A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Prayers of the People: Turning the Tables ~ 3rd Sunday in Lent '21 Yr B

For Sunday, March 7, 2021, Readings: Exodus 20:1-7, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22

       I am the Lord your God...you shall have no other gods before me. 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...Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy...But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God... [Exodus 20:2a, 4, 8, 10a]

     The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul...The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes... Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight... [Psalm 19:7a, 8, 14]

        For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. 
[1 Corinthians 1:25]

          In the temple [Jesus] 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...poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables..."Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"...Jesus answered [the Jews], "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up"...But he was speaking of the temple of his body. [John 2:14-15, 16b, 19, 21]

       Here we are at about the halfway point in this Lent, and the first of the appointed readings for this week presents us with the Ten Commandments. While we all think we know them, and perhaps even memorized them as children, it's a good opportunity to look at the list again and re-think our relationship with them. By digging through some archaic vocabulary and translating it into current expressions, we may very well discover a fresh perspective. [Try this paraphrase: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+20%3A1-17&version=MSG and while on this site, try a few of the many other translations and paraphrases offered, any time you are reading a piece of Scripture; you may be surprised at some of the differences and discover a freshness in something old and familiar]
       Jesus later gave us what seems to be a simplified version when answering a question, by saying that we are to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and, to love our neighbors as ourselves [Mark 12:28-29]. Yet to me, there is nothing simple in those words of Jesus when we consider the entire list of Commandments ~ that is, if I truly Love God and Love my neighbor as myself, then I won't create idols, misuse God's name or covet anything of anyone, as well as all the other dictates including sabbath. But it's always useful to revisit the original and consider how ~ or if ~ they are informing our thoughts and actions.
      We may not use the term idol generally in today’s conversations other than tv talent shows, but here are some questions I need to explore for myself: What are the idols that get in my way of an active and conscious commitment to God? Are they electronic devices, streaming services, social networking? Are they food, drink, or online shopping? When does wanting something become coveting? Is my sabbath time ever spent resting with God? What is sabbath time in my life?
       I'm quite taken with the Psalmist's language this time ~ not unusual as they often speak to me. For this one I could put every word down in this space and allow my soul to float in the imagery. A day and a night telling tales and imparting knowledge to one another, without words, but yet sounds that travel to all lands. The law of the Lord revives the soul and gives light to the eyes; cleanse me from my secret faults. Just sliding into a sabbath reverie with these words is resting with God and keeping a holy time, no matter the day or the hour.
       In Paul’s writing to the Corinthians, I was struck by the ending note of this small piece that God's foolishness is wiser that human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. It's unusual to think of God with foolishness and weakness but Paul makes it clear that we are definitely not in God's league! And, Christ incarnate is the power and the wisdom of God, the Word was God, as John’s Gospel says in its opening [John 1:1].
      But the real surprise is Jesus with a whip ~ wow ~ turning the tables in more ways than one! Bad day at the Temple for those livestock sellers and money changers.
      This account appears in the other three Gospels [Mt 21:12-17, Mk 11:15-19, and Lk 19:45-48] but at a significantly later time in the ministry of Jesus. All the accounts agree, however, that this action precipitated the plotting against him by the High Priest and his men.
      In John’s version, the cleansing of the Temple becomes the first public act of Jesus in Judea. The wedding at Cana was a private event. The issue of the Gentile marketplace in the Temple, for Jesus, was that it profaned a sacred area that was meant to be open to all people, of all nations [Mk 11:17]. It had become a convenience and a source of revenue for the Temple, an opportunity for corruption. Jesus wasn’t opposed to the sacrificial acts themselves ~ as long as they conformed to the Laws, e.g. animals without blemish, and changing the Roman coins with an image of Caesar (no graven images, remember?) for the local coins with no such image. For him this was a clear desecration of the space itself. Yet the real purpose is to set the stage for the transformation of “Temple” worship in a stone building, to the living structure of The Mystical Body of Christ, people united with their Lord and raised with him to the newness of true life, as a “temple” of the Holy Spirit.
      When Jesus said if the temple was destroyed he would raise it in three days, he was speaking of the temple of his body. I remember my grandmother telling me that my body is a temple of God and I should treat it with holiness. When was the last time I thought of that (and avoided it)? A conscious relationship with my body and my mind might just be a way to mindfully live into those pesky Commandments. A regular attempt at a holy Sabbath could well do more than I expect, especially in days of violence, hate-mongering, and pandemic distress, and reduce my dependence on the idols of my own human excess. I might find that I need God for more than just a dashed off prayer when the thought occurs. Yes, it's time to turn over a few tables.


Leader:  ~ O God of Power and Wisdom, from the covenant given to us through Moses, Your Divine Commands give us each clear direction for our daily lives. Embolden us to change our unfaithful ways, to choose the desire to love You above all else in this life, and to actively seek to fulfill our spiritual destiny in the next.

                                                Most Holy Lord                                              
RESPONSE:                     Revive and Strengthen our Souls

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, quicken our determination to be heard by every political leader on this Earth, in this Nation, and in this Community. Grant us the words and vitality to inspire and require positive, life-giving action on behalf of all Your people, especially those beset and beleaguered by poverty, violence, and discrimination. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                Most Holy Lord
                                                Revive and Strengthen our Souls

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, restore hope in all who are lost in the illness of body or despair of mind, and give comfort to all who provide them care. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                Most Holy Lord
                                                Revive and Strengthen our Souls     

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, help our hearts rejoice as the doors of Heaven open wide to receive those we love, now alive again in Christ forever.  We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                Most Holy Lord
                                                Revive and Strengthen our Souls

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions

                                                Most Holy Lord
                                                Revive and Strengthen our Souls     

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, excite and enlighten the words and meditations of the hearts of those who lead us in Your Church, and, in our own. Draw us to willingly and joyfully follow the path You have set for us. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                Most Holy Lord
                                                Revive and Strengthen our Souls

The Celebrant adds: O Lord our God, You created each of us as a living temple to embody the love of You, our neighbors, and ourselves. Shield us from the lure of idols in the distractions of earthly life, lift our hearts and give light to our eyes, as we rejoice in Your steadfast Presence, and eternal love for us all. We ask through Your power and wisdom in Jesus our Christ; and the faith-giving fire of the Holy Spirit; who together with You, reign as One God, forever and ever. Amen.

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1 comment:

  1. T hank you for the signposts to the precepts we learned in Sunday School; it's worthwhile to revisit the words we were taught; to put the ideas into our present day perspective. The strength of character Jesus displays in clearing the temple is valuable to us as we face today's wrongs and misuse of sacred ideas; we can draw of the forthrightness of Our Lord's actions here.