Of the four lessons for the week, the Gospel is my least favorite, and I will probably not use it for proclamation on this Sunday. The two lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures are tied closely together. Lent is a good time to put the Torah into perspective and to understand the grace of discipline/Law. The Psalm puts it into song. The Epistle Lesson is an excellent jumping off point to discuss the cross and the paradox that it brings when we talk about the life giving properties of this implement of death. A few more notes:
- The Decalogue is a great teaching passage. Given the statistics that a large majority of Christians can’t name all ten of the commandments, and probably cannot locate them in Exodus, it will probably be informative for most congregations. Most people only associate the commandments in a negative way (after all, 8 of the 10 of the commandments in Hebrew start with “NO”), but there is the flipside–these are a positive alternative to what was then a culture of arbitrariness and capriciousness. Having some definite “Nos” made for a positive environment. The first commandment is key to the rest–God is One, and we are to worship only that One. Worship of God informs life in the community and it very distinctive. Other commandments are positive to the core: “Remember the Sabbath” and “Honor your father and mother.” These can keep a preacher wrapped up for awhile. The rest of the “No’s” all make sense if you are people grounded in “Love of God” and “Love of Neighbor.” Find the grace and loving kindness of God in the Decalogue and it will preach the cross of Christ (foolish as it might sound).
- The psalm is one of my favorite and is an example of how Torah is viewed in the Jewish tradition. The Law is not a burden but a joy to be sung. The Psalmist makes it clear–The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul… the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart…More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb…in keeping them there is great reward. Let the psalm be at the heart of anything you proclaim about the Exodus text. It rightly reflects an understanding of God’s love for humankind in the Law.
- The Epsistle is one of those texts that needs expounding regularly. The Christian faith and its proclamation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus was certainly foolishness in that first century. It makes no sense that people gathered around a crucified leader, and yet the Church was growing leaps and bounds and was living an odd and sacrificial life before others. Many centuries later, the Church still confounds the world. When we are at our best, the Church reminds the world that there is more than meets the eye and that what passes for wisdom and strength in the world can never stand up in the Kingdom.
- The Gospel is one of those stories that has to be told on a regular basis. Jesus is not some meek and mild hippie with Birkenstocks that some want him to be. He is a demanding radical in this text and calls for right worship and respect for God’s Temple. It must be said that the story goes deeper than that. The money changers and sellers in the outer court were providing a needed service, but usually at the expense of the poor and the down trodden. Jesus’ anger was a justice issue. The closing of this pericope is Jesus’ first prediction of his crucifixion and resurrection in the Gospel of John. This is a good reminder of what Lent is about–preparing us for all Holy Week has to offer.
- More on Predatory Lending
- Notes at Working Preacher
- From the Saturday Night Theologian