Third Sunday in Lent, Year B
March 7, 2021

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
Amen.

Let us pray.

A brief silence is kept before the prayer.

Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.

Then the readings for this day may be read, as follows:

First Reading:  Exodus 20:1-17

1God spoke all these words: 2I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me.

4You shall not make for yourself and idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses the divine name.

8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
13You shall not murder.
14You shall not commit adultery.
15You shall not steal.
16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God. 

The Psalm may be sung or read in response to the First Reading.

Psalm 19

1The heavens declare the glo- | ry of God,
and the sky proclaims its | maker’s handiwork.
2One day tells its tale | to another,
and one night imparts knowledge | to another.
3Although they have no | words or language,
and their voices | are not heard,
4their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends | of the world,
where God has pitched a tent | for the sun.
5It comes forth like a bridegroom out | of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to | run its course.
6It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to the end of | it again;
nothing is hidden from its | burning heat.
7The teaching of the LORD is perfect and re- | vives the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom | to the simple.
8The statutes of the LORD are just and re- | joice the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light | to the eyes.
9The fear of the LORD is clean and en- | dures forever;
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous | altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, more than | much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey, than honey | in the comb.
11By them also is your ser- | vant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is | great reward.
12Who can detect one’s | own offenses?
Cleanse me from my | secret faults.
13Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion | over me;
then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a | great offense.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable | in your sight,
O LORD, my strength and | my redeemer.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.

Gospel: John 2:13-22

The holy gospel according to John.
Glory to you, O Lord.

13The Passover of the Jewish people was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Judeans then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Judeans then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After 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, O Christ.

Thoughts of Pr. Steven Ridenhour:

Let us pray.   Lord Jesus,  remind us each day  of your presence.  Help us to believe, when it is hard to believe.  Help us to serve and honor you and only you.  Help us to challenge ourselves to follow your will, even as we are tempted to do only that which is best for ourselves.  Help us challenge others with your love and to share your love with the world, even if it means our lives get turned upside down.  Grant us your grace and forgive us our sin and help us to forgive and love one another. In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

During the past year, we have seen many challenges to what we know as the status quo. How many of us would have guessed that nearly a year later, we would still be wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and still limiting our gatherings to very small numbers?  How would we have imagined that the majority of Lutheran churches, except those that are very small, would not be holding worship in their buildings even a year later.    

At this time last year,  here in Burnsville, you were making plans to finish the construction of your new building and to move into to your beautiful new sanctuary.  But a year later you are still waiting on the right time to safely open.  What was once understood as the status quo is all on the table and the tables have now been turned upside down.  And quite frankly we are still trying to pick up the pieces.  We are still trying to figure it all out.

Today’s gospel reading from John comes from the very beginning of Jesus Ministry.  In the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, we see that Jesus comes to shed a new light on God’s presence, love and reign in the world.  John begins his gospel narrative like this.  1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  John 1: 1-5 

Our first reading for today from Exodus reflects upon the third of God’s covenant or promises that has been lifted up for us during this Lenten season.  The first Sunday in Lent, in the reading from Genesis, we saw that  God made a covenant with Noah, that never again would all the earth be destroyed by the waters of  a flood.  God set a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of this promise. 

Last week in our first reading from Genesis, we saw that God made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah that they would bare a son, and their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in heaven and the grains of sand by the seashore.  Today, we read about a  third covenant which historically has been central to Israel’s faith and remains central to this day.  The gift of  the Ten Commands or the law is central to the community of Israel.

The Children of  Israel were bound together by slavery in Egypt.   God set the children of Israel free from slavery in Egypt guiding them through the waters of the Red Sea into the wilderness. Under Moses leadership, these former slaves, were taught to remember how God had released them from bondage in Egypt, embraced and received them as God’s children.  Through Moses, God gave them the Law.  The Ten Commandments taught them what it means to live in relationship with God and in community with one another as God’s own people.    

The Ten Commandments begin with a declaration of  Israel’s faith. It is God alone who has set the children of  Israel free from the powers that oppressed them.  Honoring, what God has done for them, demands that no one or  nothing else claim first place in their  lives. And in return,  God promises his steadfast and everlasting love. 

God spoke all these words:
  2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus

Fast forward  to Jesus day,  Israel’s faith has been institutionalized.  The law has been interpreted and reinterpreted countless times.  There are many good things about the institutional rituals that emerged.    For Israel, the rituals encouraged faithfulness to God and supported the structures and practices that encourage faith in God alone. 

For example,  the religious institution provided structured and organized prescriptions and best practices for the observation of  holy days, like the Passover.  This is not so different from our own church institution.  The Lutheran Church has a book entitled “Manuel on the Liturgy” which guides many of our worship practices and occasional services.  But like so many institutions, sometimes the institution establishes rules  that are intended to  support the religious institution more than growth in faith. 

Jesus came onto the scene  at a time when Israel had hundreds of rules on the books intended to support obedience to the Ten Commandments.  However, the numerous rules frequently became stumbling blocks for the average lay person to follow.  Many of these rules supported the institution rather than the glorification of  God. 

For example, shepherds provided lambs for Temple sacrifices.  Yet shepherds were despised by the leaders of the temple, because they did not adhere to the all the rules of the Temple, especially that of washing their hands before they ate.  But how could a shepherd  adhere totally to the rules of hand washing?  They spent most of their time living in the fields tending their sheep.  Ironically, God first sent messengers to the Shepherds in the field to announce Jesus birth. 

As Jesus begins his ministry, we see that He sheds the light of God’s  love on the world and offers a new vision of  the coming kingdom of God.  Jesus ushers in this new vision as he  reveals and lifts up God’s unconditional love, inclusivity, grace, and compassion for the sick and  those who struggle with physical and mental ailments.  Jesus welcomes the poor and the powerless into his circle.  He reaches out to care for the least and for those who live on the fringes of society.  It is an understatement to say that Jesus breaks into the world and shares God’s radical love.  As Jesus begins his ministry, he challenges the religious status quo,  turning their tables upside down. 

For me, today’s Gospel reading is always shocking.  We don’t really expect this reaction from Jesus when he makes his way into the temple.  15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 

When Jesus throws the merchants out of the temple, he obviously is not  happy.  The Greek language  basically tells us that  Jesus was “hot” when he landed in this temple marketplace.  As the disciples saw this happening, they remembered that it is written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 

While Jesus actions can be disturbing, we take some comfort as we see that Jesus is upholding the First Commandment.  Jesus  is defending the worship of God alone. Jesus sees this Temple marketplace and is rejecting the  commercialization of  God’s house.  Jesus is objecting to the practices that dishonor the first commandment.  Likewise, he is opposing those systems that take advantage of the most vulnerable. 

The Temple is Israel’s central and sacred house of worship.  Of course,  Jesus actions do not go unchecked or unnoticed  by the leaders of the Temple and they ask,  “What sign can you show us for doing this?”  And Jesus responds to those who challenge his authority with a mysterious prediction. 19 “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Leaders of the Temple  then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 

Not only did the Temple authorities fail to understand what Jesus was talking about.  But in turning the tables upside down in the Temple,  Jesus boldly asserts to Israel’s religious authorities that he represents God’s authority.  Jesus words and actions proclaim that God is about to do a radical new thing through his own death and resurrection.  John’s gospel tells us that Jesus  2was 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.

In the coming chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus  waste no time in asserting his God given authority.  Jesus clearly states that all who believe in him are honoring the first commandment.   In the 3rd chapter of John’s gospel,  we will  hear these words “For God so loved the world that he gave his  only his only Son that whoever believes in him will not die but have eternal life.  For God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”  

Make no mistake, while Jesus prediction of  his  resurrection flew right over the heads of the Temple authorities.  The religious leaders would eventually feel so threatened by Jesus authority that they will seek his demise. 

In our reading from Paul’s letter to the  Corinthians, we see that talk of  Jesus death on the cross  and his resurrection from the dead, also sounded very strange and foolish. Paul affirms to the church that the message of the cross is the good news.   St. Paul writes:   18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  

In other words, for those who do not believe that Jesus will be raised from the dead, the cross is literally the dead end.   It is a message of foolishness.  But to Jesus followers and for believers, the cross is God’s promise of  new life and eternal salvation.  

Yes, this has been a challenging year.  It seems that the status quo is being challenged every day. And it seems like our world has been turned upside down.

 But in all this,  the Good news of Jesus Christ is certain and true.  Because on the third day,  the stone which sealed the tomb, has been turned upside down and rolled away.  Death does not have the final say.  Paul’s proclamation is true.   God raised Jesus, from the dead. 

Jesus enters our lives and turns our world upside down.  Through the  waters of  Holy Baptism.   we are joined to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Through these cleansing  waters, we die with Christ in a death like his.   And through Jesus death and resurrection,  God promises  that we will be washed clean of our sin and raised up with Christ in a resurrection like his to eternal life. 

While the cross  may be folly  to those who do not believe.  For all WHO BELIEVE, THE CROSS IS THE POWER OF GOD. 

Amen. 

 

[Additional Reflection]

Having read these readings, think on this:

While we may not buy cattle or doves to give to God, we too sometimes turn our religion into a negotiation with the divine — “I give to you, O God, so that you must give to me” — and we too sometimes seek to profit, like the moneychangers, from other people’s religious negotiations. Christ ends all that. Though it looks like foolishness, his cross is the wisdom and power of God and the end of negotiations. Risen, he is our temple, the very place we meet God in the power of the Spirit. What happens in that place, that temple that is Christ, is that God gives to us so that we may turn and give to others. When we were baptized into that house of God, the ten commandments were given to us as part of being baptized. They are a lively agenda for us, especially if, with Martin Luther, we continually reinterpret them for the present time. This agenda is founded in God’s thousand-fold mercy, in which such mercy becomes our own way. Rather than coveting someone else’s things, we engage in almsgiving. Rather than lying about someone else, we pray for them. Rather than misusing someone else, we fast from self-indulgence. And in it all Jesus Christ is our sabbath rest. The way of these commandments is the way of Lent and a way of joy. Such religion is light to our eyes.

 

If you have a hymnal, you may now sing or read “In the Cross of Christ I Glory” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 324), Canticle of the Turning” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 723), God Alone Be Praised” (All Creation Sings 1023). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

In the Cross of Christ I Glory

God Alone Be Praised

Then pray these intercessions:

On this third Sunday in Lent, let our prayer reflect the guidance of the Ten Commandments. We respond to each petition with the words “grant us your wisdom, O God.”

A brief silence.

O God, our lawgiver, our temple, our wisdom, form your church to worship you alone. As you blessed Gregory the Great, so bless our bishops for their ministry in church and world.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God. 

Protect all who call upon the power of your name. As you blessed the martyr Perpetua and her companions, so bless all the baptized who suffer for their faith.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God. 

Even during this pandemic, connect us in diverse ways to our worshiping communities, and give to all persons regular rest from their work.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God.

Bless with wisdom all parents and any who are granted authority over others, and give to children the will to honor those who care for them.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God. 

Keep the nations of the earth from engaging in war, bloodshed, and torture, and help people of all ages to resist the lure of violence.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God.

Uphold marriages and all commitments of care, and defend all persons, especially children, from sexual abuse.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God.

Guard your earth, its animals and its plant life from all who would take for themselves more than they need.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God.

Train the diverse peoples of our nation to respect one another. As you blessed Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, so bless all who work to end discrimination and the oppression of the vulnerable.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God.

Use our bounty to meet the needs of others, those who are homeless or hungry, and hear our prayers for all who are sick or suffering, especially all afflicted with the coronavirus and all we name here before you. . .

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God.

Teach us how to pray, also for ourselves:

A longer period of silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God.

Receive our thanks for all who have died in the faith, and bring us all at the end into the fullness of your life.

A brief silence.

You are our strength and our redeemer:
grant us your wisdom, O God.

We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful and gracious God, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

 

If you have a hymnal, you may now sing or read “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 803), Be Thou My Vision” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 793). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Be Thou My Vision

Then conclude with these prayers:

Let us pray.
A brief silence is kept before the prayer.

Gracious God, who has named and claimed us,
calling us your beloved children,
you know the secrets of our hearts.
When we sin and stray from your paths,
you astound us with your saving grace.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

Loving Jesus, living Word,
in you the Kingdom of God has come near;
through you all that was lost has been found.
Help us to boldly follow wherever you may lead,
trusting your promise that we need not fear,
for you are with us.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

Holy Spirit, the mystery in which we dwell,
into our scarcity, your abundance flows.
Enliven all communities with your good news.
Guide us to love and serve Jesus,
giving ourselves away for the sake of the world.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

All glory to you, holy God, now and forever.
Amen.

Merciful God, accompany our journey through these forty days. Renew us in the gift of baptism, that we may provide for those who are poor, pray for those in need, fast from self-indulgence, and above all that we may find our treasure in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.

Gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, let us pray as Jesus taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and forever.
Amen.

Then speak the Blessing:

Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless us now and forever.
Amen.

Devotional Music Links: For your individual or group devotion, you may choose to listen to the following choral recordings made available through Augsburg Fortress: “Christ, the Solid Rock;” “Just As I Am, without One Plea;” “What Wondrous Love Is This.”

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