Lent Three: Year B

Sermon Title: LENT THREE: Year B

Date: 8th March 2015

Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers

Church Calendar Date: Second Sunday in Lent.

Lectionary Reading: Exodus 20:1-17, Ps 19,1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22

Parts of my sermon today have reflections from David Lose, who writes a weblog called ‘in the meantime’ and I have interspersed his reflections with my own.

“Any careful reader of John’s Gospel will notice that his account varies from his synoptic cousins at a variety of points, few more significant than in today’s reading. Rather than place Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple at the end of Jesus’ public ministry, as Matthew, Mark, and Luke do, John places it here at the beginning of the story.

Why? Because of distinct theological agendas. Keep in mind that the Gospels are confessions of faith from the first century rather than historical accounts of the twenty-first century. So each difference provides us with a clue to the distinct confession of faith the particular evangelist offers. In this case, the synoptic writers cast the disruption in the Temple as the final provocative act of Jesus that precipitates his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. John, however, uses this same scene to announce the inauguration of a new era, one in which the grace of God is no longer mediated or accessed through cultic sacrifice but instead is available to all who receive Jesus as God’s Messiah.

Notice, for instance, that not only the timing of Jesus’ actions is different in John, but so is the accusation he levels at the moneychangers. Rather than accuse them of turning the Temple into a “den of robbers” – accusing them, that is, of defrauding the poor – Jesus instead says they have turned the Temple into a market place. Ironically, however, the Temple had to be a market place – or at least have a market place – so as to enable devout Jews to purchase animals for sacrifice and to change the Imperial coin for the local currency with which to make such purchases. So when Jesus drives the animals out of the Temple, overturns the tables of the moneychangers, and demands the end of buying and selling, he is really announcing the end of this way of relating to God.

God is no longer available primarily, let alone exclusively, via the Temple. Instead, as John confesses in the opening verses of his account, Jesus invites us to experience God’s grace upon grace (1:17) through our faith in him. Given that John’s account was written well after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans, his insistence – and perhaps reassurance – to his community that they would find God’s mercy in Christ outside rather than inside the Temple makes practical as well as theological sense. And, to tell you the truth, I think it has the same potential today.”

Jesus was speaking about the temple being his body.  We are the body of Christ in the world…we come to church to receive ‘the body of Christ’ to nourish us, remind us of why we come to church:  ‘to go in peace to love and serve the Lord’…

The church is a place we’re sent from in order to meet, and partner with, God in everyday life.

“C. S. Lewis’ third book of his Narnia series, The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ , provides a wonderful illustration of the church is a place we’re sent from in order to meet, and partner with, God in everyday life.  If you remember, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe , the four Penvensie children travel from war-torn London to Narnia and there meet the great lion (and Christ-figure), Aslan, and with his help defeat the White Witch who holds Narnia captive in a perpetual winter. In the second book, the children travel back to assist Prince Caspian in obtaining his rightful throne, and at the end of that book Aslan tells the two older children, Peter and Susan, that they will not return to Narnia.

Now, at the end of the third book, Aslan meets Lucy and Edmund at the edge of the Eastern Sea and tells them the same, that this will be their last trip to Narnia. Lucy is distraught at the prospect of not seeing the beloved lion again, but he reassures her that she will see him in her own world. When she is surprised that Aslan is present in her world, he tells her that the whole reason for bringing her to Narnia for a time was so that, coming to know him well here, she would recognize him more easily there.

Isn’t that a great image for church? We come to church because in the proclamation of the Gospel and sharing of the sacraments: [the body and blood of Christ, in listening to our choir and singing our hymns,] we perceive God’s grace most clearly. But then we are sent out to look for God and, even more, to partner with God in our various roles and venues to love and bless the people and world God loves so much.”

By coming to church, we are hopefully being remade and expanding our understanding of what Jesus is on about! Of becoming Christ in the world! If coming doesn’t challenge us with how we relate to God or our neighbour, then we have watered down our religion. We have made it comfortable and ‘nice’.

In the Kyrie’s today we responded to Lord, have mercy to these statements:  ‘we have listened to the tempting voice and we have repeated our habitual follies.  We have been presented with times of testing and we have run to safety.  We have been faced by inevitable trials and we have shut our eyes in denial….Lord, have mercy.

Throughout Lent this year we are discerning who we are and what is our mission here at St Paul’s. This has been brought about more urgently because we are not covering our costs.

What is Jesus the Christ asking of you here at St Pauls? We need to support the mission and ministry of this place, so that ..so that why?…..so that  it’ll be here for me, so that I’ll see my friends? So that people might come to know Christ?  So that we can support our local community and worldwide community?

Jesus is the temple where we can enter freely to be nourished and grow in compassion and love and our bodies are also the temple where we live out being the body of Christ in our world…our 21st century world with so much injustice, domestic violence and people not feeling or knowing love.

It’s important we are here.

I am inviting a number of parishioners to speak to us of their impressions of St Paul’s and what they are discerning as a result of our listening together for seeds of hope.

Our third speaker is: Hamish White: (long term parishioner) Questions:

  • What were your first impressions of St Paul’s
  • What have you found helpful?
  • What has surprised you?
  • Have you found anything unhelpful?
  • As we are in this time of discernment, what are you discerning so far?