Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Third Sunday in Lent, Year B
March 4, 2018
Lessons: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are fools for Jesus and experience the power of God in the most unlikely places and ways.
Key Scripture: For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
With Easter Sunday falling on April 1 this year, it’s difficult to not focus on this week’s lesson from 1 Corinthians. In his letter to a divided and squabbling congregation, Paul attempts to refocus the conversation on what unites the believers in the first place—Jesus. There is no reason to be church without Christ, and God’s notions of the abundant life are certainly not the world’s.
Paul points to the “foolishness” of the cross, which is actually a polite translation of the word. A more literal rendering would be “moronic.” The cross and Jesus’ death by crucifixion makes no sense in human terms. We value strength in our leaders, not a grisly death at the hand of the authorities. Even so, the cross as an image has become domesticated, adorning everything from walls to body art to pretty gold necklaces and fancy earrings. Imagine, for example, if we replaced the cross with a more contemporary vision of terror and death. Would folks just as readily wear an electric-chair necklace or have a lynching tree inked into their bicep? If Jesus was on trial today, what would be the instrument of his killing?
Paul also says that “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom” when it comes to understanding Jesus. Are we any different today? We want proof and we crave logical explanations just as much as the people to whom Paul was writing. Proclaiming a crucified and risen Lord is still countercultural. Following the way of Jesus continues to run against the grain of modern logic and expectation. Yet every Sunday we gather in our congregations and “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” and recite the creed and pray that God’s kingdom will come.
And, like the church in Corinth, we still have our squabbles over who is worthy to be at the table, how the poor should be treated, and who has the power and privilege. We put our Sunday “game-day” faces on and try to look like we have it all together, but do we really? Who are we kidding? Do we think we’re that wise and perfectly socially acceptable?
God is still confounding the powerful and privileged with the good news and the scandal of the cross. Jesus is still making room at the table for the marginalized and outcast. The wine is poured and bread is shared in the name of the one who opened his arms to all in the midst of his own agony and horrific death. This is not an image that fits with our world’s notion of success, which is precisely why the Creator of the Cosmos works through that scandal to welcome the broken, the hurting, the hopeless, and the helpless—all who can see beyond the veneer and sheen of prestige and privilege and who are willing to believe in a better way to live and be.
Jesus shakes things up, that’s for sure. In this week’s gospel lesson, he debunks the religious and economic systems of the temple, proclaiming a new way. Jesus is still shaking things up today through the hands, feet, hearts, and voices of the faithful. So, dear friends, as we draw nearer to Easter, ponder the lovely juxtaposition of April Fools’ Day with Jesus’ resurrection. Because of our Lord, we indeed do get the last laugh—and an entrée into real and abundant life. Thanks be to God!
Consider a communal reading of the lesson from Exodus this week, where different voices in the congregation read each commandment. Make an interactive prayer station with a large rendering of the two tablets with the commandments written on them. Have markers available and a long sheet of butcher paper draped over a table beneath the commandments on which you invite worshipers to write their struggles and joys with God’s words.
How are the Ten Commandments a gift to us? Invite youth to consider the role of the commandments in helping us live in ways that are faithful and life-giving. You may want to review Luther’s explication of each one. Consider which commandment is the most difficult to keep. Why is that? What can we do differently? Which one is the easiest to manage? Why is that?
Commandments are to be desired more than gold? God’s commandments are sweeter than honey? That’s what the psalmist says this week. You can’t eat them. You can’t spend them like cash. Most children will be familiar with rules from school or home. Ask them to list all the rules they can think of. Then ask them if any of the rules or guidelines they have are better than gold or sweeter than honey. Chances are you will not get a lot of “yes” answers. We don’t generally think of rules or ordinances as being fun and tasty and valuable, but scripture says that God’s commandments are great! Why? Because when we live by these commandments everybody can flourish and have enough. Invite the children to give thanks for God’s gift of commandments that give us a good guide for living. Finish with a simple prayer.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
This week’s gospel lesson finds Jesus’ completely upturning the religious system of his day, dismantling in a few minutes the economic system of sacrifice and convenience for religious practice. What aspects of our religious practice might find themselves at the end of Jesus’ anger and disruption today? Part of good stewardship is always measuring our practices and systems against Jesus’ teaching.
Stewardship at Home
God gave people the Ten Commandments for their flourishing and success. Post this week’s passage from Exodus (20:1-17) in a prominent place and read these verses every day. At the end of the day either talk or, if you prefer, write/blog about which commandments were a challenge or blessing to you throughout the day. By the end of the week, what have you noticed? What was unexpected? What was difficult? What was positive? Give thanks for God’s words of wisdom and life.
Photos: James Thompson and FMSC, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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