“Remembering What Was Said”
March 4, 2018 – Lent 3 – Year B
The other day I was looking at the list of swimming pool rules. It begins with “Thou shall not….”
- dive in the shallow end
- Swim with open wounds
And the list goes on. Having grown up around swimming pools I long ago memorized those pool rules. They are standard from swimming pool to swimming pool. They are what keeps everyone safe and happy.
Such is true of the 10 Commandments. 10 simple statements that help to guide life. If we all follow them, then life goes along smoothly. To put it another way, we have been given 10 freedoms to grant us full life. In the ancient Hebrew language these statements were likely 10 words. The first 4 – 1) only 1 God – 2) no idols – 3) honour God’s name – 4) Sabbath – speak to our relationship with God and our bondage to self. We are free to relate to one another with love, care and respect. The remaining 6 freedoms speak to our relationships to others. 5) parents – 6) killing – 7) adultery – 8) stealing – 9) false witness – 10) coveting
Every faith tradition has some form of rules of life. They are a list of how to live in a orderly and lovingly manner. The commandments offer a glimpse of the world that, in accordance with the promise, God will one day bring about. One day there will not be murder, or stealing, or idolatry. What a fabulous vision of the future. What a way of freedom for all humanity.
We can imagine the Hebrew people having spent years in the wilderness and recently escaped from Egypt, needing direction for how they were to be in relationship. No longer living as slaves, this new way of life calls for guidelines for freedom.
I hear people questioning if the 10 commandments have relevancy in 2018. It seems to me that they might have more relevancy than ever before. Living in a world of me first, and disregard for the sanctity of human life, I believe that we need a directive of valuing human life and embracing the dignity of all humanity. The 10 commandments serve as a basis for non-exploitative relationships among one another.
Rather than being guilt inducing, these 10 freedoms liberate us to let go of consumerism, militarism, racism, and almost any word that ends with an “ism.” Those gods, and others, truly enslave us by making us more selfish, greedy, and hurtful to others. Putting God first sets us free to be the persons and community God intended.
I can’t imagine that God was first in the mind of the people in the temple when Jesus entered and saw the mayhem. This gospel text, commonly called “Cleansing of the Temple,” presents a picture of Jesus, not mopping the floor with Pinesol as the title may suggest, but, turning the tables over. Flipping out. Getting royally ticked. Getting angry. It wasn’t that he was shocked about the moneychangers in the temple; he’s been to Jerusalem and the temple several times before. But he saw that the Law of God, formulated in the Ten Commandments, had been reduced to rules and regulations. So, where it was supposed to foster a right relationship between God and humanity, it had become just another means of exploitation.
If you have experienced St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church’s “Walk to Bethlehem,” you have walked the streets of an imaginary Israeli village and engaged with the market vendors. It is noisy and congested. Merchants trying to sell their wares, animals rubbing against you, and palm readers beckoning you to learn your life’s journey, all are vying for your money. It is congested and noisy. Money changers stand at the entrance of the temple and the poor beggars are huddled nearby seeking your spare change. As you move further into the temple the stench is almost unbearable and the noise is a cacophony of shouting in multiple languages. Goods are sold, ranging from straw brooms to beautiful bronze urns.
The Passover was near and Jesus returned to the Temple, with all its bustle leading up to the high holy day. The corruption he saw there ignited the fires of his anger.
Bureaucrats changed the foreign currency that pilgrims brought from all over the known world into a common Temple coin, so that these pilgrims could then buy their animals for sacrifice at the Temple. The exchange rate they charged was way out of line. It was thievery upon the unsuspecting and helpless pilgrim.
Jesus looked wild, as he bodily tore into Jerusalem’s equivalent of our Stock Exchange, bringing it all to a halt. To enter Jerusalem on a donkey was one thing. To interrupt Temple commerce was quite another. He had touched a raw nerve – he had to die!
Have you ever been that angry? Harriet G Lerner in her book The Dance of Anger states: “ Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right. Our anger may tell us that we are not addressing an important emotional issue in our lives, or that too much of our self – our beliefs, values, desires, or ambitions – is being compromised in a relationship. Our anger may warn us that others are doing too much for us, at the expense of our own competence and growth. Just as physical pain tells us to take our hand off the hot stove, the pain of our anger preserves the very integrity of our self. Our anger can motivate us to say “no” to the ways in which we are defined by others and ‘yes” to the dictates of our inner self.”
What causes Jesus to be angry today? Is he angry when we fail to take seriously the degradation of the environment? When we buy cheap products ignoring the company’s deplorable working conditions? When it is still OK that Canadian women are paid 69 cents to a man’s dollar? When many Indigenous Canadians living on reserves have unsafe drinking water? When sexual abuse destroys innocence? Is Jesus angry when these situations continue?
Will we continue to support the Mission and Service fund so that these issues and causes will continue to be addressed? Will we invest time in writing our M.P. letting him know our concern and asking that the government take action? Will we invest time in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom? Will we overturn the tables of indifference when we see injustice around us?
On this 4th Sunday of Lent we draw ever close to the cross of Calvary and the empty tomb. Some of us are ready for Easter right now. We want the lilies and other pretty flowers. We are ready to live resurrection rather than introspection. We would prefer not to journey this 6 weeks of Lent. We really don’t want to have to examine the challenging directives of the 10 Commandments. We’d rather not look at the issues that our righteous anger calls us to address. But, here we are. The 10 Commandments are our freedom, not our burden. The temple is cleansed and we are called to follow Jesus. Let that be so! Amen.