A reflection for the 7th March 2021
'Third Sunday in Lent'

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Offered for Sunday 7th March 2021


Stephen

Reflections Script

'Third Sunday in Lent'

March 7th 2021


Everyone these days seems to have
a bucket list of things to do
before they 'Check Out!'

Although I've never actually
put one together;
from the age of eight after watching
the 1933 definitive version of King Kong on T.V.
I've wanted to go to the top
of the Empire State building
in New York;

around the same time
I was learning about the
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
and announced to the teacher
I will one day walk across
the bridge!

Some sixty years later
in September of 2018 I ticked
both boxes in my imaginary
bucket list!

Words cannot describe the
emotion and sense of awe
as I stood under the first column
on the Golden Gate and a week later
standing at the entrance
to the Empire State!

Both structures were impressive
and solid however both
were hiding a secret!

Both needed to move with whatever
nature throw at them for a solid
Structure would simply fall down
and both structures are always
being renewed and repaired!

Throughout history,
humanity has built bigger
and better buildings and
structures including monuments
to whatever it has held sacred.

Some of these sacred monuments
have survived the ravages
of war and weather;
Stonehenge, Greek and
Roman temples, the Pyramids.

In cities all over the world
there are glorious Cathedrals,
reminding Christians of the
presence of God in the bustle
of our daily lives.

We are reminded of God's
faithfulness when we consider
how old the buildings are,
and yet, paradoxically,
we know that even in these massive
Cathedrals we have "no abiding city".

We know from bitter experience
these inspirational buildings
have no intrinsic permanence,
and can be destroyed by weather,
poor foundations neglect and in times of war
destroyed in minutes;
look what happened to Coventry
and Dresden Cathedrals
in World War Two.



Let us Pray


Lord of the Church,
and not of the buildings,
enable your people
to be the Church:
a redeemed people;
a holy people;
a united people;
a missionary people;
and, in all things,
a people gladly obedient
to the truth of God
revealed in Christ
by the power of
the Holy Spirit.
Amen.



Address


Have you ever gone to get
something out of your
airing cupboard, spare room,
shed or attic and found that
that place has become so encrusted
with personal baggage,
the only thing to do is have
a massive clear out?

Have you ever had to pack up
to move to a new house,
or move someone in or out of
your existing one?

Reordered a teenager's bedroom,
even though they are, 32?
Set up to care for someone
in ill health or poor mobility,
or even cleared away
after their loss?

There's a reason why these things
often don't happen until
circumstances force us
to take action.

Not only are they time
consuming and messy;
they are emotional minefields
for in possessions
and places we find security.

They represent a moving on,
a different phase.
That might be just about having
a tidy airing cupboard,
but often there's at least
a hint of deeper importance.

Whether it is full of sadness
or full of joy;
moving on nearly always involves
a great deal of emotional
turmoil and physical mess.

This gives us something of
an insight to the Israelites
they'd left their nomadic life
and built their Temple,
a truly magnificent monument
to the sacred, dedicated to worship,
and reminding God's people
of their Covenant relationship with him.

But their rules began to take
precedence over the Spirit
of the place.
Flawless animals had to be sacrificed,
and Roman coinage wasn't allowed.

So livestock was sold and money changers
provided the Temple currency.
Business flourished on the
back of religion.
Yet housed in the same Temple
were the commandments,
given by God so that his people
could rightly order their lives.

The contrast between the life
envisaged by these commandments,
a life of love and respect
for God and neighbour,
and the life being demonstrated
by the guardians of the Temple,
shocked Jesus.

Jesus was surely angrier
about the abuse of people by
the shady dealings of the traders
and money changers than he was
by the misuse of the Temple.

He knew faith in God through him
should be life-giving and
liberating, not bound up by rules
that gave easy opportunities
for exploiting people.

In John 4:21, we hear Jesus
telling the Samaritan woman
at the well,
"the hour is coming when you will
worship the Father neither on this
mountain nor in Jerusalem".

Jesus knew true faith was not
practiced on pagan volcanoes
nor in sacred temples,
but in one's heart,
through the Spirit of God.

The Temple Jesus cleansed
could and would be destroyed,
but the Temple/Cathedral of God
within the human soul
will not, and cannot, perish.?

People often mistakenly refer to
Coventry's 'Two Cathedrals',
the old one and the new,
but there is in fact
only one Cathedral in Coventry,
one Cathedral is a witness
to hate and pain and is an
equally potent witness to
love and forgiveness.

Prayers of forgiveness
are found on its shattered walls,
and nails from the burned-out roof
have been made into crosses
are in churches all over the world;
symbols of reconciliation.

To walk through Coventry's
one Cathedral,
from the bombed past to the new,
is to experience death and new life.

Likewise, as we walk through
our own lives,
we experience death
and new life.
We share the same potential
for hate, fear and a lust
for power that possessed
the people who crucified Jesus;
the human characteristics that
always try to kill God!

However there is always the
possibility of putting our dark side
behind us and seeing Christ,
risen from the cross,
beckoning to us.
As Paul says in Romans 6:8;
"But if we have died with Christ,
we believe that we will
also live with him."

God is not contained in temples,
monuments, Churches or Cathedrals,
so he is not destroyed by the
death of these buildings.

Whatever we try to do to God,
he rises again and he lives
in human hearts.
This is the power of the
Easter story, that it tells and
retells the truth so dramatically,
and in a way that penetrates
all the superficial differences
of generation and culture.

The crucifixion and all the events
of Easter are evidence,
people may abuse and kill each other,
may even abuse and try to kill God,
but ultimately they and
their hateful efforts will fail.

Perhaps that is one of the sobering,
and yet at the same time inspiring,
lessons of Good Friday and Easter:
our lack of real power.

We can destroy whole cities
with just one bomb,
including their Cathedrals,
but we cannot destroy God.
We cannot destroy the love
he pours out into the world;
we cannot destroy hope
or a sense of justice and compassion.

We are the indestructible
temple of God.
In the sanctuary of our temple
he lives and will never die.
We are the living stones
of God's Church,
housing the commandment to love
and taking that love to others.



To Summarise

Buildings of faith such as
temples and cathedrals can be destroyed.
Jesus was angry that the spiritual
purpose of the Temple was abused.
Jesus established the body
as the true temple containing
God's Spirit.

Unlike our greatest cathedrals,
this inner temple cannot
be destroyed



Our Blessing


As you go out into the world,
may you go on becoming the people of God.
Meeting with God everywhere,
not exclusively in a building,
May you return to us with tales of joy,
with stories of adventure
and with God's glorious transformation
glowing in your heart.
And the blessing of God almighty......


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