Reading Ramblings – March 8, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Third Sunday in Lent – March 8, 2015

Texts: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 2:13-22 (23-25)

Context: Our culture tells us constantly that we are better able to choose right from wrong for ourselves. We needn’t – indeed shouldn’t – rely on anyone else to tell us what right and wrong is. Such obedience to an external code demonstrates a lack of individuality or independence. Of course, such an assertion demands adherence and obedience to itself, thereby contradicting the basic premise of individual thought. The Bible tells us that God knows best in all things, including human behavior. When we attempt to displace the laws woven into creation by God himself, we cannot help but err.

Exodus 20:1- 17 – God gives his people the Law at Mt. Sinai after freeing them from slavery. Under the Egyptians their every moment was governed by law – what to do, how to do it, how much of it to do. As slaves they had no freedom, nothing they could call their own. But now, as God’s people, they are free. But freedom must always have limits and constraints or else it becomes a curse, a new form of chain or law. God provides his people with broad parameters under which his people are free to live out their lives in joyful gratitude to the God who delivered them.

If we insist on seeing God’s law as limitations upon our otherwise unfettered freedom, we are unfamiliar or in denial about the nature of the freedoms we choose for ourselves, and the slavery that inevitably arise from them. Only in proper relationship to God can we hope to know and live in proper relationship to one another.

Psalm 19 – The opening six verses of this psalm assert that God as the creator of all things is proclaimed as such through his creation. The very course of the sun through the sky is evidence of the God who created and determined that perfect course under which life might flourish. God’s wisdom in creation is self-evident.

But God’s wisdom is also revealed as He reveals his created order to us. Verses seven through nine provide different words for God’s revealed law, and different benefits to us who receive it – our souls are revived, the simple can become wise, the heart rejoices, and the eyes are enlightened. The value of God’s revealed Word is as self-evident as God’s role as Creator should be self-evident. They are guides to life, and therefore a source of life.

After all, verse 12 asserts, nobody can accurately assess all their sins and faults themselves. We are all prejudiced in our own favor but the revealed Word of God dispenses such prejudice and reveals us as we truly are. In reflecting on God’s Word our way is secured. Our sin is revealed so that we might repent. Forgiveness is offered, and lives are transformed day by day to be more pleasing to our God.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – To assert that the Word of God revealed at Mt. Sinai 3500 years ago still has relevance and meaning and value today is ludicrous to our culture – truly folly. Of course it’s OK to live together before marriage! Of course it’s OK to redefine love to mean whatever you want it to! Of course there can’t be one single God and truth!

We nod our heads in agreement, forgetting that it was the Word of God that converted our hearts and minds as well, that taught us God’s truth as opposed to the truth that is sold and converted constantly by the world. We do not assent to the Word of God because we are wise and better than those around us. Rather, we are the weak and foolish ones who, by the grace of God, are being made wise by that very Word of God. We are to remain humble as we cling to the Word of God as the source of our power and wisdom, rather than claiming or assuming glory and wisdom and prestige that is not ours but rather belongs to God. As we remain faithful to God’s revealed Word, God will use his Word through us to bring himself glory and vindication.

John 2:13-22 (23-25) – We will be omitting the optional last three verses from the reading, ending at verse 22. The story of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple is famous. It is easy for us to condemn the money-changers and other vendors as sacrilegious or profane. Yet we ought to admire their efficiency. We ought to admire their ingenuity. Truly they had accomplished a great convenience for the thousands of pilgrims who made their way throughout the year to worship at the Temple and offer sacrifices. The idol of convenience and efficiency is often able to set up shop in the shadow of our greater God!

What decisions do we make in the name of efficiency and convenience? How do we feed those idols rather than guarding carefully the glory and honor of our God? What do we sacrifice in order to make things easier for ourselves? Our culture prizes expediency – how can we be sure that the Church does not begin to operate under the same principles?

Some things cannot be short-cut. Some things can not have their corners cut. Sometimes the time-consuming way is the best. Sometimes holiness is more important than speediness. Worship should not be rushed, and we should constantly be examining our worship practices to make sure that we continue to honor God fully and completely, no matter how old-fashioned those practices might seem.

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