Scripture Introductions

Third Sunday of Lent March 15. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
What a week for the study of Scripture, for preaching, and for pastoral care! We are surrounded by recession[2], wars. terrorism of various kinds, posturing around plans for economic stimuli, possibly an attempted assassination, plus expressions of hope, and so on. We may feel sure that we live in a world very different from that of Moses, Paul and Jesus, and we obviously do, since we can probe space to see if there might be other life, without asking how many mouths that would feed on earth or how many epidemics it might stop. But perhaps our world is not so different after all. In our age, there are attempts to agree and contract for material aid or sensible solutions and charitable efforts; in our readings we hear of Covenant, with its hopes, promises and duties. (By the way, you will again find comments in parentheses, which you can skip or read or use. For that matter, I invite you to use, modify, or ignore what follows as you study and introduce the readings to the Church in your church.) (BTW, I know that I was told to put "Hallelujahs" away during Lent, but I was snot told who decided this, and on what basis. To me, it makes no sense, because it means "Praise the Lord." And, if we cannot still Praise The Lord in Lent, who are we and what are we about, anyway?)
One vital thread through the Bible shows God persistent in making and keeping covenants with select humans, even though they are broken by the humans. So God has an implicit covenant with Adam ("Humanity") and Eve (Mother of life?) in the Garden. Then God makes a covenant with Noah. Then with Abram. In today's reading, we have God making a covenant, through Moses, with the whole people of the Exodus from Egypt. The commandments are part of the covenant, not imposed legislation! (Covenant is an agreement, but more: it binds the partners into a relationship. Thus: "The Lord" {Adonai, YHWH| will be their God, and they will be "The Lord's" people. The expression, "the Lord," represents the personal name of the God of the Hebrews, printed in four letters without vowels: Y H W H. It was thought too holy to pronounce, and "Adonai," "the Lord" was used rather than defile it in human speech. Others sometimes simply used the expression, "the Name! [Hashem - pronounced Hashame]. ") (The Ten Commandments, sometimes called "The Decalogue," as "The Ten Words," or "The Ten Statements," are not just conditions of the covenant, but part of the covenant itself: they are a gift rather than an enactment, to be "lived up to," just as "Torah" means "Teaching" as well as "Law.") The Commandments are a sign or symbol of the relationship with God. Let us listen to the Ten Statements in Exodus 20, and may God speak to us. Exodus 20:1-17[3] You may wish to hold your thanks and praise until after the last reading, or pause in silence, or say something like: May we appreciate God's love for us in these words. Amen.
The Psalm opens with praise of God in all Creation, and continues with honour for God's "Torah," God's "Law" and "Teaching." Let us..... Psalm 19 (VU p.740)
Paul writes to the church in Corinth, to people who seem baffled that others do not accept Jesus Christ as they have. Different kinds of proof are sought: signs of power (but have there not been healings?) or a logical explanation (but more than logic is involved). A different kind of sign or a logic beyond reason may be involved as people tell and respond to the story of Christ! Let's listen, as Paul speaks of God's Power and Wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 May we proclaim our belief with such conviction. Amen.
Today's Gospel reading is of Jesus cleansing the Temple: driving the merchants out from the Court of the Gentiles, along with their holy coins, birds, and animals, guaranteed perfect for sacrifice. As I understand it, the problem for Jesus was not the money, as such, but that the only place for the Gentiles had been usurped, as if they did not count. Speaking of money may not be against Jesus' way, but barring people from worship and grace is. (In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, called the "Synoptic Gospels," because they tend to see things in similar ways, this comes near the end of Jesus' ministry, a challenge to the authorities. In John, it comes early, announcing Jesus' challenge early.) The passage asserts Jesus' ministry at different levels: a focus on Jesus rather than the Temple and its sacrificial system, a recall of his Passion and Resurrection, and an assertion of the New Covenant building on covenants which have gone before. (The towering, glittering Temple may have impressed Jesus as a boy: now he finds the outer court, the Court of the Gentiles, turned into a noisy market serving the Temple treasury but distorting its purpose. Jesus, with authority and authentic wrath, turns them out. It would not take long for moneychangers and merchants to set up for business again, but Jesus has given a strong message: he has challenged the authorities. And the event is linked immediately to the Cross and the Empty Tomb. The challenge is too sharp for the authorities to ignore it. And, in effect, Jesus is making room for us. He becomes, for us, the new Temple: an approach to God and a channel of forgiveness. ) Let us rise to honour and be open to the Good News for us in: (Or: Let us listen closely for the Good News for us in: ) John 2:13-22 May we be aware of Jesus' message of God's welcome and love. Amen It is appropriate to follow the readings with thanks and praise.
  1. With thanks to CAM and EMC, though she can no longer proof the final version for me.
  2. I wonder why I never hear the word, "Depression." Is it because of its associations, or an application of the distinction I heard in a Trade Union meeting, that, in a Recession, the Other person is out of work.
  3. You may be tempted to skip some of the elaborations, but, I suggest, you will not want to skip verses 1 and 2.
  4. Thanks to NC.
(Comments to Stew at