Lent 3B


Voice in the Wilderness: Sarah Renfro

Featured Musician:Andy Geels


Tasty Wafer: Thursday Night Special with Dwight Ford, author of Never Easy, Always Necessary

Featured Musician: Christopher Grundy


Exegetical Notes

John 2:13-22

Initial Thoughts

  • JOHN!!! (shakes fist at the sky!) - totally out of order from the Synoptics

  • If you are looking for the Mark passage see Mark 11:12-19

  • The Jews- the religious authorities - not meant to condemn all Jews - Excellent Holy Week Insert from First Church Cambridge when Rev. Dr. Mary Luti was pastoring there.

    • “The Jews,” could be translated, “The Judeans,” as D Mark Davis puts it, “Frankly, I believe it reflects the inner struggle for the soul of Jewish piety better than the anti-Semitic assumptions that often shape Christian interpretations.

Bible Study

  • Context - happens right after Jesus’ first “sign” at the Wedding at Cana (cf. 2:11)

    • Passover - Jesus’ death is not his first Jerusalem passover (according to John)

    • Money changers and animal sellers - providing a necessary service of convenience. Are they any different than the beer and hot dog vendors at a baseball game? Or the token vendors at the arcade (might be dating myself on this one)

      • “We do not have any strong evidence - only our imaginations - bolster the view that the necessary trade in birds and beasts was thought to be an abuse or that this was Jesus’ main concern with it. Once again, in this Gospel, the symbolism assigned to the historical event is more important than the event itself.” (Gerard Sloyan, Interpretation: John, p. 40)

  • ANGRY Jesus

    • Acknowledge the awkwardness of an ANGRY Jesus

    • Jesus drives them out with a “whip of cords” - YIPE

    • Righteous anger- at this of all things is uncomfortable- not directed at the pharisees or sadducees or Romans, but those profiting from people encountering God

    • Jesus drives the sheep and cattle out, but not the people- they are allowed to remain in the temple

      • Cleansing the temple does not mean driving out the people- even the unfaithful exploiters- it means removing their means of exploitation.

  • Why is Jesus mad?

    • Exploitation - the cost of the sacrificial doves and animals was too high and exploited those seeking grace.

    • Barrier - an unnecessary barrier that kept people from worshiping God

    • Profiting materially from faith and people’s desire to be in relationship with God - are we that much different?

    • “Then my Lord God will come and all the Holy Ones with him...And there shall no longer be traders in the House of the Lord of hosts on that day.” - Zech 14:15,

      • “That day” of the Lord’s coming is here and Jesus’ driving out the traders indicates that God has come to the temple incarnate in Jesus

  • Religious Marketplace - are we that much better?

    • Beware using this as a soapbox to condemn external injustices - Jesus is bringing it home to the doors of your church. Is your church a marketplace or a house of prayer?

      • Explicit charging - building use, weddings, funerals, etc

      • Implicit charging - what people wear, how they smell, how they look, are they able to get into your church

  • Temple as the place where you went to encounter God - Jesus is the new temple (v. 22) Through Jesus you encounter God

    • “He acts authoritatively in his Father’s house, the temple, because the basic dwelling place of the Lord, the God of Israel, is henceforth to be Jesus’ body. This body is the ‘temple’ of the Evangelist’s concern. The deed of Jesus indicates that (Gerard Sloyan, Interpretation: John, p. 41)

    • At the time of John’s Gospel the temple has already been destroyed

    • The first passion prediction

Sermon Thoughts

  • Good summary: “The narration happens in real time, as if the reader can see everything that Jesus sees. Yet, Jesus’ command to the dove sellers differs strikingly from the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48). Instead of a concern for temple malpractices (“den of robbers”), Jesus orders that his Father’s house not be made a marketplace. For the temple system to survive, however, the ordered transactions of a marketplace were essential. The temple had to function as a place of exchange for maintaining and supporting the sacrificial structures. Jesus is not quibbling about maleficence or mismanagement but calls for a complete dismantling of the entire system. Underneath this critique lies also the intimation that the temple itself is not necessary. At the center of such theological statements is the fundamental question of God’s location, which will be confirmed in the dialogue between Jesus and the Jewish authorities.” (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher)

  • What tables would Jesus turn over in our churches today? What would he see that would cause him to pull out his whip?

  • What barriers do we put up before people and God? Membership? Confirmation? Church-y language? Inaccessible buildings?

  • Are we willing to worship with the money changers and cattle sellers? Those who have been bullies, exploiters and betrayers?

Exodus 20:1-17

Initial Thoughts

  • We just covered this in October on Proper 22A

  • If there were actual stone tablet that the people carried with them, they did not have these words. Exodus tells us that these tablets were broken by Moses in Exodus 32:19. A few chapters later the covenant is renewed and there is a different Decalog (Ten Words). Exodus 34:17-28:

  1. Don’t make metal gods

  2. Observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread

  3. Every first offspring is mine.

  4. No one should appear before me empty-handed

  5. You should work for six days, but on the seventh day you should rest.

  6. Observe the Festival of the Weeks and Gathering Festival

  7. All your males should appear three times a year before the Lord.

  8. Don’t slaughter the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened.

  9. Bring the best of the early produce of your land to your God’s temple. (WHAT TEMPLE?)

  10. Don’t boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

Exodus 34:27: “Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Write down these words because by these words I hereby make a covenant with you and with Israel.’ Moses was there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights. He didn’t eat any bread or drink any water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten words.”

Bible Study

  • Parallel found in Deuteronomy 5

    • Explanation for Sabbath is different. Exodus: Because God rested, you should too. Deut: Remember that you were a slave in Egypt

    • Covet Commandment: Deut Separates wife from the rest of household goods. Exodus: wife is included with other things that “belong to your neighbor.”.  

  • Law is a continuing act of salvation.

    • Begins with “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

    • God’s saving work in Exodus includes the giving of the Law. Cannot separate God saving the people from Egypt from the Law.

    • Relationship with God, and what makes the people distinct, is captured especially in the second set of the Decalog.

    • Universal nature of the Law is seen in tying Sabbath to creation. Living with these parameters is both for the people, and for all of Creation.

    • Second person singular phrasing makes the Law not just about the people, but about individuals and how they relate to God and to others.

  • These Laws, unlike things like Codex of Hammurabi, and even our own legal system, does not include companion punishments.

    • “Do not” language actually opens up human possibility. It is not prescription for behavior, but sets limits on what is acceptable.

    • Lack of punishment and 2nd person language places the onus of following the law on self, not on an outside source.

    • Enforceable only by the keystone at the beginning, that God is your God.

    • Living by these Laws is a part of Created Order, not just rules for which you can be punished. God’s will is for all creation to live within these guidelines. If they were followed, it is not just about lack of punishment, the whole world order would shift so as to be more aligned with God’s will and purpose.

Sermon Thoughts

  • Should the Decalog be in government squares? If the governments are also willing to remove the punishments assigned to the laws, then by all means. Also wonder why no one is clamoring to place the Beatitudes in courtrooms.

  • The Decalog is expanded upon greatly within the rest of the Books of Moses. These can be seen as the foundation of the relationship with God. The foundation of these laws are the God saves. What could we be saved from if all of creation lived within these parameters?

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Initial thoughts

  • This passage appears in lectionary in Epiphany Year A, Lent Year B and in Holy Tuesday every year.

  • How does reading it paired with Beatitudes change the reading from when it is read in Lent?

Bible Study

  • Context:

    • Corinth, according to David Deffenbaugh in Working Preacher is: “Situated between two seaports. It was a place where traditions converged, where various languages were spoken and ideas were exchanged as eagerly as money for exotic goods.

    • Corinth also had more than its share of corruption and vice: the disparity between rich and poor was painfully evident and, as one might expect under such circumstances, prostitution was rampant. In the first century, Corinth was where fortunes were made and where more than a few lives were sacrificed in the process.”

  • Wisdom and Foolishness

    • Passage contains both universal truth and particular application

      • Corinthian church must have been diverse.  Evidence that while most Christians were poor and uneducated, not all were.

      • What do our churches look like?  The makeup of many mainline, middle class congregations is the opposite - mostly comfortably wealthy, with some poor mixed in.

      • Truth remains, “God did not choose you because you deserved to be chosen.  God chose those who are undeserving, by the world’s logic, in order to confound the logic of the world.” Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 124

      • Is there room for intellectualism in the church? “Our faith is 2000 years old, our thinking is not”

    • God’s wisdom is different than the world’s wisdom

      • “Paul asserts that the cross of Jesus Christ reveals the power of God.  While for Christians some twenty centuries removed from Paul, and accustomed to the cross as a symbol in churches and even in jewelry, this assertion may seem inoffensive, it must have struck some of Paul’s contemporaries as the ravings of a madman.  The cross was, in fact, the antithesis of power - except as it revealed the power of the Roman Empire to crush those regarded as opponents.” Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 123

      • “The Jews” looking for a Davidic monarch

      • “The Greeks” looking for esteem, power, and beauty.

  • Frederick Buechner:

    • “The message that a convicted felon was the bearer of God's forgiving and transforming love was hard enough for anybody to swallow and for some especially so. For hellenized sophisticates-the Greeks, as Paul puts it - it could only seem absurd. What uglier, more supremely inappropriate symbol of, say, Plato's Beautiful and Good could there be than a crucified Jew? And for the devout Jew, what more scandalous image of the Davidic king-messiah, before whose majesty all the nations were at last to come to heel?
Paul understood both reactions well. "The folly of what we preach," he called it (1:21), and he knew it was folly not just to the intellectually and religiously inclined but to the garden variety Corinthians who had no particular pretensions in either direction but simply wanted some reasonably plausible god who would stand by them when the going got rough.
Paul's God didn't look much like what they were after, and Paul was the first to admit it. Who stood by Jesus when the going got rough, after all? He even goes so far as to speak of "the foolishness of God" (1:25). What other way could you describe a deity who chose as his followers not the movers and shakers who could build him a temple to make Aphrodite's look like two cents but the weak, the despised, the ones who were foolish even as their God was and poor as church mice?”

Preaching Thoughts

  • What is the folly that we must preach? In the midst of American Civil Religion, it is imperative to reclaim the foolishness of the Gospel.

  • What does the world reward?  The system of the world has created a situation where 85 people have as much material wealth as 3.5 billion combined.  Where is the wisdom in such a system?

  • Sometimes the only way to be a disciple of Jesus is to do that which makes no sense.  Do the beatitudes make any sense?  Does Jesus teaching make sense?  Does an empty tomb make sense?  Do grace, mercy, and justice make sense?  

  • The Christian message- that of a crucified savior is foolish and doesn’t make sense- are we ok with that? Why do we keep trying to convince people this is not the case

    • Who are you looking for? A Davidic monarch who will overthrow the oppressors and guide you into an era of powerful autonomy? A Wise person who will answer your questions or fix your problems? Or a savior who shows you that what you need to be saved most from is you and that faith is not about sustainability, popularity, wealth, power or even survival- it is about love.

    • Faith is not fair or rational- doesn’t mean it isn’t true

    • We believe in the impossible: pigs can fly, the dead can come back to life and the Kingdom of God is at hand


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).