Our opening Collect reads: “Almighty God, You know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 218)
The reading from the Old Testament is Exodus 20:1-17. This is the story of God giving His 10 Commandments to His people through His servant Moses. Moses spent two days at the foot of Mount Sinai following God’s instructions consecrating the people to prepare them to receive God’s law on the third day. “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightening and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast… then Moses brought the people out to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the Mountain…” (Ex 19:16-19) The 10 Commandments are revealed Law and structure our life as a family of God to be a united and loving family under our heavenly Father and with our neighbor.
The epistle is from Romans 7:13-25. St.Paul addresses the moral conflicts we face. These conflicts are the result of our fallen nature. So often we sound just like St. Paul: “I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate.” (Rom 7:15). The good news is that in spite of the conflicts and contradictions and temptations that seem to flow so effortlessly about us we can know Christ more deeply and love Him more fully and be fill with joy and a wonder that passes all human understanding. (BCP 308 and Eph 4:17-32) Because grace labors with our stubborn will to open our mind and heart and move us away from the areas of temptation so we can grow into a living image of Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2Co 3:18)
The Gospel reading is John 2:13-22. This reading is the cleansing of the Temple. The Jews asked Jesus for “a sign.” (Jn 2:18). But the “sign” that He wants to give must wait for a later time. But the “sign” that shall be given will be His offering of Himself in His Passion. The “zeal” the disciples took note of coming from Jesus was His love for every human soul. This love poured from the Cross. His “self-offering” becomes the door we must step through to be in Heaven. His arms are open wide on the Cross and is holding the doors to Heaven open for each of us. With faith walk into His embrace and step into Heaven here on earth. The Temple where God abides and is worshipped is no longer a building, but it is now His Body that is the true sanctuary.
We continue to explore the rich baptismal themes that permeate the Prayer Book Lectionary in the season of Lent. On this third Sunday in Lent the Lectionary turns it’s attention to the baptismal covenant and the relationship it creates between God, our neighbor and self. At the baptismal font the Holy Spirit “sanctifies the water” (BCP 307) and with this water the human soul is “cleansed from sin and born again to receive the life of grace to continue forever in the Risen Life of Jesus Christ our Savior.” (BCP 307)
Christian’s are called to a covenant relationship with God at baptism. That covenant means God will never give up on us! But it also means we are called to the same love and fidelity in our relationship with Him. The cleansing of the Temple is a foreshadowing of the cleansing of the human soul that is made possible because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross and because we are baptized into that divine mystery. (Rom 6:1-14 and 1 Peter 1:17-23) Baptism applies the grace and benefits of the Cross to any person who comes in faith seeking to walk with God. Our Lord’s own flesh and blood is the “meeting ground” between God and a the human person. It’s no longer the Jewish Temple. As St. Peter writes, “Come as living stones, be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1Pe 2:5)