Third Sunday in Lent
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ
grace and peace to you from the one who is found among us. Amen
Where do you go to find God?
In Jesus’ day
if you wanted to go spend time with God,
you went to the temple in Jerusalem
and the way you communicated with God
was by offering a sacrifice,
certain animals depending on what you wanted to say
or if you were poor
you could substitute some doves.
That was it. Very clear.
It all started back at Mt. Sinai
when God claimed the Israelites
as the people of God.
This was particularly unusual at the time,
People chose which God to pray to,
usually the one thought to be most helpful in that moment,
having troubles with your crops?
Pray to the fertility goddess,
need some help winning a battle?
pray to the God of war
and so on
but God tells the people of Israel
that from this point on God,
I am who I am who appeared to Moses in a burning bush
will be the God of the people
and outlined how the relationship would work in the ten commandments.
Fresh out of slavery from Egypt
God gave the Israelites structure and direction
for the newly freed life,
life that had meaning
because it was a life claimed by God
and directed by laws written on stone tablets
by the hand of God
and brought down off the mountain by Moses.
And these tablets came to signify not just the covenant
between God and the people
but also the place to find God.
The tablets were placed in the ark of the covenant,
(yes the one Indiana Jones was looking for)
it was the home of God
and because the Israelites were a nomadic people
they carried the ark with them, wherever they went,
even into battle,
because it meant that God was present
and if the ark was there, if God was present
the Israelites would win,
even against much larger armies.
Eventually, 40 years later,
the Israelites enter and settle into the promised land
and once the question of leadership was settled
King Solomon built a more permanent home for God,
the temple in Jerusalem,
which by all accounts would put the most baroque palace to shame,
covered in gold and silver,
the finest linens and most expensive decorations
and that was where God lived,
that was where God could be found.
When the Babylonians came and conquered Israel
and sent them into exile
they destroyed the temple,
but the tragedy of the Babylonian exile
was not only that the people had lost the promised land
but that the Israelites were physically separated from their God.
Eventually the Israelites were allowed to return home,
they were reunited with their God
and they began rebuilding the temple, the home of God.
All this to put in perspective
what Jesus does in the temple today in our gospel lesson,
he brings the whole system to a screeching halt,
calls into question everything the temple stands for,
interrupts people’s communication with God
and when confronted makes the outrageous claim
that if the temple were destroyed he could raise it in three days.
That’s it, centuries, generations of tradition
Wiped out with the crashing of a few tables
And a wild claim to some priests.
but in this claim
Jesus shifts the location of God
from the temple to himself.
Jesus is the new temple,
the new home of God.
If you want to find God,
know what God thinks,
go to Jesus,
if you want to talk to God,
talk to Jesus
because Jesus is where divine and human meet.
This is the claim that John has been making since he started his gospel
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
God has gone from residing in the temple
to residing in Jesus,
as a human, with humans,
experiencing all the joys and sorrows
of what it means to be human
even the experience of death,
death on a cross,
as our reading from 1 Corinthians puts it,
and yet that foolishness is how God
brought us back into a healed relationship between divine and human.
It’s as simple as that,
and of course more complex.
Our relationship with God
has been healed
but as we have daily proof
the perfection of the world has not yet come into fullness,
those original covenant laws are broken daily.
So where do we go to find God?
Especially post ascension
Some days it seems like God is both everywhere and nowhere
at the same time.
We go to Jesus
who meets us at the font in the waters of baptism,
who comes to us in the bread and wine of communion,
his body and blood forgiving and strengthening us.
Who speaks to us through the words of scripture and preaching.
who makes himself available for us to serve
in the bodies of the least of these,
the hungry, poor, sick, imprisoned.
And while it may not make sense according to our human wisdom
this is how God has chosen to work in the world
always present in and through us.
Some days we may wish that it were as simple
as offering a sacrifice at a temple,
and other days we get distracted by life swirling around us
and we fail to see Jesus right in front of us
that is why our yearly calendar includes the season of Lent,
the season that invites us to return to God,
to become aware once again
of the places God comes to us in our lives,
to renew that covenant relationship
and bask in the foolish love of God that makes us whole.
To find Jesus among us. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.