Lenten Reading and Reflection 19th March

Psalm 119:9-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

Beth

How can a young person stay pure?
By obeying your word.
10 I have tried hard to find you—
don’t let me wander from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 I praise you, O Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 I have recited aloud
all the regulations you have given us.
14 I have rejoiced in your laws
as much as in riches.
15 I will study your commandments
and reflect on your ways.
16 I will delight in your decrees
and not forget your word.

Reflection

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm by far in the psalter. Nearly every verse in this psalm, in one way or another, makes reference to God’s word. The psalmist never tires of seeking God through his word. The more he studies God’s word, seeks to obey the Lord’s decrees, the more he delights in and praises the Lord, the more he wants to know the Lord, the closer he wants to get, and the more he grows in holiness. Help us, Lord, to be always willing to hear you speak to us, to delight in your transforming word, and to grow in holiness and become like your Son.

Lenten Reading and Reflection 5 March 2018

1 Corinthians 3:10-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?[a] 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

“He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

20 and again,

“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are futile.”

21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Reflection

Paul tells us in this passage that Jesus has laid the foundation for the building up of the church, and it is for others, that is his people, to build on. We build upon the work of Christ by faith. Though we are saved by faith alone and not by our works, nevertheless our works matter in the building and edifying of the church, and our good works done by faith will be rewarded.

To do the works that please the Lord in faith, however, we need to be humble. We need to put aside all ideas that we have the required wisdom, become fools for God, and look to him for his wisdom. Then our works will have eternal value, because the eternal God is the one directing them.

The Cleansing of the Temple

John 2:13-22

Anyone who thinks that the Old Testament is exclusively about judgement and wrath, and the New Testament is exclusively about love and grace would do well to reflect on this passage in John 2:13-22, often known as The Cleansing of the Temple.

 

The other gospel writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record this incident towards the end of the Jesus’ public ministry, when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for the last time. In those gospels Jesus’ cleansing of the temple becomes one of the tipping points for those who sought Jesus’ life. John, on the other hand,  places his account at the beginning of his gospel. John has something very clear in mind in doing this. The Temple was the heartbeat of Judaism. It was the place here God had promised to live in the midst of his people. It was central to the national way of life. For someone to burst on the scene as Jesus did, unknown by most of the people who witnessed what happened, this would have been a tremendous shock, a shock no doubt intended by Jesus.

It was the time of Passover, when Jews came from everywhere to celebrate the Exodus, freedom, and rescue from slavery. Jesus regarded the Temple, the place meant to have been kept as God’s house, as corrupted by the religious leaders and the Jews and under God’s judgement.  The Temple ought not to have had the atmosphere of a marketplace, let alone been a place where people seeking to purchase animals for sacrifice were being ripped off.

The meaning of what Jesus was doing grows when he is challenged. When the Jews ask Jesus what he thinks he is doing, and then ask for a sign, he gives an answer that speaks cryptically about his death and resurrection. Jesus is the true Temple, the place where God in his glory has now chosen to dwell. Jesus was always the reality to which the physical Temple pointed. His death and resurrection speak of a new exodus, and are the true reality that the Passover celebrations are about.

And we who are in Christ, who form the Body of Christ, who follow Jesus to the cross and to the resurrection, are also the Temple, the dwelling place of God in his glory, on both a community and individual level. What an incredible blessing this is, that God has made his home amongst his people, and that we are entrusted to reflect his glory into this world. May we know the depth, width and breadth of this truth, and live it out in every day that we have been given.

David