A sermon for Lent 3: Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22
Knowing the philosophical and/ or religious beliefs of those you are negotiating with is central to the negotiating process. Beforehand no one thought world leaders would let zealot nationalists drag Europe into a world war. Not to many years later, no one really believed Hitler would actually start another European inferno that would once again put the world at war. The United States was surprised when Iraq did not run to democratic capitalism after we vanquished Hussein; we never thought Sunnis and Shiites would ever let their sectarian feud turn into a cataclysmic conflagration. Our negotiations with Iran challenge our understanding of Iran’s social and religious context, which will determine not only the negotiation’s outcome, but its fruits. (Brooks, 2015) The context of the other has always been central to negotiating, to getting your story understood. It’s true in this morning’s Gospel reading.
Most folks focus on Jesus’ rampage through the Temple, or his prediction of his resurrection. We hear them as unique events. But there is so much more. The Hebrew term ‘she-ki-nah’ refers to the present of God. (Jacobson, Lewis, & Skinner, 2015) (Orr, 2004) In the Old testament shekinah is always on the move; from walking in the garden in Eden, to in a whispering voice calling Noah and Abraham into covenant, in Exodus as fire and cloud on a mountain top, and in covenant in the Ten commandments, then in a tent, then to Shiloh, then to Jerusalem and the Temple, to Babylon and back – twice, and in the New Testament shekinah move back towards earlier an Old Testament loci of individuals in community. Jesus’ tirade in the Temple is all about shekinah, all about the presence of God. He is one in a long tradition of challenging the Temple as the only place to be in God’s presence. (Jacobson, Lewis, & Skinner, 2015)
Jesus is challenging not only where God is, but the entire notion of the Jewish establishment’s relationship with God. Regardless of their outward appearance, Jesus is challenging whether or not the Jewish establishment, centered at the Temple, keeps Sabbath. This is more critical than our religious – legal perspective leads us to believe. We think, they are breaking the law. But, the Ten Commandments are not a foundation for case law; they are the description of living a free life in covenant community. A key way of knowing you are in covenant community is keeping Sabbath. (Jacobson, Lewis, & Skinner, 2015) And one way of knowing this is if you are at shalom (Hoezee, 2015) if you bring shalom, to all your life touches.
Shalom is often translated peace. And that is a good beginning; however, beyond the absence of external or internal disturbance shalom is a completeness of health and soundness in your relationship with God and your neighbors. (Orr, 2004)
Keeping Sabbath that brings shalom is in the details of the longest of the commandments. Note who is to keep Sabbath: you, your sons and daughters, male and female slaves, which includes servants, your domestic animals, and any guest, foreigner, or alien in your home. In short everyone, all flesh, of every status, is to keep Sabbath, everyone, all flesh, of every status, is to live in shalom. So now we know who and what, but why? How do we get to this understanding?
It turns out there are two sets of why; one comes from today’s version of the Ten Commandments, and the other from Deuteronomy’s version. (Deut. 5:6- 21) Exodus calls us to observe Sabbath, as a day of service to God given to worshipping the Lord. It is grounded in the creation story; God created in six days and rested the seventh, making it Holy, therefore we keep it holy, in keeping Sabbath. However, Deuteronomy, which represents a different theological perspective rather than a point in time, is based in Israel’s salvation from slavery; Israel rest, we rest, to remember salvation. (Orr, 2004) We, everyone, also rest to ensure those in any form of indenture, just as the Hebrews were in Egypt, get a break. Six days of work, is not a command to work six days, it’s a restriction, and no one should work any more than six days. (Sakenfeld, 2009)
Let’s review; Jesus throws a fit in the Temple to draw attention to the fact that the Temple does not bring shalom to the people, therefore is not keeping Sabbath, and therefore cannot be shekinah, a place where God dwells. But it looks like they do keep Sabbath, what is going on?
Let’s go back to the beginning: I am the LORD your God … you shall have no other gods before me. A little vocabulary; I expect you hear ‘the Lord’ as a title, and the word big g ‘God’ as God’s name. It’s the other way ‘round. (Strong’s) The use of the word ‘God’ not as a name affirms The Lord is not saying that there are no other gods; just that Israel, and now we, are not to be in a godly relationship with any other except The Lord. (Petersen & Beverly, 2010) And so yes, this is all about idolatry. And “other gods” may be any person, place, thing, or ideal believed to be more or as important as The Lord; it could be money, property, fame, power, or whatever may be the primary shaper of the Jewish establishment’s daily life. (Fretheim, 2015) And it’s revealed in their relationships, how they treat, their neighbors, even to the least of them. Jesus throws a fit, because something other than The Lord is shaping the day in day out life of the Jewish establishment. He is challenging them: “Where is shekinah?” He chastising them for keeping others away from shekinah. The gleaning I take away this morning is that the Ten Commandments, the fifth commandment in particular, is in fact a biblical foundation for economic policy and practice.
Sabbath, the time of work and the time of rest is to bring shalom to all so all know shekinah, the presence of God. Work and rest that bring peace and wholeness to all flesh bringing all to shekinah is the Lord’s economic polity.
Today is Sunday, a Christian Sabbath. We gather here to worship The Lord our God, to know shalom, to be shekinah. But it is not our destination, so much as it is “a place we’re sent from in order to meet, and partner with, God in everyday life.” (Lose, 2015) It happens to be Lent, a time to repent, to begin changing our relationships with God and our neighbors, all of them. It’s time to see when was the last time you thought about how your beliefs, priorities, and actions kept Sabbath, brought shalom, and lived in shekinah? It’s an all-consuming change, that it involves all aspects of our lives especially economic, and political. It challenges us to give up fixations, like our political obsession with sex, and seek the far more complex ideal of biblically based policy and practice of economic justice. And it’s not just our personal lives, we seek to transform, we seek to reform the day in and day out lives of our society, of our nation.
Jesus knew well the philosophical and religious beliefs of the Jewish establishment. His negotiating style, pitching a fit in the Temple, worked for him. As for us, what the Lord requires: (Deut. 10:12, Micah 6:8) is to live Sabbath, bring shalom, and know shekinah.
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