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Old Testament:            Exodus 20:1-17

Psalm                           19

Epistle:                        1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Gospel:                        John 2:13-22

Hello friends, my name is Dr. Mark Hobson, and welcome to this homily or teaching on the readings for the Third Sunday Lent titled, “no gods before Me.” Our lectionary calendar is a cycle of readings called Years A, B, and C. We are in Year B with a primary focus on Saint Mark’s Gospel. However, as Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels, the Church uses the Gospel of John in this cycle during Lent and on feast days. Today, we will review how the readings scaffold together to reinforce the 10 commandments and the message of Jesus to put God first in our lives. We begin our video teaching today with the proclamation of the Gospel.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint John + (May the Word of the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart).

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, with the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

+The Gospel of the Lord

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

The Hebrew Scripture of Exodus provides one of two interpretations of the 10 commandments, also known as the “Decalogue,” from God to Moses for the people of Israel. The other telling is in the book of Deuteronomy, meaning “second law.” The law of the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, is known as the Torah, and the 10 commandments are key teachings for ancient people in terms of worship and moral living. The first four commandments focus on God – who He is for the people, to put God first in their lives, to take great care when speaking His name, and worship Him rightly on the Sabbath. The remaining six commandments focus on people, like honoring parents and elders, treating life as sacred, honoring marriage, not stealing, lying, or envying the possessions of others. The commandments are nearly 4,000-year-old guideposts and support harmonious living. The decalogue may be summarized as a description of the conditions accepted by the community of Israel in its relationship to Yahweh.

Psalm 19 is neatly joined with Exodus as the first seven verses focus on the beauty, power, and goodness of God, while the last seven verses speak of the law, the statutes, and the commands of the Lord. The final verse of this psalm is incorporated into the Episcopal rubric for the liturgy as the priest may proclaim before delivering the Sunday sermon, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).

In the first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul compares the wisdom of God to the wisdom of the world and basically states there is no comparison. While we may not understand why Jesus had to suffer, die, and rise again, the wisdom, power, and beauty of the cross far surpass human understanding. If Jesus did not follow God’s will to suffer and die on the cross, then we would not be saved. The end of our story is only the beginning of a new and wonderous life in eternity.

Our readings of Exodus, Psalm 19, and First Corinthians, lead us to the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel. We know that John’s Gospel is historically the last telling of the Jesus story, and we know that John is the only Apostle who died of natural causes, around the year 100 AD (or CE).  John’s Gospel has many unique stories and themes different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. For example, only John has the story of the Samaritan women at the well who is the first person to know that Jesus is the Messiah; a non-Jewish woman is the first person in history to meet the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. And for example, a prominent theme in John’s message is that Jesus always follows His Father’s will, as Jesus says plainly in John 10: “the Father and I are one.” In John, Jesus explains His greatest glory in ministry is following the Father’s will to the cross to save humanity. Death on the cross is not the shame the Romans desired for Jesus but His most triumphant moment and greatest achievement because He followed God’s will to the end. Jesus made right what went wrong in the history of salvation.

One more theme of John is that we, as believers, must put God firstly in our lives. Jesus cleansed the temple because God’s house is not a marketplace but a place of worship. Jesus is telling the people of His time to remember those first four commandments. God comes first. God is holy. God’s name is sacred. God is to be worshipped rightly. The Jewish leadership turned God’s House into a currency exchange, and Jesus, through His sacrifice, would turn His own body into a new temple in three days, and He did. If we did not know the context of Christianity, this information in John may not make sense. Yet, as believers, we know the content and the context. We know what Jesus did for us and we appreciate why He did it.

I think a key takeaway message for us from today’s readings is to make and keep God as first in our lives and first in our day. During Lent, especially, let’s have our day begin and end with prayer, honoring and thanking God for the gift of life now and hereafter.

In closing, I leave you with an ancient Jewish practice called Shulchan Aruch. For thousands of years, devout Jewish people, upon awakening in bed in the morning, raise their arms in prayer and say, “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me. Your faithfulness is great.” Perhaps we could try to begin every day in thanksgiving for the God who gives life.

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