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Third Sunday of Lent

March 15, 2009

Blessed Sunday!

God of all compassion, Father of all goodness
to heal the wounds our sins and selfishness bring upon us
You bid us turn to fasting, prayer, and sharing with our brothers.
We acknowledge our sinfulness, our guilt is ever before us:
when our weakness causes discouragement,
let Your compassion fill us with hope
and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Alternate Opening Prayer)

Readings:
Exodus 20:1-17 (the Ten Commandments)
Psalm 19:8-11 “Lord, You have the words of everlasting life”
I Corinthians 1:22-25 (God’s folly is wiser than our wisdom;
His weakness stronger than our power)
+John 2:13-25 (the cleansing of the temple)

“That’s just crazy!”

This from the culture that strains out the gnat only to swallow the camel…or the one that bows down to worship helpless carvings of wood and stone. Crazy, huh?

God’s plan was not only “…a stumbling block for Jews, and an absurdity to Gentiles” (I Corinthians 1:23), it continues to be a scandal for us as well. Then, as now, “God’s folly is wiser than men, and His weakness more powerful than men” (I Corinthians 1:25). Thank God that’s true! If He did everything the way we expected Him to, we’d be no better off than if we did it ourselves. What a sorry state of affairs that would be! How undeservedly blessed we are that God came to lift us above our natural strengths, above our natural wisdom to participate in His own divine life.

But we still think He’s crazy.

Look what He expects us to do! It’s one thing to repent of things that we’re ashamed of…quite another to renounce our independence, our shrewd business sense, our public service! After all, pilgrims coming to the Passover need to buy sacrifices–they can’t haul them from the four corners of the world! And they need to exchange their foreign money for the temple coin. Why not make things easy for them? We offer one-stop shopping right where it’s most convenient!

“Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:16).

Who does He think He is, anyway, driving us out like this?! “What sign can you show us to authorize you to do these things?” “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:18-19).

He thinks He’s God, that’s Who–and he’s quite ready to demonstrate it with an empty grave. He thinks He can tell us we’re wrong when our own consciences (and neighbors, in the broadest sense of the word) pat us on the back for being so “realistic”.

That happens with the commandments too. We’re used to the idea of looking out for “number one”–and we don’t mean the same “one” as God does. The idea of offering people a “graceful” way out of their suffering seems more and more sensible, especially as the cost of their healthcare becomes more of a burden on the rising generation. Yet God still says, “Thou shall not kill”. If you refuse to lie and steal for your employer, you’re likely to be told that you “don’t understand business”. And on it goes.

This has implications.

“If any one of you thinks he is wise in a worldly way, he had better become a fool. In that way he will really be wise, for the wisdom of this world is absurdity with God” (I Corinthians 3:18).

May we be wise enough to give up our sin-blinded “wisdom” for the sake of the divine foolishness which finds resurrection on the other side of the cross.

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