Scripture Reading I: Exodus 20:1-17
The Ten Commandments
20Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. 3
4 You 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. You 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, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.56
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But 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. For 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. 91011
12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.*
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Scripture Reading II: John 2:13-22
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making 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. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was 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. 141516171819202122
Sermon:When I was in high sch ool back in Arkansas there was this great little place that some of my friends and I used to visit, we referred to it as "The Rock." In the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains is Lake Degray, and out on that lake, is a few little "cliffs." I say little cliffs because they aren't very high, but they are just high enough that if you find the right one, say one like "The Rock," then you can dive right off into the lake below. I loved going to the Rock, but getting there was never easy. It was located out in the woods pretty far back, and there really wasn't a set path to it. I knew where the rock was, and I knew where the road to get back was, so I thought. One day at the Rock we realized we had forgotten to pick up stuff to have a bar-b-que, since I knew the way back to the car I offered to head back with a friend to go get the cook-out stuff. We began walking towards the car ... it was about 45 minutes later that we realized we had made a wrong turn.
Even though I knew the way perfectly, somehow I had gotten lost. I tell you this story because I think that sometimes when we read the scripture that was read today in John, we want to think that the temple sellers were bad people, I want to share with you today, that I think just to opposite, I think they were good people, who THOUGHT they knew the right way, but soon realized that in fact, they had been taking the wrong path all along. It started with "The Law."
Can you remember the first time you heard the ten commandments? Probably when you were a small child, probably about the time when you told your first lie, someone in you family might have said to you, "God doesn't like it when we lie," or "God says it's a no-no to take things that don't belong to us." The Law was given to us at a early age, and it was given to the Jewish people during Jesus' time at an early age as well, but it wasn't just the ten commandments that was read today that was given to the Jewish people to follow it was those plus the 603 or so other laws that you can find in Leviticus and Numbers. The people of the time KNEW the law, and they did everything they could to follow it to the best of their ability. That's the background that we have coming into Jesus' visit to the temple. People were simply following the law, in fact law number 482 under sacrifices, "To offer a sacrifice of varying value in accordance with one's means (Lev. 5:7), so when Jesus came in and started throwing tables around and demanding the people out who sold these sacrifices, you can imagine the people were outraged, in fact you could say that at that moment, Jesus had just turned their world upside down with every table he turned over!
What we would like to say as Christians, who know who Jesus was and is, is that the people got what they deserved, they should have realized that they were going down the wrong path, but hey, don't judge them, they've been following this path all their lives, how could they have known that they were going the wrong way. Maybe, the same way we often don't realize when we are going the wrong way today?
You see, going back to experience at the Rock, it wasn't that I didn't know the way, it's that I got distracted. I was talking to my friend, we were just going along just find, never noticing that maybe the path had shifted, we didn't forget the way, the way was always there, we ignored it. That's where we find the good people of the temple, the path didn't change, but there were so many laws, so many observances, that focusing on the path became less of the idea and focusing on the laws became more important. They stopped focusing on God and began to focus on "being Religious." When Jesus turned over the tables, he wasn't stating that these were bad people, he was just calling to their attention that the right path was in front of them and they were headed in the wrong direction.
How many times has that happened in our lives, when we stopped focusing on what's important? When did you start following the path toward salvation, was it when you were little and someone spoke to you the first of the ten commandments, was it an epiphany moment where you knew salvation was at hand, where did you go after that ... when was the last time Jesus turned your life upside down?
As some of you may know, I started seminary this Spring at Asbury , and man is it fun! I am learning so much about the Methodist church and the path that those of us who are Methodist have taken to become Methodists. My favorite class is John Wesley's Theology for Today. John Wesley, is of course, the Anglican Church leader who decided that the church he attended path was becoming a bit too legalistic and began to explore other options, in that exploration the Methodist Way began. I like how he looks at our paths in his order of salvation. According to Wesley, salvation from original sin begins with justification, continues in sanctification and ends with glorification or in layman's terms or how some theologians today like to refer to it, awaking, attaching, advancing and assuring. I think that the journey when we encounter Jesus is in that awaking moment.
When was your awaking? Was it on that path when you were first told the Ten Commandments? Think about that ... look at this chart and try to imagine where each one has or will happen for your life. Now, here is the kicker, John Wesley didn't believe that this was a step-by-step process, in fact, he believed that you could walk down the path many many times. God desires us to be aware of him OVER and OVER again — the journey continues. Often times it continues with Jesus turning our world upside down. Here are some good examples, last week Pastor Scott preached on Nicodemas, a Pharisee, his awareness came when he learned the Jewish law, and he became aware again when he asked Jesus how we must be born again, Paul, another great Jewish leader, was very aware of God, was following the path, and then BAM! Jesus appears on the road to Damascus and turns his world UPSIDE DOWN ... want some more modern examples, CS Lewis, didn't believe in God, found religion to be too full of laws and rules, until he had an encounter with Jesus and was "Surprised by Joy." These are all good examples of people who have had their lives turned upside down by Christ, and continued to let him do so.
Often times, we find ourselves on our own path. We think we have been going the right way all along, until something happens, if like me, you notice the trees don't look the same, or like Paul, you have lost your vision completely, or like John Wesley, you find that the denomination you have loved all your life has become too ritualistic, you might be having an encounter with God. Becoming aware again of who you are, looking down the path and examining, is this where God wants me to be, have I been focusing on him, or have I just been following the way, because that's the way I've always gone. Where have you already encountered Jesus and you missed it because you were taking your own path, was it in the homeless woman that you met at the grocery store who was buying food for her kids, and you were in a hurry and only noticed that it was taken her WAY too long to count out the change, did you meet Jesus on your path when your boss came to you visibly upset and you didn't bother to ask what's wrong because you were too worried about all the things YOU had to get done that day? What about when that small child looked at you and asked you to play outside, and you said, no, did you miss Jesus simply because you didn't bother to look?
Don't stop looking for God at the first awareness, don't forget to become aware again after you have found sanctification, but instead, keep pushing forward. Open your eyes to the road around you, REALLY listen to the people you meet along the way, take a moment to smile, enjoy the scenery and make sure that you are on the path that is focused on Christ, and not on anything else. And, if you find that the path has shifted, and you have you lost your way to "The Rock,," remember the words of Jesus in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life." The pathway is there, we simply must open our eyes, look for the signs, and let Jesus turn our world upside down once again.
Let's pray: Thank you gracious and holy God for your son Jesus Christ. Thank you that you have given us his examples and his words to follow as we walk down the paths of life. Lift our eyes up to you and give each one of us the assurance that you want us to become aware of you again, and again, and again. Amen.