Link to the video service for Lent 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnZPwef8b0U
Link to the Bath and Wells reflection for Lent 3 https://youtu.be/wU_kEz9XD0s
Exodus 20:1-17, John 2:13-22
In the name of the living God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Amen
Gospel accounts of how Jesus was, like the reading set for today, make us wonder what it would have been like to be around Jesus! A long way from the mild Jesus described in some of our carols! Jesus was inspiring to be around definitely, but also and equally challenging definitely!
In John’s gospel Jesus actions of clearing the temple are separated from the events of Holy Week and from the setting I imagine John is describing something that happened the year before the Passover when Jesus was crucified. The description we have is of a disruptive radical Jesus. He can’t bear the market place in the inner courts of the temple and does something about it feeling this stuff is corrupting the worship of God – (worship so central to the commandments we also heard today and of primary importance). The state of the temple was a barometer of how things were in the relationship between God and his people. All this commercial stuff going on to Jesus showed they had lost their way.
By his actions and his words – Jesus is trying to get through to them that he is the bringer of transformation and equally radical change! Jesus is in no mood for signs and wonders that the Jewish people ask for. Instead he explains how his life will be a sign. He says ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”, which they do not understand. They take his references to the temple as meaning the bricks and mortar. We know he is talking about himself as the focus of worship and how his body as a temple will transform things once and for all and forever, through his death on the cross and his resurrection. Then through the power of the Holy Spirit left with us continue to work transformation in us and in everyone who follows its prompting.
Our #LiveLent material this week has also been talking about the Christian journey and our ability to share our stories – particularly the stories of how God has worked his transformation in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. As the week activity it asked us to think about how God has changed us and has been at work in us and in our lives?
This is probably a good deal trickier to pin down than last week’s reading a gospel! It asks us to concentrate on when we have known God to be at work in our life? This kind of feels like this is asking for the big and dramatic points of our lives, but at another level if we are open to the Spirit’s promptings this is also in a quieter way an every day reality too and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. In a way it is not the size or the shape of our experiences of knowing God at work in our lives, but our willingness to share our experiences of this transforming love with others and how it has helped us.
The book by Hannah Steele that accompanies our material makes a lot of suggestions about how to share our experiences well. These include:-
At its simplest this means being prepared to go there and be vulnerable.
Tell it how it is and was (the reality for us).
Being relevant and connected
That this is something we feel prompted by God to do that is pertinent to the person we are talking to.
Bearing in mind we have probably experienced Christians who are ‘over the top’ in this area, which can be excruciating!
By sharing we do not need an instant response and action!
We are often in the seed sowing business
We do not know the difference we are going to make by our conversation or when it will make a difference. Trusting God to work matters.
And finally be prepared
I don’t think this means have a pre-canned speech for every occasion and circumstance as this is likely to come across forced and unnatural,
But be open about it and willing to share naturally.
It can be as simple as I have found prayer helpful in whatever circumstances it is and if it is natural and the conversation goes that way. Explain moments where your prayers have been answered. Sometimes we have more opportunities than others to share what it means to us to have God in our lives and to live knowing we are loved and cherished, with the faith and hope and peace the presence of God brings.
To be personal for a moment: On my journey to ordination back in the day when I was an IT professional and theological college was on the horizon (summer of 2002) – I was working my last few weeks in a very high paced software company in Guildford. It was a very intriguing time! I had been working there just over a year at this point. I had been honest about my values and faith as matters had arisen and tried hard to model a Christian lifestyle in a very secular environment. The impact of people realising I was leaving and why was really interesting. In the course of those few weeks I had more incidental conversations and questions by the coffee machine, than I thought was remotely likely. The unfolding news certainly peaked peoples’ interest and natural curiosity, and this was particularly true for those of other faiths, as well as those who shared in our Christian convictions.
What left a deep impression on me at the time was the genuine curiosity, which found an outlet. I had found it a very money orientated, fast cars and prosperity driven place to work! Our clients were large and affluent Pharmaceutical companies and yet not far below the surface were all these questions about meaning, purpose and what life is all about?
I think we are at a point in our society where the bubble of what is important has really burst and people are asking big questions. This means that sensitively sharing our experiences of God and how God has worked his transformation in us will show a different, wholistic and hopefilled path to others. The final reflection for this week in the #LiveLent material quoting Hannah Steele says
Our story becomes more authentic to people when they see that it really does impact the way we live our lives. It is often through our daily lives that we demonstrate the topsy-turvy way of the kingdom of God.
My experience back in the summer of 2002 points to this reality. So, lets pray for opportunities to share. Being accessible, respectful, relevant and connected, prepared in so much as we are willing to give it a go and above all being authentic to our lived experience of God’s amazing love for us.
Let us pray
May the Holy Spirit of God breathe hope into our hearts, transform our fears, and bless us with the gifts of courage, compassion and understanding, that we may share our faith with renewed confidence and new commitment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995
#LiveLent God’s Story, Our Story – Stephen Hance (Church House Publishing)
Living His Story – Hannah Steele (SPCK)
Prayer from www.rootsontheweb.