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March 19, 2006

Sunday thoughts ....

My new "ministry" as Church Warden has meant that, over the last year, I have not had that much opportunity to preach. This Sunday is, however, and exception to that and I have some interesting readings to work with! Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments, St Paul to the Corinthians on the "foolishness of God" and from St John's Gospel, Jesus in the Temple predicting that he will rise again in three days. Find a link in that!

My final effort can be found in the extended post below!

+ May the words in my mouth,
on my lips,
and in my heart
be inspired by the Holy Spirit


“I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods but me.”

Our lessons today give us an interesting insight into how God has interacted with His people across the ages. In Exodus, we hear of the giving of the Ten Commandments, the foundation of our legal system today – and the foundation of many others. In Corinthians we hear of the “foolishness” of God and how even God’s foolishness exceeds all the wisdom of creation – His creation. And in our Gospel reading we hear how Christ overthrew the money changers and expelled them from the temple, cleansing the Temple in preparation for His death, and resurrection.

John’s gospel places this story right at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus and identifies it with the celebration of the Passover. Clearly it was an incident that lodged firmly in John’s mind at least for he says

“Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”

To which his hearers respond in anger and shock, after all, at this time the temple had been undergoing construction – a bit like the Abbey it seems – for forty six years and was still not fully completed. Jesus is, of course, referring to the resurrection to come and not to the physical task of constructing the Temple – a point not understood by his hearers until after his passion according to John’s account. Looking at the gospel we have today read, you do not find the account of the Passion until you reach Chapter 18, so John is here trying to give his readers an indication of the Godhead of Christ at an early point in the initial ministry.

So what of the “foolishness of God”?

To the many who heard and followed Christ on his journey through ministry and to the cross and death on a barren hill, much of his teaching must have seemed interesting, but not terribly practical. A problem we face today as we try to apply the Gospel principles in a world that imposes secularism on faith, ignores the concept of the Sabbath and insists on making every day a working day so that the “shareholders” can be rewarded by profits and which strives to divorce the concepts of morality, justice and forgiveness from the divine and make them functions subject to human foible. Jesus spoke to a world like ours, multi-cultural, multi-faith and ruled by a secular government. His message of salvation was probably not what his hearers expected or wanted – after all the Messiah was supposed to be the son of the greatest Jewish King – David. Surely he should at the very least have come among them to impose a new religious purity, a rule of religious law and perhaps even a purely Jewish and religiously inspired earthly government. But instead, He chose to die upon a cross, at the hands of foreigners, so that all might have life and have it more abundantly. Foolishness indeed, to expect to conquer the Roman oppressor by allowing them to crucify the messenger!

Yet that is precisely what John and Paul are telling us He came to do, and the triumph that arose from the empty tomb is the essence of our faith and hope in Christ. Foolishness indeed.
To the world death is an enemy, to the Christian it is the gate to life – God’s weakness as Paul describes it, becomes God’s greatest strength.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

Lent is a time of expectation and preparation. We go forward in the expectation of the celebration of Easter, and we go forward preparing ourselves for the ministry ahead as Christ did in the wilderness. Thos who have walked in a wilderness will know that they are never empty, there are always sounds, always bushes or scrub, there are scents, of heat, of dry vegetation, of animals that have been. Insects buzz, the wind sighs – in many ways a good place to listen to God in the silences between the sound, and in the silence within our own hearts. Seek the wilderness and the wild places and do not be afraid of what you may encounter, strength and understanding arise from making the space and the time to go there and to try to hear what God is saying in the stillness and quiet.

St John tells us that Jesus “did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in man.”

In preparing for Easter, we need to ensure that we have those things in our hearts, minds and lives which are acceptable to God and do not shut out the sacrifice of Christ or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If God’s foolishness exceeds our wisdom, how can we not follow where He leads us?

He has given us the Law, he gave us the prophets, and finally he gave us himself. Can we, dare we, refuse so rich a gift?


Posted by The Gray Monk at March 19, 2006 08:00 AM

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