Knowing What to Expect

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Lent 3
SCRIPTURE: John 2: 13-22 and Exodus 20: 1-21
Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you in keep you from sinning.”
Exodus 20: 20 (NIV)

JESUS AT THE TEMPLE

The story that was just read is an interesting one because it’s one of the few times in the Bible where we see Jesus getting angry. Basically, this is what happened. Jesus goes into the temple which basically is like a church, except it’s a really, really, really big church. Around this really, really big church there is a big open area called a courtyard and around the courtyard is high stone wall. The story happens in the courtyard outside the church.

It happens during a huge festival called the Passover. There are people from all over the place who have come to the church just to celebrate the Passover festival. So there all kinds of people from all of the place and some of them have had come from a very long way away. And since they didn’t have cars and trucks back then, everyone had to walk to get there. Some of them have walked for days.

All of that means that they didn’t bring a whole lot of extra stuff with them because they would have had to carry everything. That also means that they couldn’t carry everything they need to celebrate the festival. That’s why there are people at the courtyard selling stuff. They are selling the things that the people need to celebrate the Passover.

But here’s the problem. The people who are selling the stuff are selling it at way higher prices than they should. So something that should cost $10, they are selling for $15 or $20. And the people who have travelled such a long distance have no choice but to buy the stuff because then need it. It’s a rip off.

It kind of like when you go the movie theatre. Maybe you’re going to see the Peter Rabbit movie or maybe Black Panther or how about the new Jumanji movie. The first thing you do when you get to the theatre is buy a ticket. That will cost you about $10. And then what do you do? I don’t know about you but I always go to the concession stand and buy some popcorn and something to drink because I find it humanly impossible to watch a movie at the theatre without popcorn. And that’s where you get the big surprise because the popcorn and drink cost more than the movie ticket. In fact, I looked it up and discovered that a large buttered popcorn and a bottle of water will cost in the area of $11.50; that’s $8.00 for the popcorn and $3.50 for the water. Do you know that I checked online and discovered that you can buy premium organic popcorn in bulk through Amazon for about $5 per pound? That means that there is about $.25 worth of popcorn in the bag that you get at the theatre. I also checked online and discover that Walmart has bottle water on sale this week for $1.97 for a case of twenty-four. That means that one bottle costs about $.08. So, at the movie theatre, I’m paying $11.50 for snacks that would cost me about $.33 at the store. And then there are these big signs on the doors of the movie theatre telling you that you can’t take your own food into the theatre So you’re stuck paying the high prices inside. If you want to obey the rules, you have no choice.

If you can understand the price gouging that happens at movie theatres, then you can understand why Jesus is upset with the people who aqre selling stuff in the temple courtyard. They are offering necessary and valuable services but they are also ripping people off. And Jesus isn’t the least bit happy with them for it. That’s why he turns over their tables and says, “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” Father, of course, refers to God. How dare they turn God’s house into a market? Jesus expects them to be fair and honest and not to cheat the people and they blew it.

What that points to is that people do things that are wrong for all kinds of reasons. One of those reasons is because even they know what is expected of them, they do the wrong thing anyway. That’s what happened with the merchants at the temple. I expect that they knew exactly what they were supposed to do. They knew how much they should be charging the people but they charged way more because they thought they could get away with it. The same holds true for the concession stands at the movie theatre. They just charge way more than is expected because they can.

MR. BEAN GOES TO CHURCH

There’s another reason why people do things wrong. And that’s because they simply don’t know what to expect because no one ever told them. To illustrate that, I’m going to show you a short three minute video clip. Does everyone like Mr. Bean? What you’re going to see is what happens when Mr. Bean goes to church.

Show video.

So Mr. Bean is bored. Who wouldn’t be? Did you hear the preacher? He sounded like the teacher in the Charlie Brown movies: “Ba wa wawa wa. Ba who ma wa ba wa.” So, to deal with his boredom, Mr. Bean decides to eat a candy. Is there anything wrong with eating a candy in church? Probably not. We expect that people will, from time to time, munch on candies in church. In fact, we always have a stash of Scotch mints up here in the front pew. I think there are some at the back at the audio-visual both and you are more than welcome to take advantage of them. Candy’s aren’t a problem. The problem with Mr. Bean’s candy is the crinkly wrapper. When everything is quiet except for the minister going, “Ba wa wawa ba wa,” the noise of that crinkly paper can be heard all over the church. And everyone looks to see whose unwrapping the candy.

My Dad used to do that. I remember. When I was a little boy, my Dad would take candies in his jacket pocket and eat them during the sermon. I don’t know why he always choose candies with crinkly wrappers but he did and, every week, he got the evil eye from Mrs. Eagleson who had purple hair and silk flowers and plastic pink flamingos sticking up out of her hat. I think it was a fashion statement.

Anyway, my Dad knew he wasn’t supposed to eat crinkly candies in church. Mrs. Eagleson was quite clear about that. I think maybe he did it to bug Mrs. Eagleson. But I don’t think Mr. Bean has any idea. It acts like it is the first time he has ever been to church.

What else doesn’t he know? He doesn’t know the words to the song. And the man beside him is being mean and won’t share his hymn book so poor Mr. Bean can’t see the words. But there is one word in the chorus that he knows very well. He knows the word Hallelujah and he sings it with all his heart – even if he doesn’t always get it right.

Mr. Bean does things wrong in Church because he doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know what is expected of him. No one can really blame him. It’s just the way it is. But let’s also agree that the man beside him could have really helped poor Mr. Bean by kindly showing him what to do. That’s something that we in the Church should keep in mind. If there are people who don’t know what to do, who don’t know what is expected of them, if they don’t know when to stand up or sit down, if they don’t know where the nursery is or the bathrooms, we who do know should go out of our way to help them so that they don’t have an experience like Mr. Bean had in that Church. That way they will know what is expected of them and life will be a whole lot easier.

THE TEN COMMNDMENTS

Sometimes people do things wrong because, even though they know what is expected of them, they choose to do the wrong thing anyway. And sometimes they do things wrong because they don’t know what is expected of them. That means that the best way to get people to act the right way is to let them know what’s expected of them. We can’t expect people to do what they’re supposed to do if no one tells them what they are expected to do.

The same thing holds true for God. If God expects us to act in a particular way, then it would be best if God told us what is expected of us. The good news is that God has told us that. God gave us those expectations in the Bible. The Bible is an instruction manual for life. In fact, someone made up an acronym for the letters that make up the word Bible. It goes like this: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Or to put it another way, the Bible is God’s way of telling us what is expected of us.

One of the best known list of instructions is what is called the Ten Commandments. They begin in Exodus 20:1-3 (NIV) which says, “And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” So the very first thing that God says is that nothing comes before God “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is the first of four commandments that talk about our relationship with God. First, we need to make our relationship with God our top priority. It has to be the most important thing in our lives, above everything else.

The second commandment is also about our relationship with God. Exodus 20:4-5a (NIV) says, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…” What God is saying here is that only God is worthy of our worship and praise. We’re not supposed to worship our jobs or our things or our money or even our family and friends. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. It just means that only God is worthy of our worship.

The third commandment is in Exodus 20:7 (NIV). It says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” So don’t use God’s name in ways that aren’t right, in ways that put God down.

The fourth commandment is found at Exodus 20:8-10 (NIV) and says this: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.” God says to take a break. Take time to rest and relax. Take time to spend with your family. And take time to spend with God. Sometimes, you just have to chill out. If God needed to rest on the seventh day, then maybe you need to rest too.

Those first four commandments talk about our relationship with God. The other six talk about our relationship with each other. Exodus 20:12 (NIV) says this: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Children, respect your parents. That’s good. But don’t forget the other side of that which is found in Ephesians 6:4 (NIV): “Parents, don’t exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” So both children and parents need to treat each other in the right way.

Next comes four commandments in Exodus 20:13-16 (NIV): “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” God tells us that if we want to treat each other right, then we aren’t supposed to do those things.

The last commandment is found in Exodus 20:17 (NIV) which says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Basically that means that you’re not supposed to want what belongs to someone else. Don’t be jealous just because someone has something that you don’t have. If you want what they have, then go and earn it.

Those are the ten commandments. Four of them have to do with our relationship with God and six of them have to do with how we treat each other. But here’s a good question: Why should we follow them? If I were to ask you why we follow the ten commandments, what would you say? What about, “You shall not steal.” Why not? Someone will say that we don’t steal because it’s just wrong. That’s not the right answer. Someone else might say that we don’t steal because it will hurt others. That might be true in one sense but it’s also not the answer I’m looking for. Someone else might say that we don’t steal because that’s what the Bible says. And that answer is not right either.

Here’s the right answer. We don’t steal because it is contrary to the character of God. Honestly is one of God’s characters. That’s why God doesn’t like stealing and that’s why we shouldn’t steal. It’s because our characters should reflect God’s character.

The same holds true for the other commandments. It is wrong to murder because valuing life is part of God’s character. We don’t commit adultery because faithfulness is part of God’s character. We don’t give false testimony because truthfulness if part of God’s character. We don’t covet because jealousy is not part of God’s character. All of these rules are based on God’s character and if we want to live our lives in godly ways, they we need to reflect that character in all that we do.

Some people think there are too many rules but the rules are there so that we can live the way God wants us to live and if we live the way God wants us to live, then we will live better. Basically that means that if follow the rules that God gives to us then we will be better people and God wants us to be the best people we can be.

Here’s the last thing I want to say. God loves us no matter what we do. That’s because love is another part of God’s character. God loves it when we follow the rules. But even when we don’t follow the rules – and all of us break them from time to time – even when we don’t follow the rules God still loves us. And that’s how Christianity is different from all other religions. Some people say that all religions are the same and that’s partially true. Most religions say very similar things about how we are supposed to live. Many religions have rules just like the ten commandments. But here is where Christianity is unique. All of the other religions say that if we follow the rules God will accept us. As long as you keep following the rules, you will make God happy and God will accept you. Christianity doesn’t say that at all. In fact, it says the exact opposite. What it says is that because God accepts us, we follow the rules. God doesn’t love me just because I follow the rules. I follow the rules because God first loved me. That’s a big difference.

That is how much God loves us and that is why it is important to try our very best to follow the rules.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Blessed are you, Gracious God, Creator of Light, Giver of Life, Source of Love. You guide the sun, cradle the moon, and toss the stars. At your word, the earth was made and spun on its course among the planets. You breathe life into us and set us among all your Creation in a covenant of love and service.

O God of Peace, we praise you for your love revealed to us in Jesus. He journeys with us as our Wisdom and our Way, sharing our joys and sorrows, healing the sick, feeding the hungry and setting the captive free. He walks among us and leads us down the path that you, in faith and caring, have set before our feet.

We thank you, O God, for the passion with which you come to us. In the acts of Creation and Cross you have shown your love in immeasurable ways. In the Spirit, you continue to live around and within, filling us with life and wonder. In our inadequacy, help us to sense your mystery and feel your presence. Give to us the passion that we need to do your work with joy and faithfulness all of our days.

We also give thanks this day for the birth of Charlotte Alison, daughter of Heidi and Adam McLeod and sister for Austin and Madelaine. Thank you for a healthy birth and a bright future of faith.

We would lift up in prayer the people who are living under the threat and brutality in various repressive areas of the world. Many are suffering for their faith and some are even being martyred for proclaiming Jesus. Keep them strong, O God, and help them to persevere in the face of hatred. May we be as faithful if that day ever came to us.

We pray, this morning for the sick of our congregation and community. Comfort and heal them with the touch of your indwelling Spirit.

We lift our prayers to you who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Enable us to discover the ministries that have been placed before us. Give us the courage not to shirk from our duties. Give us the wisdom to know what to do. And the love to do your will with compassion, gentleness and grace.

All of this, with praise and thanksgiving, we pray to you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

March 5, 2018 / Lent 3

SCRIPTURE

Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; John 2:13-22; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

CALL TO WORSHIP

ONE:         The heavens declare the glory of God;

ALL:         the earth proclaims Christ’s faithfulness.

ONE:         God looks upon creation from the throne of grace;

ALL:         and guides us into the way of peace.

ONE:         We come, as servants, to worship our Creator;

ALL:         We come to honour Jesus who gives us life.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

Your glory fills the sky, O God, and the heavens declare your glory. Glory to you, who made all things. Glory to you, who makes all new things possible. Glory to you, who looks upon us and cares what happens to each and every one of us. Glory to you, who lifts us above our sinfulness and places us upon the rock solid ground of faith. Glory to you, God of love and compassion. Only you can hear our prayers. Only you can see our worship. Only you can, in love, answer us when we call upon your name. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

We call to you in the midst of Lent. We seek in this time, O God, to draw closer to you and to discern your will in our lives. We have fallen short of your glory. We have failed to live with the faithfulness that you have set before us. Like our ancestors, we have turned our backs and run from your call, forgetting your promise to provide for our every need. Forgive us, O God, when we fail to follow. It is only by your mercy that we are healed. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The joy of faith is that wherever we walk, we have the assurance of God’s love and presence with us. Even when we journey into sin, God is there to lead us back on the path of righteousness and bring us peace and reconciliation. Thanks be to the Christ for the amazing and gracious gift of life.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

All that we have and all that we are is symbolized by these, our gifts. Give us the courage, the wisdom and the insight to use them wisely, not only this portion but all that we have. We offer ourselves for your work and glory, in Jesus’ name.

COMMISSIONING

We have worshipped and given glory to God. As we leave, may our praise continue. May our worship enter into every aspect of our lives that we may live in prayer and faithfulness every moment of every day. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

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