What Words Do You Live By?

Good Morning Everyone!

10-commandmentsWhat a fine gathering. My name is Rebekka. I was there that day… that day when Jesus freaked out and turned over the tables in the temple. I was there when he walked into the temple, looked around and shook his head… I was there to see the sadness in his eyes when he saw how temple practices and been corrupted into a system of exclusion.

Over the years this passage has been interpreted as there should be no talk of money in places of worship. But that’s not what Jesus was upset about that day… let me tell you something about temple worship. First of all you have to understand that temple worship involved ritual sacrifice. Sacrifice required pure animals or birds, etc, and their purity had to be guaranteed, so it made sense to have them at the Temple site. But you would not buy a pure sacrifice with impure money, so having a Temple currency made sense, and money changers were therefore required. It also made sense to have such a market in the outer, rather than the inner and more pure courts. But this cut into the court intended for Gentile enquirers. (Rev. Stew Clarke & Rev. Catherine MacDonald: Scripture Introductions Year B)

Jesus’ overturning the tables was not about money at all… but rather about exclusion. And about expropriating a place that was meant as a way of including those unaccustomed to temple worship. It was a political statement about how people are meant to live and worship. Perhaps it would be easier to understand if I used an example from your time. I noticed you had tables set out in your entryway. It would be like requiring seekers of a faith experience, those who are looking for God, to pay a special fee before they were allowed into the sanctuary. Your entryways are like the Court of the Gentiles, hopefully a place where newcomers find welcome and invitation into both the sanctuary and the life of faith. Imagine if someone was seeking God walked into this place and instead of being greeted with words of welcome, he or she was charged a tax? Instead of finding a place where they could hopefully explore and experience the presence of God… they found a financial barrier. Jesus, who over and over demonstrated his concern for those without power and those on the margins of society, couldn’t tolerate any practice which excluded others. It’s no wonder he was upset, and upset the tables!

Once again, perhaps as Jesus saw it, the letter of the law negated the intention of the Law, and denied people access to God or God’s worship! Jesus was demonstrating his respect and honour of the third commandment: Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

You are familiar with the Ten Commandments aren’t you? The words that Moses brought down from God. Words that were to teach a newly formed people, how to live in relationship with God and with each other? I bet you usually hear them as a list of ‘thou shalt nots.’ You heard the ancient words earlier, I am going to try and rephrase them for your time…

Then God spoke all these words:

1. I am the Holy One… the one that created all life… the one who created you to live with respect in creation. I am the one who liberates you from the bondage that is worshipping things you create. For those things will not give you life.

2. Do not put your faith in things that are humanly created. Not your lofty buildings, not your economics, not even your technology. For these things are all temporary, only I am constant. When you put your trust and faith in me, your children will benefit for generations to come.

3. Use my name only to call upon me. To use it in other ways diminishes its power and awe.

4. Open yourself to Sabbath healing. The practice of stopping makes you realize that the world continues on without you. You are not a machine, endlessly working, you are created with built in rhythms for rest and work, for business and renewal. Sabbath keeping frees you from consuming or being consumed. Spend time with me intentionally, so that we make become closer to one another.

5. Be grateful to your parents, for they gave you life. Forgive the mistake they made, bless them and thank them for your place in the world.

6. Do not murder anyone;, do not participate in systems that extinguish life. Do not use violence to try and create peace, it never works.

7. Be faithful in your romantic and sexual relationships, for in faithfulness is the delight of deeper knowing and intimacy. Pain and sorrow will be yours without faithfulness.

8. Don’t take anything that is not yours.

9. Don’t lie, or cheat or spread rumours and gossip.

10. Do not be jealous of what others have, jealously corrodes the soul and has the capacity to make you believe that your value lies in how much you possess. Know that you are a beloved child of mine.

Words that limit and words that expand. Words of blessing and words of challenge

I never saw Jesus again after that day… but I heard stories about him… stories of healing the sick and blind… stories of eating with sinners and high officials… stories of including women and children. Stories of the many people who heard his message of God’s love and inclusion that broke down all the humanly created barriers. No longer servant or free, no longer male or female, no longer Jew or Gentile. He demonstrated God’s word to us.

What are the words that you live by? What tables need upsetting in your time?

Good-bye my friends.

Blessings on your Lenten Journey as you follow in Jesus’ steps.

Catherine MacDonald 2015

Exodus 20: 1-17 John 2: 13-22
March 8, 2015
St. Paul’s United Church

Rewrite of 10 commandments inspired by this blog post written by Rachael Keefe.

Creative Commons License for photo.

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