Let the words my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen
People get into routines. We have routines for weekdays when we go to work; we have routines for Saturdays; we have routines for Sunday. We apparently like routines; it sets patterns for us and we largely know what we’re going to do in a specific time frame. Psychologists have documented that humanity likes routine.
COVID disrupted our patterns our patterns and structures in everything we’ve done in the past. Everyone has had to make changes in their routine during this time. We’ve certainly have made here at St. John’s and we’re still adapting to what normal has become and will become.
The writing from Exodus is an example of people making a change. God had used Moses to bring the Hebrews out of Egypt and they were on their way to the Promised Land. Take note of what God said in the second verse. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…” You didn’t do anything—I chose to do it. It wasn’t “You obey the law and I’ll get you out of jail; you were not doing anything but being slaves and I rescued you.”
So, God gave them some rules of the road. These rules, or laws are given to you so you will know how to live outside slavery. We have to remember these people just came out of slavery and their only rule was they had was to obey their master—the only rule!
They didn’t have to honor their father and mother. They would have been taken from them and been sold to someone else; therefore, there would have been no relationship.
Of course, there would not have been murder—unless the master told you to do it. Committing adultery—you were breeding stock. And stealing—if you needed to feed yourself or what family you might have, and didn’t have anything, you indeed would steal. And bearing false witness—you lied to protect yourself.
But now you are free people, able to make your own choices. And since you haven’t made choices in the past, I am giving you these guide but lines.
God made a statement to these Hebrews: “I am your God…you shall have no other gods before me.” But we know what happened. All through the Old Testament we see these people and their descendants make a mockery of the rules and many, many times worshipped other Gods.
However, it was during these centuries that there was the Tent Meeting. The Ark of the Covenant was constructed and later it was housed in the Temple King Solomon built in the 10th century BC. It was destroyed in 586 BC. After the fall of Babylon, the Persian emperor Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. The rebuilt temple was dedicated in 515 BC. This second temple was expanded an upgraded by Herod. This construction was completed about 20 BC with other renovations until about the year 64 AD. But the Romans leveled it in 70 AD. But these were the places where they went to meet God.
The gospel of John was written probable sometime after the destruction of the Temple. Sometime between 50 and 85 AD, but most probably after the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.
At the time of Jesus driving out the money changers and those selling sacrificial animals the Temple was regarded as the place where humans met God. It’s where God and humanity come together. The very presence of God was there on top of this hill. Jews came from all over the known world to worship there. The needed to exchange their foreign currency for Jewish. They needed to buy unblemished animals for sacrifice. The Temple was where the Jews went to meet God.
The people who supplied these things were originally outside the temple walls, but over the years they kept moving closer and closer until, finally, they were actually inside the temple walls.
Jesus enters into this place of business convenience. He began overturning the tables and letting the animals go. You people are hiding the presence of God in this place. How can you meet God where you have hidden him with your money changing and all these animals?
The Jews challenged him: “What sign can you show us for doing this?” By what authority are you changing the rules? And Jesus responded. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Well now the Jews knew he was insane. Raise it up in three days? Construction has been going on for 46 years! Of course, you and I know he was talking about the temple of his body. What is our definition of temple? It’s where God and humanity come together. Jesus is the new temple.
The followers of Jesus didn’t get this until after he was raised from the dead. They slapped themselves on the forehead and said, “Now I get it!” Jesus is where God and man come together.
Jesus is the place we meet God. The place where we meet God died upon a cross for us. That is what God does for us. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. He was reuniting us with him in love and compassion and mercy and grace.
Jesus died, but he was raised on the third day and the church is now the new body. Where do we go now to meet God now? Where do you and I meet God today? It is in the community gathered around the Word and Sacrament in Christ. It is not necessarily in this building, but it is in the hearts and minds of the community filled with the Holy Spirit.
Slavery of routine. Lent is a time for change. A time to get out of the routine and start another one. The new routine of meeting God—through Jesus and what he did for us. It is through the church, the community of believers that we come together with God!