Church of England Diocese of Norwich St. Peter, Sheringham

Message from the Minister: The Third Sunday of Lent

7 Mar 2021, 1 a.m.
Lent

I’m always saddened when I see someone suing a relative on Judge Judy, especially if it’s a close family member like father and daughter. It’s easy to allow ourselves to brood on financial matters which we think are unfair on us, and to put money before love. The very act of taking his daughter to court is likely to cause the relationship between them to be soured for the rest of the father’s life, whether or not he won his case. Whatever the daughter had done, it would surely be better to forgive her the debt, to encourage her to do the right thing from now on, to continue to offer unconditional love, and to remain in a close relationship as far as possible.

Jesus was more than saddened, he was angered when he saw people putting money before love in the temple. Those in charge insisted that people pay their temple tax in their silver currency, and set up booths so that they could change it. They insisted that animals and birds brought in for sacrifice must be without a blemish, and kept unblemished animals and birds for sale in the outer courts of the temple, the only place where gentiles were allowed to go to worship God. According to our reading, after driving the animals out Jesus told those selling doves to stop making his Father’s house a market place. According to the other three gospel accounts, Jesus told them that it was written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’ but, he said, “You have made it a den of robbers.” He overturned the tables of the money changers. He certainly made a statement!

The challenge Jesus made was significant. It implied that people were being swindled; that they were being distracted and held back from praying; it cleared the way for gentiles to enter the temple; and it said that God did not require the sacrifice of unblemished animals and birds. It was no surprise that the chief priests and elders asked him for a sign to prove that he was speaking for God. As ever, the answer Jesus gave didn’t satisfy them. They sought to harm him, to remove his influence. Little did they know that by killing him, they would increase his influence on the whole world for at least 2000 years, as God would raise Jesus after three days.

What God teaches us in Christ goes against the grain of the world, which as Paul said sees the cross as foolishness, while those who believe see its power. ‘God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.’

If we put love before money, some may see it as weakness or foolishness, but it’s what Jesus shows us - the way to the God who loves us so much that he accepts us, blemished as we are, and forgives us while asking us to do the right thing from now on. Let there be nothing which distracts us from this, the most important relationship of all.

Amen.

Julie Rubidge

Lay Minister