Rev. Estelle Margarones
Exodus 20:1-17 John 2:13-22
The calendar tells us that it is still winter, but just a few days ago it was 63 degrees and we felt the promise of spring. Our liturgical calendar tells us we are only a few weeks into Lent, yet with every day that passes, we feel the promise of Easter. In the scripture this morning, we heard foreshadowing of the Resurrection. Jesus said that the Temple could be destroyed and He would raise it up in three days. We know the Easter story and we know He rose on the third day.
If you take just two things away today, I hope they are these: an appreciation for the Ten Commandments (in their time and in our time) and an awareness of how you can live in such a way as to be a temple to God.
So let us get back to basics and talk about how to live our faith. Commandment number one is “You shall have no other Gods before Me.” Exodus was written in a time of traveling tribes and people of different backgrounds were being assimilated into the culture. In addition to leaving behind any other gods (small 'g') they may have had, the first commandment essentially says 'no kings shall come before me and no emperors shall come before me'. Today, this means, nothing comes before God. Not money. Not cars. Not jobs. Not status. God comes first, period.
The Second Commandment is “You shall not make for yourself an idol.” This notion of worshipping God without some sort of clay or stone or wooden figure of a person or an animal set Israel apart from other neighboring religions. In fact, while Moses was up on the mountain getting the Ten Commandments, didn't Aaron make a golden calf for the people to worship? God was not happy about that! We are to worship God, not a statue. Pay attention to what you can tend to idolize....a job...hobby...celebrity...then remember the commandment not to idolize things.
Commandment Number 3 is “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God”. In Biblical times, people believed that using God's name actually invoked God's presence and caused something to happen. This commandment reminds us to keep God's name pure and holy and to use it only with intentions that are pure of heart, otherwise we are taking the Lord's name in vain.
The 4th commandment is “Remember your Sabbath day and keep it holy”. We’re supposed to devote a day to God. Not a hour on a Sunday morning, but a day. How do you keep the Sabbath holy? Do you find time in the day for meditation or prayer or reading scripture? Do you devote time to family and friends, rather than television or the Internet?
This commandment also reminds us that we need to rest. God made the world in 6 days and then He rested on the 7th. Whether we’re working at a professional occupation, or donating our time in public service, or cooking meals every day; we need time to rest and regroup.
God gave us these commandments out of love. These are for our best interests. When we keep a hectic pace, we’re not doing ourselves a service—we’re worn out, worried, always trying to get somewhere else, and trying to do 5 things at once.
In the New Testament reading this morning Jesus referred to his body as a Temple. No doubt His was! And as disciples, we can attempt to make ours Temples, too, reflective of doing God's holy work here on earth. So honor yourself enough to give yourself a rest every now and then.
Commandment number five is to “honor your father and your mother”. The message is to respect those who brought you into this world; those who nourished you; those who took care of you, and those who have taught you. Certainly this includes our physical parents…and may include family members…and school teachers…and friends…and even our ‘mistakes’. Honor that from which you’ve learned. Honor those things that have shaped you into the person you are.
The Sixth Commandment is “You shall not murder”. In the literal sense, this meant don’t purposefully take another’s life. I would suggest that this commandment also has other implications. Unless there is real danger involved, don’t tell someone that what they’re doing is wrong, just because you don't believe in it. When I lived in California, I had an assistant at work. She spent $300 to buy a ‘starter kit’ for some vitamin supplement that she was trying to sell. She was very enthusiastic about the potential sales of this product.
Others in the office put down her efforts because they did not believe in the product. In doing so, they were also putting her down. Do not kill their hopes and dreams. Tell people things that will make them feel positive. Do what you can to keep people’s vitality up.
The seventh commandment is “You shall not commit adultery.” Its literal meaning is that you should be faithful to your spouse and honor your covenantal relationship. I think it can also mean more than what meets the eye. An adulterous relationship implies broken covenant, deception, and disrespect. In a marriage today, both partners start out as equals. When another party is brought in, it becomes two against one. In addition to the literal meaning of this commandment, I believe it also suggests ‘balanced relationships’. Anytime something becomes more important that the spouse, the relationship is out of whack.
Commandment number eight is “You shall not steal.” In Biblical times, this meant everything from stealing property to stealing people. Today, stealing is taking anything that does not belong to us. It is wrong. I think that this commandment also has other meaning. It is about more than just taking a physical object that does not belong.
The commandment about stealing applies to everything: things, time, and credit. If you and a partner work on a project together, but your partner is not there when it has recognized, don’t forget to give credit where credit’s due. Don’t steal another’s time—if your daughter is home from college and you know that your daughter wants to visit her friends in town, don’t ‘guilt’ her into spending all of her time with you. (Not that anyone here would do that…but I know someone who has been known to!)
The Ninth Commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against a neighbor.” It literally meant that, if questioned, you were supposed to tell the truth about people’s character. If you said something that was not true, you bore ‘false’ witness. Today, we say do not lie.
If you are tempted to tell a lie, perhaps you should examine the motivation for why you want to say something that is not true. Did you tell the phone company that ‘the check is in the mail’ when, in reality, it wasn't even written? Why? Is the issue behind the lie that you did not have the money? Is the issue that you weren’t a good steward of your time and just didn’t get to it?
Often, when we are tempted to lie, it is because there is something that we did not do. I would say to look at the possible lie and examine the circumstances that made you want to tell that tall tale. Then make a correction in the circumstances.
We have arrived at the last of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not covet...anything that belongs to your neighbor.” You are not supposed to want something that’s not yours. Why is this so important?
From the literal perspective, envying something that belongs to another could lead to bearing false witness, stealing, killing, the breakdown of relationships, disrespect, and not having priorities in order, just to name a few of the possible negative impacts.
In addition, our thoughts lead us to action so if we’re obsessing about wanting something that doesn’t belong to us we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Coveting puts the focus on what you don't have and points to specific lack, whereas considering what you want puts energy behind creativity.
We just explored the Ten Commandments. Those commandments were given to the children of Israel while they were making their way to the Promised Land. No doubt the faithful knew of these commandments. On that fateful day when Jesus went and overturned the tables in the Temple courtyard, perhaps the faithful were inside the Temple, much like we're in church today, considering the Ten Commandments.
In the New Testament passage, the faithful have come from all over to the Temple. Because many traveled from far away, it would have been difficult to bring their sacrificial animals along. Because many came from distant places, they had currencies from other lands. For these reasons, there were booths selling sacrificial animals and there were tables where currency was exchanged.
I expect that thousands of sermons have been preached about greed, but I want to focus on something else in the passage; something quite profound as we approach Easter.
Jesus said, “destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days”. He knew the Temple took almost fifty years to build. The temple of which he spoke was his own body. Everything Jesus said and did—all of his teachings and all of his actions were to the glory of God. He didn't say, “destroy me and I will overcome death.” No, the focus was on his father: our God.
Jesus rightly saw the Temple as God's house. He then spoke of his body as a Temple. In this season of Lent, we contemplate our lives and our relationship with our triune God.
How we think, what we say and how we act are important. Are we living in accordance with the Ten Commandments? Things like our speech, the direction in which we walk, and whether we're extending our hands in helpfulness all matter. Each of us can be a living temple to God.
This morning, I have illustrated several examples of living our faith as God commanded us to do. In the days and weeks ahead, as we journey through Lent, how might you follow Christ's example of doing everything for the glory of God?
How might you live your faith? How might you, through thought and speech and action be a Temple to God? Blessed be and Amen.