Saturday, 10 March 2012

Service for Sunday, 11 March 2012

Service for Sunday, 11 March 2012
Year B, Lent 3

Call to Worship
The Lord has called us into his home.
We come, not because we are good enough to be here, but because we are invited.
Hymn: Together in Song 162 Thank you
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Holy God,                 
We come before you with awe and wonder
That you should choose to meet us in this place, in any place,
That you should seek us out and invite us to come to you.
We come, knowing that the cross is looming up ahead.
Our minds cannot grasp the love so great that could pay such a price for us.
Our hearts cannot feel the depths of compassion that you hol for use.
That your own Son, your own Self, could come among us and an ordinary person, a tradesperson, a carpenter, a worker in wood –
That your Son could give everything for us.
The tools of his trade – the timber and the nails – things with which he created
Destroying his life.
All this was for us.
He could have prevented it,
But for us, all of us,
He faced the pain, the torment, the torture
He faced death
And he freed us from the shadow of death for ever.

We confess we don’t deserve Jesus sacrifice for us.
Our everyday actions continue to provide the wood and nails for his cross.
We fail to love God first and foremost in all things;
We fail to love our neighbours as our selves.
We are sorry for our failings, and seek your help to turn back to your way.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness
The true miracle of Easter is much bigger than Jesus being raised from the dead.
The true miracle is that God did this, not for Jesus’ sake, but for ours – so that we might have new life in Christ.
So I have confidence to say to you:  Our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.
Kids’ time.
Exodus 20:1-17
John 2:13-22
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

If you look at the ten commandments, or at Jesus’ summary: Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself: you see they fall into two parts. The first part is about a respect for, and relationship with, God. The second part is about a respect for, and relationship with, other human beings. These two parts need to go together – and we can see what happens when they don’t.
Let’s start with the first part. What happens if you divorce a relationship with God, and respect for God, from any relationship with other people? If you love God with absolutely every part of your being, with all your possessions, everything – but don’t care what happens to the rest of the human race? It can lead to isolation either from the rest of the world, or even from the church.  Why live in this world if you have nothing in common with it?  Do you wonder why so many cults have done the whole mass-suicide thing? They were not interested in this world or its people. They didn’t see themselves as having any responsibility toward other people.
Let’s look at the other side of the issue. What about the second part of the system without the first. When non-Christian parents send their kids to RE or Sunday school because they want them to have “Christian values”, this is what they’re often after. Forget about all the “God stuff”. They want kids who respect their parents, don’t want to commit crimes, and are basically trustworthy. That makes them good citizens. But that’s all it makes them. You don’t have to be a Christian, or even Jew or Moslem or have any faith at all to follow the second part of the ten commandments, or Jesus’ injunction to love your neighbour as yourself. You don’t have to believe anything. All you have to do is have a general sense of ethical behaviour, whatever you ground your ethics in. Really, there is nothing especially different about the second part of the list, nothing that sets us apart from everyone else. In Australian society, we blend in really well, if we stick to the second part of the list, and don’t risk offending or upsetting anybody by saying or doing too much about the first half. We also don’t risk exciting, challenging or converting people. And that’s just the way Australian society likes us to be – we don’t rock the boat – but we’re also not living the way Christ calls us to.
If we are to take Jesus as an example of how to live a complete, balanced, life, then we have to take on board both sections of the commandments. Indeed, our ethical behaviour – our love for humankind, must grow out of our relationship with God and reflect our relationship with God. We cannot be so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly use; but at the same time, we cannot simply live moral lives without having life centred in God.
In cleansing the temple, we see Jesus in a way the gospels rarely show him. He is furious! Jesus had the patients to hear Satan out and answer the temptations reasonably. He had the compassion to have a meal with Zacchaeus, who had been ripping off innocent people for years.  Why was there no compassion or patience here? These people weren’t just refusing to show respect for God, and they weren’t just failing to have compassion for their neighbours – they were refusing to do both.  They were throwing away the central meaning of the commandments.
They had set up their marketplace in the temple. Sure, they were facilitating the sacrificial system – selling animals that met the requirements for sacrifice, and trading outside money for the tyrian coins that were acceptable to the temple.  They were feeding the system. But in doing so, they were undermining the whole purpose of the sacrificial system. They made a mockery of people coming into a holy place to offer their best to God.
At the same time, the traders were failing completely to respect other people. In the temple, Jewish men were allowed into the inner courtyard. Women, foreigners, and children had to stay in the outer court. The place given to them to worship in was turned into a market! Animals were bought and sold, money traded, all sorts of financial dealings were going in, in the place where these people were meant to be able to pray. How could anyone worship in that? It didn’t matter to the traders – they were Jewish men, and if they wanted to worship, they could go into the inner court. It wasn’t their concern if God wanted to be with women, children and foreigners as well.
Jesus was extremely tolerant and caring with people who seemed to have lost sight of some part of God’s law – whatever part that might be. But in the temple, the place the people of Israel had built to be God’s own dwelling-place among them, Jesus was not about to tolerate a complete disregard of the whole intent of God’s law. There’s no suggestion they disobeyed the letter of the law. They weren’t blaspheming, or committing murder. Until Jesus appeared and started throwing their tables over and whipping them, it had probably never occurred to them that anyone would ever disapprove of their work. The law didn’t say “you shall not sell sacrificial animals and trade money in the outer court of the temple.” But Jesus wasn’t especially interested in the letter of the law (we know that because he healed on the Sabbath): he was interested in what God meant in the law.
Jesus’ behaviour brought him a lot of attention.  Think of the kind of attention you’d get in Australia for doing something like desecrating war graves. (Probably the closest thing Australian civil religion has to a holy place.) There mightn’t have been television news crews there, but word of mouth is a very effective way of passing news – especially scandalous news. For those already plotting against Jesus, this was the kind of ammunition they really needed and they didn’t even have to make it up. With this kind of behaviour, Jesus was putting the nails in his own cross.
Jesus stood out because he took the intent of the whole of god’s law with a degree of seriousness that his society just didn’t understand. First Century Jews were looking for miracles and a challenge to the Romans saw some upstart carpenter trashing the temple. The gentile world, under the influence of Greek philosophy was only impressed with wisdom and nothing about this seemed wise. So it is no surprise that neither saw the significance of the cross when it came – after all it fitted nicely with the same non-sense Jesus had been up to leading up to the cross.
That’s what the Christian faith is based on: the kind of thing that’s still a non-sense in our society – a belief that God over-rides everything and calls for a complete commitment of our whole being – and a concern for other human beings that grows out of God’s love for them and demands that we love as Christ loved us. Which really means if we find ourselves fitting in to secular society too easily, or alternately if we find ourselves isolated from society, we really have to ask ourselves: “What’s wrong? Why is my faith out of balance?”

Hymn Together in Song 491 “Father Welcomes”
Baptism Emily and Thomas.
Prayers of the People
Merciful God,
Jesus cleared your temple of those who were turning it into a centre for trade –
Who were preventing others from worshipping you.
In our world today, there are places where people are not free to worship
As you call them to do – and we pray for those of your people today.
Jesus cleared your temple of those who were turning it into a centre for trade –
Who were putting money and sacrifices ahead of people who had come to worship.
In our world today, there are people who make a great deal of money,
At the cost of the suffering of others.
Jesus cleared your temple of those who were turning it into a centre for trade –
Selling sacrificial animals, while making the place unusable for worship.
In our world today, there are people who will say they are your people,
But will not understand that to be your people, they must have a relationship with you.
Loving God
Be with this world and all its needs.
Be in those places where the temple still needs clearing out.
Show our world, how to love you, and how to love each other.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Passing the peace
Hymn Together in Song 538 “Feed us now”
Holy Communion
Hymn Together in Song 684 “Love will be our Lenten Calling”
Baptism candles.
Threefold Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment