There are times I walk a Pentecostal line, or I might say more mystical. I’m not talking about tongues here – although I’ve seen that before. I’m too intellectual personally for that. What I am talking about is the election and will of God. What God wants to have happen will happen. That includes unity with his disciples. The tough thing for us humans and collectively the church to get over is that union is rarely with the power and the glory. That’s what we really want. And we will go to great extremes to “help” God in this. But in this world God’s power is most often seen in weakness. We are most at unity with God when we recognize our weakness, when we embrace the foolish things. And the biggest foolish thing is simply his Word. We baptized a baby this morning. That stood a bit as the example. We are told to bring the little children. And that doesn’t make rational sense. But that is the Word. We find our unity with God in the weak things like water, and Word, and babies.
I used the title remembrance because that is the word John uses twice in the text to help explain it. John has yanked an event out of time, an event from Holy Week, and put it at the start of his gospel. He’s done this because the spiritual importance to him, what he wants to get across to us, he’s only seen in remembrance. And his importance is different than that attached to the event by the other gospels.
The event is the cleansing of the temple. To the other gospel writers this event is the action of the returning king, even if it is drenched in irony as in Mark. To John, in remembrance, this is the start of the sacrifice. This is where Jesus starts to clean the temple. But the temple is not one of stones. It is one of flesh. Jesus chases the animals out, because he becomes the offering.
The two pieces of music I’ve left in here pick up on that theme. The choir sings “What Wondrous Love” which is a gorgeous meditation on that sacrifice. And I’ve left in the hymn we sang after the sermon, LSB 431 Not All the Blood of Beasts which contemplates exactly that exchange. “A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.”
The first Sunday in Lent. All the texts are about testing or temptation. And If you are listening it is hard to read the testing of Abraham and then read James right after it. There would seem to be a contradiction, and its about something as important as the nature of God. Does God test/tempt? James says don’t say that God does. Abraham is told by God to take Isaac. Jesus is thrown into the desert by the Spirit. Luther, he of calling James an epistle of straw, sides with James in the Catechism. “God tempts no one.”
I think that is something that gets held in tension. Its something we probably don’t see clearly right now. And the overwhelming feeling felt in the texts and often in out lives is of being alone or being abandoned. We might have to live in the tension in the difference between the words testing and temptation, or that awful dodge God allows but doesn’t cause, but the feeling of being alone can be resolved. God has been abundant in his mercy so that you are never alone. The specifics on that are in the sermon…
…The real epiphany is not that God is the creator or that his Word is active and has power, but that He is right here with us. That God comes to be with us. And he says stop being afraid. Even if we didn’t get confused about God having authority or his Word being active – those things could frighten us. They frightened Simon when he realized who was there and active. Ask a muslim – is Allah a nice guy? Doesn’t matter. Allah is Allah, Allah does what he wills. Which could include casting us away. Jesus Christ, comes and preaches, and heals and eats with sinners. Sinners like Simon Peter who recognized God and asked him to leave afraid of what was next. Sinners like us who have trouble counting up all the ways we fall short every day. And God, standing right next to you says stop being afraid, I’ve got a job for you….
Who’s standing next to you? It makes a difference…