Miracles and the Cross

SERMON # THREE MARCH 2018

 Exodus 20: 1-17, 1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 25 and John 2: 13 – 22.

Miracles and the Cross

 

“O everlasting, all powerful God,

great are your Commandments

and pure is your testimony,

help us to follow Jesus more closely

so that we may be obedient to you in all of our ways

Amen”

As a nation and/or as God’s people we are, these days, obsessed with miracles. It is almost as if we go from one prayer meeting looking for a miracle to the next. When we need rain, when it is election time, when ……. and not to exclude the importance we attach to advice given by all kinds of people available in various ways. In a sense we are thus as peculiar as the people who lived in biblical times – on the lookout for miracles and wisdom. And it is not necessarily a bad thing. However, in all of this let us not forget Christ crucified.

If we do so we may, in the midst of all the miracles and wise sayings coming our way, forget (1) that the cross calls us to take a stand against anything which may stand in the way of people knowing God’s grace, (2) we too are in need of cleansing and (3) we cannot build our whole faith experience following Jesus on the ten Commandments alone.

The Temple is an integral part of the Jewish faith. It, amongst other things, signifies in a very real and powerful way God’s very presence in this world. It was asked of those of the Jewish faith to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to make an offering to God and worship at the Temple. However, it was also the case that what has become the norm, the exchange and borrowing of money and other services which was, in a way, very necessary within the whole Temple set- up, had become something which was excluding some from fully participating in the worship and giving of sacrifices. It is against this that Jesus took a decisive stand. The crucified Jesus reminds us that we must do everything in our power to make sure that all people can know or have access to God’s hospitality, God’s grace. This goes from the way we speak about God, how we present God to others, to how we do church. For Christians, Jesus on the cross has replaced the Temple as the decisive moment or place of God’s presence in this world. Let us then remember Christ crucified.

It is also true to say that we too are in need of cleansing. We must ask Jesus to come into our hearts and clean out all the stuff that is not needed in our lives. All which may make us feel unclean before God. Jesus on the cross reminds us how God enters the darkest places of our lives and the world in order to bring life. Just like Jesus chased away the people in the Temple so he must chase away what do not belong inside of us. The Temple is also a powerful reminder of God’s holiness – the God who is different. And it is to that different that we are called into. If we want to commit murder we cannot because we are different. If we want to commit adultery we cannot because we are different. Christ crucified reminds us of God being Holy and us being different than the rest of the world.

Christ crucified reminds us that we cannot build our faith, our following of Jesus, on the Ten Commandments alone. If this is the case we would be better off as those who follow the Jewish faith. By making the Ten Commandments the primary measurement for what it means to follow Jesus, we may find ourselves in the same place as the Pharisees of Jesus’ time: Thinking of ourselves as a cut above the rest – giving us the power to elevate ourselves as those who know God and are the only recipients of God’s favour and from that place of elevation condemning everybody else. A faith based on the Ten Commandments has the power to make us see our salvation in terms of how good we are in keeping them – thus salvation based on our own efforts. A faith based on following Jesus makes us see our salvation as grounded in God’s work on the cross – where we do not put ourselves above the rest but rather share in the struggles of all.

On the cross God did all the work of saving us. The cross is in a sense God’s ultimate miracle and sign - of God’s love and grace rescuing us from that which leaves us in darkness. If our faith is just about going from one miracle to the next and one wise saying to the next, we may forget Christ crucified and all the hard work God did and we must do to make sure that all have access to God, that we too can be cleansed and that we cannot base our faith on the Ten Commandments only - the cross invites us to a place of real resistance against anything that is against the will and nature of God and to stand with the ‘least of these.’  If our faith is only about the search for miracles and wise sayings it may all come to nothing for if we forget Christ crucified we may be dead in our trespasses.

“Dear God, help us to follow Jesus more closely,

And in so doing help us to celebrate the miracles and wisdom you give to us,

especially in times of distress and trouble, 

help us to  also never forget what you did for us on the cross,

so that we may have life,

living in your grace and mercy,

In Jesus name we pray,

Amen”  

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