to each other. Today is particularly striking. It is the middle of Lent, and we are reminded in today’s Psalm that “the Heavens declare the glory of God”. We also read the Ten Commandments. The pairing reminds us that God’s commandments are tied to the glory of God: we obey them in part because of the world God created. The psalmist also tells us that “the law of the Lord is perfect”, and the Lord’s statutes are just and “rejoice the heart”. “The commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes”. Law here is not punitive, but part and parcel of the goodness of the Lord.

The conversation between readings continues as we move from the Hebrew scriptures to the gospel and epistle. Today’s gospel is John’s account of Jesus throwing the merchants and money changers out of the temple. In doing so, Jesus implicitly turns back to the commandments we have read in Exodus: the center of worship is God, and all the buying and. The problem in the Temple is not the worship of God, it is everything else that is happening.

Paul reminds us that the message that Jesus offers makes no sense to the two audiences Paul is most interested in: Jews and Greeks. For Jews, Jesus’ death on the cross–an ignominious end if ever there was one–is the stumbling block. For the Greeks, it is foolishness: Jesus does not enter the wisdom tradition in the way they expect. And if we forget what we know, the message is indeed foolish: God came in the form of a man who died on the cross? Jesus told us to treat everyone as if they were him? We really have to treat everyone as if they might be Jesus? Everyone?

While Christianity has spread worldwide, the central message of love Jesus preaches can still feel foolish. Most Christians don’t do it. Churches have a long tradition of deciding who is worthy of love, or of help. They always have (and had) reasons for doing so, just as those who set up their stalls in the Temple had reasons to do so. But Jesus calls us back to the center, just as he did in the Temple.

So, the challenge is how will we be foolish this week?

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