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Worship, prayer and Bible resources

Third Sunday of Lent - Year B

Liturgical Colour - Purple


Psalm 121Introduction

The actions of Jesus in the story from John today are harsh and aggressive. Jesus goes to the temple and makes it plain that he is angry. When we remember just how important the temple was, we can understand that people would not be happy when he used language about raising it to the ground.

Why was Jesus so angry ?  Why was he so motivated that he made a whip and used it to drive people and their animals out of the temple? The event can only be understood against the background of the understanding Jesus had about who he was and what he was about to do. Jesus sees Judaism with its Passovers and sacrifices to be at an end. Even the temple itself was of no more value. Instead it was his death which would end all deaths, his body which would represent the visible representation of God being with his people. There would be no more need of the religious trappings, that was the old order and now a new order had come.

Make no mistake, Jesus did not have this zeal because he was on a mission to stop corruption, he has a much bigger target than that. Jesus is not involved in a clean up exercise, he wants nothing less than an end to the Jewish religion itself.

The gospel reading today challenges us to look afresh at our institutions and our personal lives. Perhaps we are being challenged to cleanse what is stale and corrupt? What abuses have crept into the way we govern our society, workplaces and lives? It is no good excusing ourselves simply because things have become accepted as the norm. We too must be prepared to challenge the status quo with the demands of the Kingdom. 

When Jesus attacked the abuses which had grown up in the Temple he was prepared to face unpopularity and the dangers of confronting the powerful. He was willing to be disliked and misunderstood, in order to bring about change. Are we as Christians prepared to be as courageous?


Opening Verses of Scripture  Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty God, you see that we have no power of 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.  Amen   Methodist Worship

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  Common Worship

Eternal God, give us insight to discern your will for us, to give up what harms us, and to seek the perfection we are promised in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   Common Worship Shorter Collects

First Bible Reading   Exodus 20:1-17

And God spoke all these words:  "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 

  1. "You shall have no other gods before me. 
  2. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 
  3. "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 
  4. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 
  5. "Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 
  6. "You shall not murder. 
  7. "You shall not commit adultery. 
  8. "You shall not steal. 
  9. "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. 
  10. "You shall not covet your neighbour's house. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour."

Second Reading  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.


Gospel Reading  John 2:13-22 

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" 

His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." 

Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" 

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 

The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Post Communion Sentence


Merciful Lord, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Commentary

We read that the passage from John today takes place at the ‘Passover of the Jews.’ The NIV reading ‘Jewish Passover’ doesn’t quite capture the essence of ‘them and us’ which is the true import of the phrase. The Passover Festival was derived from the episode in Egypt. It was of enormous importance for the Jews and their understanding of identity and faith. It was at this most significant festival, in the Temple - the most important and holy place, that Jesus decided to carry out this very visual and high profile attack.

All four Gospels tell the story of the cleansing of the temple (see Matt. 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48), but the Synoptics place it near the end of Jesus' life, whereas John's Gospel places the cleansing at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. So why does John put it at the start?
Firstly, we need to remember that for the Gospel writers chronology was of little importance in comparison to the theological message which they were intending to convey. John wants to make his Gospel about Jesus as the fulfilment of the religion of the Jews, hence phrases such as ‘Passover of the Jews.’ The point being of course, that Christians no longer had need of such a festival. The Passover has been fulfilled in Jesus. The incident takes place at Passover, a time of death and sacrifice, because it is the death of Jesus which ends brings the need for a Passover to an end. Humankind would no longer need to purge guilt by placing onto animals the blame for their own sins.

John wants to establish right at the start of his writing what Jesus was about. He represented the end of the old of the old order and the beginning of the new. So it is that John starts his Gospel by showing that Jesus brings a new order, a transformation of religion and a time when sacrificial worship is brought to an end. The death of Jesus brings death itself to an end. Jesus is the fulfilment of the promises of God, he is about nothing less than the complete reconstitution of the worship of Israel around himself. The temple will become redundant, it will have no more purpose, it is obsolete. Rather it is the body of Jesus which is to be the true Temple.

It may well be that some of the trading which was going on in the temple precincts was inappropriate, but we miss the point of this episode if we think that this is what Jesus was so angry about. Jesus takes on the opposition fearlessly and his actions recalled to the disciples the passage from the Old Testament

‘Zeal for thy house will consume me.’ Psalm 69:9

Make no mistake, Jesus did not have this zeal because he was on a mission to stop corruption, he has a much bigger target than that. Jesus is not involved in a clean up exercise, he wants nothing less than an end to the Jewish religion itself. Charles Royden


Historians will note that the Jews said to Jesus "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years" (v. 20). Construction began under Herod the Great in 20 or 19 B.C., which means that Jesus' cleansing of the temple takes place in 27 or 28 A.D. The majority of the work on the temple has been completed by this time, but refinements will continue until 63 A.D., only seven years before the Romans will destroy the temple. Incidentally, John mentions three distinct Passovers in his Gospel, which leads us to believe that the ministry of Jesus lasted three years. ( 2:13, 6:4, 11:55).
 

Meditation

Our Calling - Priorities
Dear Friends In recent years Our Calling has become a familiar process in many churches and circuits. It sets out briefly our core purpose as a Church. It is a simple statement against which to review each year what we do in each congregation and circuit. It can suggest to us, year on year, the next step to take together to become the Church God wants us to be in the twenty-first century.
In the light of Our Calling, we have listened hard to one another’s dreams for the future of the Church. We have listened also to the fundamental and deep challenges that confront all churches in Britain today, in rural and urban settings. Throughout these consultations we kept hearing a few themes over and over again. The plea was for all of us to help one another, using all the resources of the Church, to pursue our dreams and to address these challenges. All this is summarised in the Priorities for the Methodist Church. The Priorities are a vision for change and for hope in the Church. God is calling us to pull together in developing the Priorities in churches, circuits, districts and the Connexional Team, with imagination and courage.

David G Deeks General Sec. Methodist Church

Our Calling The Church exists to:
Increase awareness of God’s presence and to celebrate God’s love [Worship]
Help people to learn and grow as Christians, through mutual support and care [Learning and Caring]
Be a good neighbour to people in need and to challenge injustice [Service]
Make more followers of Jesus Christ [Evangelism]

Priorities for the Methodist Church
In partnership with others wherever possible, the Methodist Church will concentrate its prayers, resources, imagination and commitments on this priority:
To proclaim and affirm its conviction of God’s love in Christ, for us and for all the world;
and renew confidence in God’s presence and action in the world and in the Church
As ways towards realising this priority, the Methodist Church will give particular attention to the following:

  1. Underpinning everything we do with God-centred worship and prayer

  2. Supporting community development and action for justice, especially among the most deprived and poor - in Britain and worldwide

  3. Developing confidence in evangelism and in the capacity to speak of God and faith in ways that make sense to all involved

  4. Encouraging fresh ways of being Church

  5. Nurturing a culture in the Church which is people-centred and flexible

For you to consider
What are our plans and targets for improving our worship over the next year?
What are our plans and targets for developing our life together over the next year?
What are our plans and targets for improving our community involvement over the next year?
What are our plans and targets for making more followers of Jesus Christ over the next year?
 

Hymns

  1. For the beauty of the earth    (Tune England's Lane) 

  2. For I'm building a people of power

  3. O for a heart to praise my God   (Tune Abridge)    

  4. Through all the changing scenes of life   (Tune Wiltshire)  

  5. O for a thousand tongues to sing   (Tune Lyngham)  

Alternatives

  1. The Kingdom of God

  2. Give thanks with a grateful heart  & For I'm building a people of power 

  3. Through all the changing scenes of life 

  4. Father hear the prayer we offer 

  5. Jesus the name high over all

  6. God has spoken to his people  

  7. Make me a channel

  8. My song is love
  9. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
  10. Lord thy word abideth
  11. All my hope on God is founded

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian, if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

Holy Father, keep us in your truth
Holy Son, protect us under your cross
Holy Spirit, make us temples and dwelling places for your glory
Grant us your peace all the days of our lives, Lord. Amen. Maronite Church

Lord Jesus there is within each one of us a reluctance to accept healing, a fear which stops us from changing. Sometimes Lord we are afraid to move away from what we have known even if it is hurtful to us. Give us strength to leave our brokenness behind and to be willing to accept your gift of wholeness.

My God I am poor and weak. Enrich me with your grace and make me strong enough to conquer temptation. May I seek the things that please you, and turn away from anything that displeases you. So that I may persevere until death in doing your will. Amen.

Lord we do not know what we should ask of you, but you already know what we need. You love us better than we know how to love ourselves. father, give to us, your children that which we do not know how to ask. We have no desire other than to do your will. Teach us to pray. Pray in us, in Jesus’ name. Amen. Francois de la Mothe Fénelon.

  

Additional Material

Commentary

Those of you who attended the excellent first week of our Lent Course will have heard Joan speaking about the incident when Jesus cleared the Temple of the money changers and traders. Joan spoke about the picture of this scene painted by El Greco and we explored the feelings which must have been present among those who witnessed the scene, who were subject to the whip wielded by Jesus and the feelings of Jesus himself. 

The gospel reading today challenges us to look afresh at our institutions and our personal lives. Perhaps we are being challenged to cleanse what is stale and corrupt? What abuses have crept into the way we govern our society, workplaces and lives? It is no good excusing ourselves simply because things have become accepted as the norm. We too must be prepared to challenge the status quo with the demands of the Kingdom. 

When Jesus attacked the abuses which had grown up in the Temple he was prepared to face unpopularity and the dangers of confronting the powerful. He was willing to be disliked and misunderstood, in order to bring about change. Are we as Christians prepared to be as courageous?   Charles Royden

Prayers

God of mercy, be swift to help us, as our lips pour forth your praise; and fill our lives with your peace, as we open our hearts to your word and wait for your salvation. Amen

Break into my life afresh O Lord, that I might experience your love, break into my heart afresh O Lord, that others may experience your love through me. Amen

Heavenly Father, so full of forgiveness and mercy, fill your Church with such holiness that our understanding of your ways deepens daily, and all our work and worship glorifies your name. Amen

The God of peace fill you with all joy and hope in believing; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen

A Prayer for Protection of Those in Military Service 

God of Love and Compassion, we ask for your protection for those who are being sent to faraway places to prepare for our defence. we look forward to a day when no community will ever be asked to release its loved ones for purposes of war. But today, Lord, history and circumstances force us to release them into your care and into our country's service. We pray for their safe return; and not only for theirs, but for the safe return of others who are being sent from communities, so much like ours, in other parts of the world. As they face the myriad challenges and decisions that each day is destined to bring, may they be anchored by their faith, protected by your presence, and comforted by the knowledge that they are loved by you and by this community. We bless them in your name, and look forward to their safe return, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Safiyah Fosua

Prayer for Children 

O God, even as we pray for the day when no one's children will be sacrificed to war, we pray for the children among us. Give them, in the midst of the confusion around us, moments to play and to rejoice in your creation. Give us calm to comfort their fears. We include in our prayers those far away who seek to comfort, feed, and shelter their children in this time of tension and war. Give all of us grace to be still, know that you are God, and join our children in moments of simple joy that remind us all that life and love are your enduring gifts; in Jesus' name. Amen.

A Prayer for us all 

Christ, why do you allow wars and massacres on earth? By what mysterious judgement do you allow innocent people to be cruelly slaughtered? I cannot know. I can only find assurance in the promise that your people will find peace in heaven, where no one makes war. As gold is purified by fire, so you purify souls by these bodily tribulations, making them ready to be received above the stars in your heavenly home. (Alcuin of York c735-804)

For Meditation 

"Christianity is no easy thing. Being moral or ethical doesn't merely mean being good in the area of sexual morality. We are also called to be just, and that is much harder. We are called to honour everyone and to use no one. That is much harder" by the Rev. Anthony F.M. Clavier