Sunday, 19 March 2006

Eighteen Ways to be Foolish for God: a Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent with Reference to Exodus 20.1-7, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1.18-25, John 2:13-22

 Exodus 20.1-7, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1.18-25, John 2:13-22

Would there be anything that Jesus would want to drive out of our church this Lent? Out of our lives? Is there something equivalent to those coins in our lives that Jesus would want to pour out on the ground? Are there tables he would like to overturn in our church or lives?

These are good questions to ask ourselves as we observe a Holy Lent. They are good questions for the honest self-examination which will lead to repentance, reminding us of our desperate need for prayer and God’s Word written, and encouraging us to deeds of repentance: fasting and self-denial and almsgiving.

Some further thoughts this passage brings up for me on fund-raising:
The rebuke of Jesus was addressed to the priests, for the market belonged to them, and the money-changers were their agents. Edersheim says that this traffic alone cleared the priests about $300,000 a year. Though churches differ widely from the temple, they are still God's houses, and should not be profaned. Religion should not be mixed with traffic, for traffic tends toward sin. Pharisaism is its fruit--a wish to carry on profitable business, even with God. (The Fourfold Gospel, J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton)
The point here, is that the market was there to profit the people who set it up and oversaw. They had built a system to improve on God’s.

When we set up tables in our lives that Jesus would like to overturn, we act according to the wisdom of the wise and the world that Paul writes about in our Epistle. We submit ourselves and our church to the hand of the marketplace as we try an improve on God's economy. We are building for ourselves what German poet, Rainer Rilke, calls “rickety selves;" selves which are easily overturned.

What’s the opposite? What’s the foolish way according to the world and the marketplace which Paul writes about? Today’s readings provide a good starting point.

The foolish way according to Exodus 20:
1. Have no other gods before God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

2. Do not make idols in our lives and bow down to them or worship them

3. Do not misuse the name of the Lord our God—for God will not hold blameless the one who misuses it.

4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy

5. Honour our mothers and fathers so we may live long

6. Do not murder—either literally, or by character assassination

7. Do not commit adultery—either physically or in our hearts

8. Do not steal

9. Do not give false testimony—or gossip

10. Do not covet our neighbour’s house, spouse, servant (employee), ox (job), donkey (car) or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
The foolish way according to Psalm 19:
11. Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.
The foolish way according to 1 Corinthians 1:
12. Learn the message of the cross (observing a Holy Lent is a good starting point) which is the power of God for those who are being saved

13. Figure out ways to talk about Christ crucified to others—foolish, stumbling block though it may appear—because he is the power and wisdom of God wrapped up in one

14. Be prepared to look foolish
The foolish way according to John 2:
15. Do not turn our Father’s house into a market

16. Allow zeal for our Father’s house consume us more and more

17. Believe the Sacred Scriptures

18. Believe the words that Jesus has spoken