Our March 7 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The March 14 Sunday worship service and March 10 Wednesday Lent service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. We will still be wearing masks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizer, but we will be open.
We are glad to share our worship with you. Click on “Contact Us” above to find out more about our faith family and what we believe.
March 7 Sermon
Exodus 20:1-17 | Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 | John 2:13-22
The 10 Commandments: God gave them so that they may be the basis of the Jewish social and religious order. Indeed, Judaism is known as a religion of Law. I’ve told you before, besides these 10 Commandments, Judaism has another 603 laws. That is pretty legal. But, we concentrate of the 10 Commandments. And, they have also become the basis of our social order as well, shared by Christians and Jews alike.
The reason why they have had such a wide hearing in western civilization is not really because of the work of the Jews, or the missionary work of the Christians. No, they first became popular in the west was, ironically, thanks to the Romans of all people. When the Old Testament was first translated into Greek from the Hebrew in about the second century BC, now other peoples had access to the Hebrew Scriptures. Let’s face it, not that many people knew Hebrew, nor were even aware of what we call the Old Testament in the centuries before Christ. The Romans, who generally knew Greek as it was the common language of the eastern part of their empire, read and really liked the 10 Commandments. The Romans had a high respect for all forms of law. They considered their legal system to be the highest of the achievements in their culture. The 10 Commandments were nice, simple, and to the point. So, the Romans started using them, and also employing Jews in Roman vocations throughout their Empire, especially as managers of the Roman businesses. After all, if the Jews have these laws, they must be a moral and trustworthy people. So, the Commandments spread through western civilization, only to be reinforced later with the advent and ascendency of Christianity in the domains controlled by the Romans, and beyond. They then went on to really become the heart and soul of how we relate to each other, and of our legal system.
There are two “tables” or tablets of the Law. Think of famous paintings of Moses coming down Mount Sinai caring those two large stone slabs. The first table of laws pertain to how we are to relate to God, the second to how we are to relate to one another. For most Christians, there are 4 pertaining to God, and 6 to our neighbor. I said for most. Lutherans had to be different. Actually, Luther had to be different. If you look in the Small Catechism, we have 3 and 7, not 4 and 6. I have told you this part before. The reason why is simple. Luther counted wrong. That’s not bad for the man who I have heard described as the best educated man in Europe in his lifetime. He had trouble counting to ten. Think about it! He decided that what everyone else calls the First Commandment was really the Introduction. Again, look at your copy of the Small Catechism. Lutheranism is the only Christian denomination, who have an “Introduction to” the Ten Commandments. Of course, doing that, he only had nine Commandments, and an Introduction. So, he split the one on coveting into two. That’s why Lutherans are the only group that has two Commandments on coveting. Anyway, all Luther had to do was ask a Jew about the numbering of them, to be corrected. He didn’t, and we are stuck with the way we have them – 3 and 7. In his defense, Luther only met three Jews in his entire lifetime. So, he didn’t have much of an opportunity to ask them. It isn’t that important. There are still ten. And people have trouble keeping them no matter how we number them.
During Lent, it is good to concentrate on what the 10 Commandments mean to us. Why God gave them to us, to live in a better, right relationship with God, and also with those around us. We are not saved by them. But, they are a yardstick, a standard of behavior, to protect us from evil’s influences, and to uphold us in ways which are pleasing to God. They are also a good means of maintaining civil order. During Lent, one of the themes of the season is to more closely, and actively, strive to keep the Commandments, to walk in the ways in which God would have us to go.
That brings us to the Gospel Lesson, John 2, “The Cleansing of the Temple.” This is the most stark example which I know of in Scripture, for the maintaining of that proper relationship with God. The Temple had become a marketplace (my favorite translation, the older one, “a den of thieves” – I like that one better), the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice, trinkets and souvenirs. The Temple in Jerusalem during Jesus’ time was a major tourist attraction of the ancient world. By many it was considered the 8th Wonder of the World. And of course, there was money changing. The Temple only accepted one type of currency, its own. The majority of the Commandments were being broken in the courtyard of the Temple itself. Religion was being used to make a profit. Does this sound familiar? Some things never change, ever!
And Jesus takes action, violent action, with a whip to correct this sin. So much for the common picture of the sweet gentle Jesus! There were evidently some things that could drive him to violence. They had crossed the line. He acts to purify the religious understanding of the people, as well as the Temple. “Zeal for your house will consume me.” He acts to purify both of the tables of the Law, literally by overturning the tables of the money changers. This act can be seen in these terms in light of the 10 Commandments: Right worship, God’s name, the worship on the Sabbath, honoring the religion of the Jewish ancestors, not adulterating the faith, stealing from God, or bearing false witness to the faith.
Lent is also a purifying of the Temple. Our Temple, the Temple of ourselves, our souls, our faith, St. Paul writes that our bodies are temples to the Lord. It is a time to examine ourselves in light of God’s Commandments, and to purify, purge ourselves if necessary, to strive to more closely live our lives in accordance to the way which God would have us to be. To ask, “How clean is my house, my Temple?” Therein we have the classic disciplines of Lent: prayer, devotion, Scripture reading, even fasting. They are there for a purpose, to measure ourselves, and endeavor to walk in our faith life more closely to the example which Jesus has given to us. Even if it means acting in ways that are contrary to the way which others expect us to act; to walk the walk of the Gospel. To offer thanks to God with our lives in faith, to talk the talk, for the grace God has poured out for us in Christ Jesus; our example in faith, and more importantly, our Savior.