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For the People of God
November 25, 2018, 12:00 AM

God morning, grace and peace to you from the triune God and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so. This is what we all want to hear. This is the reality of our faith. This is what brings us back some of the time to church. We have had a bad week at work or with the family and so we come to church because Jesus is the balm to heal all wounds. We are feeling like the whole world is against us but we are ok because we know we are ok in God's eyes. We feel like the whole world is against us but we come into this place and know that we are loved and forgiven as a child of God. We are the people of God, we are a part of the body of Christ and we are thus the hands and feet and hopefully voice of God in our time, working to bring about the kingdom of God, right here, right now, even today.

And then we read from Jeremiah, “Hear the word of the lord all you people of … the Lord, … Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place.” Wait ---- you mean that I need to change. If I read this correctly then maybe my behavior needs to change. Surely though all that matters is that I have a relationship with Jesus. And yet continue to read and it says, “ Do not trust in these deceptive words: “this is the temple of the Lord...” Phew, we are ok because this was for the people who worshiped in the temple and thought that was all they needed. We have Jesus instead of the temple.

Except, we also read in our Gospel text today about how Jesus turned over the the tables in the temple where they were exchanging money for temple money and selling the animals people would need for the sacrificial offering system. And then Jesus riffs off a quote that links to the Jeremiah text we read today. Maybe Jesus cares how his followers behave and maybe, just maybe Jesus thinks that the things that Jeremiah lists would be a good measuring stick for the way we act. Certainly, though Jesus meant this for the priests and clerics and monks of the church, not the ordinary people.

Then we run into the challenge that there is no more temple on the mount. We run into the problem that the original Christians did not have big beautiful sanctuaries. We have the challenge that at least as Lutherans reading the bible we have come to the concept of “The Priesthood of all Believers” and so we are all of us, each and every one of us implicated to doing the will of Jesus even if it was only commanded of the priestly class. Your body is a temple and you are a part of the priesthood of all believers and so even if Jesus only made this for those serving in the temple you are implicated as well as The Pope, Father Alfaro, Pastor Ginger and myself.

Thus we know that we are implicated to follow this particular notation of the one who redeemed us. Knowing now that this is something Jesus wanted us to follow. Let us look at what we are being asked to uphold. What is the standard that Jesus is putting forward for us, in addition to trusting and knowing that God loves us no matter what. Jeremiah says, “if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt.” So we must be just with the other believers, support the foreigners, support the orphan and the widow, or if you prefer support those who have no way to support themselves and we must not shed innocent blood. One more time, those of us who love Jesus need to treat other believers well, support the foreigners, provide for those who have no means and not shed innocent blood. I think I can do this.

Oh wait --- the text goes on. I could accept this first list but what else can there be. We read on and it says, “ 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are safe!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching.” Well I suppose this is the ten commandments read backwards and maybe that is reasonable. Therefore, no stealing, no murdering, no adultery and no other gods. Ok, ok, ok … So treat my brothers and sisters in Christ well, make the world better for the foreigner, care for those with no means, don't murder or hurt the other, don't steal from my neighbor even if it is his or her beautiful spouse and worship God. That might be a reasonable list.

It is interesting too because we all like the forgiveness of sins. We all like that Jesus loves us no matter what. We all claim the relationship with Jesus and thus with God. And yet we want it to stop there. We want Jesus to be the justification to do what seems right to us. We do not want to change our ways. We want to have God love the foibles and faults instead of loving us in spite of the foibles and faults. Yet we find that God loves us in spite of, not because of, the foibles and faults. What we find is a God that asks us if we truly have come to the table to be fed to leave some of our baggage behind. We find that while legalism in following rules does not help us we are expected to act in accordance with a set of standards.

 

We in the United States at least and many other places in my experience, get complacent because our society is structured to give us the illusion we are in control of our own destiny. We have the illusion that we report to no one. We have the illusion, if we are not careful, that we are God because after all is not God the one who controls the grand ark of destiny, is not God the one we should be reporting to, is not God truly God and we are not. And do you really want to be God with the fate of billions of people to look after being your responsibility. How much better if we stick to our little corner and doing the best we can to follow the rules laid out for us by Jesus. And thankfully, Jesus points us in the right direction with Love God, Love Your Neighbor, Love Yourself.

God loves you. Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit will be with you no matter what. Thus we get the opportunity to learn a better way. Having the opportunity to know how God would want it done, it does seem to me logical that we might try to live it out and having re-reviewed Jesus command to love God (check), love my neighbor or if you prefer love all other humans (well mostly) and love yourself, which ps does not mean never eat sweets nor does it mean become the glutton because one harms our psyche and one harms our body. Given all of the above Jesus loves you and so now you get the opportunity to care for yourself and others. Jesus has forgiven you sin so you have the freedom to practice repentance or being sorry enough not to do it again. The Holy Spirit is with you, day in a day out, so that you never have to operate without basic guidance. Therefore let us give thanks so that we might go forth to love and serve the Lord.