The Assigned Scripture Lessons from the Lectionary:
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Our text from Exodus contains the listing of the well-known and often memorized 10 Commandments. I have come to see them as more of a guide for community living than a listing of laws. Keep in mind that Moses was leading this crowd of refugees through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land. These commandments begin with a focus on our relationship with God:
- You shall have no other gods besides me.
- You shall not make an idol to worship.
- You shall not make wrong use of the name of the Lord
- Keep the sabbath day holy
- Honor your father and your mother
The rest of them deal with relationships within the community:
- Honor your father and your mother
- You shall not murder
- You shall not commit adultery
- You shall not steal
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, slaves, or possessions
I purposefully have #5 in both categories because your parents were your connection to God as they would be your primary teachers of who God is and would be the ones that would provide you with an example of living in relationship with God. At the same time, a harmonious home was also a key component of making the community harmonious.
Moses has been tasked with leading this group of people over many miles, and for many years, they needed a standard set of rules to order their lives. The bottom line was that as a community they would honor God, and they would respect others. Individual needs and wants were to be laid aside for the good of the community. I must honor others’ lives, I must honor my vows, I can’t take what I want, I can’t tell lies about my neighbors, and I can’t be jealous about what my neighbor has. We might cringe today at #10’s assumption that wives and slaves were lumped in with possessions, but that is a sermon for another day.
These are priorities that we can carry forward in our day as well. Let us honor God with our lives and with our worship. Let us take time to be still and mend our relationship with God and others. Let us respect the life and possessions of others. This makes perfect sense until we let the human tendency to be selfish arises.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus confronts the religious authorities because the Temple itself had lost its priorities. They have made what was to be a house of prayer into a marketplace. As John relates this story, Jesus says, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” In Matthew and Luke, Jesus says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” In Mark, Jesus even calls this “a house of prayer for all nations.” You get the picture. Over the years, the Temple has been used as a great fundraiser for the treasury, rather than being a place of worship and prayer for all people, and Jesus was angry about it. Angry enough to do something about it.
These texts call us to ponder how we have lost our priorities as individuals and as a church. What is our true mission? It is easy to do this as Paul tells us in our Epistle lesson for today from I Corinthians, what seems wise to the world is not always God’s wisdom. To humans, respect for others, truth, mercy, and grace can sometimes seem like a foolish thing. Our first love should be God. Our next thought should be to seek the well-being of others and then see for our own needs.
Your congregation, no doubt, has a mission statement. How well is that known, and how does it define what actually happens within the life of your congregation? These texts call us to the fundamental essence of what Lent is all about: introspection, confession, repentance, and new life.