What sign can you show us?

TEXTS:  Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22

Psalms of Orientation – Disorientation — Reorientation

God’s instructions are perfect; they revive our souls.
God’ decrees are trustworthy; they make us wise.

God’s precepts are right; they bring us joy.
God’s commands are clear; they give us insight for living.
God has given us gifts more valuable than gold, and sweeter than honey…

We began worship with this litany of praise for God and our orientation with God. The Psalmist gave us these prayerful words of praise
so that we remember who we are and whose we are as God’s people. This 19th Psalm gives us words of deep orientation to God.

The inspiring Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann,
teaches us that the Psalms give word to every experience and emotion of life.
Nothing and no one escapes the Psalmist attentive eye and clear tongue.
Brueggemann shows how the 150 Psalms offer us orientation, disorientation, or reorientation.
Psalm 19 is a word of orientation to God as a great gift for right living.

Exodus 20:1-17 – The Ten Commandments

God’s Word to Moses known as the Ten Commandments offers us orientation for right living.
We can live well living by the Ten Commandments.
They are commands that provide orientation for living in obedience to God.
But the Ten Commandments can also become a crutch for us.
Worse yet the Ten Commandments can become a club for us.
When we use the Ten Commandments for personal purity and piety they become a crutch.
When we use the Ten Commandments to control others they may become a club.
The Ten Commandments are more than documenting purity or enforcing rules;
God gave the Ten Commandments to orient us to faithful living in God’s image.
They too call for our interpretation and intention in obedience to God.
They orient us to God. But we face disorientation and reorientation in life and faith as well.
In adult study during Lent, we encounter Jesus speaking in parables;
we are confronted to really grapple with real life and struggle for understanding.

We will get to Jesus’ disorienting encounter in the Jerusalem Temple in a moment.
But first a word about our orientation, disorientation, reorientation in our lives.

We recognize this as a transitional time for us as a congregation facing restructuring.
Our transition is significant enough to feel disorienting yet, hopefully, also reorienting.
Our desire and discernment is that our disorientation and reorientation be with Jesus
and not simply structural reorganization of our own presumed wisdom.
Our responsibility as members is to be prayerfully mindful that our reorientation be with Jesus.
Beyond the SMC structure we can reflect on other ministries experiencing dis/reorientation.
This neighborhood keeps changing and faces challenges.
In light of changes our community ministry will continue to undergo reorientation.
The Suriname Indigenous Health Fund has experienced considerable dis/reorientation.
Our wider Mennonite bodies also encounter Jesus in disorienting and reorienting ways.

Our disorientation and reorientation is not just a church encounter with Jesus.
Many of us experience disorientation in our personal lives past or present or will in the future.
Disorientation is not necessarily a bad thing though it is usually unwanted.
It offers opportunity to enter into reorientation that is a deeper journey with Jesus.

Jesus, the sign of disorientation and reorientation – John 2:13-22

In the gospel heard today Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover and enters the Temple.
It quickly becomes a gospel of disorientation.
Today and the next 2 Sundays in Lent we are in John’s gospel rather than Mark’s gospel.
From the beginning John’s gospel is a contrast from Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospels.
This Jerusalem Temple encounter is one of the few stories of Jesus found in all four gospels.
But in the other three gospels it comes late in Jesus ministry in the climactic confrontation.
Here in John’s gospel the Temple confrontation with Jesus is the beginning of ministry.
It immediately follows a dramatic sign by Jesus in a very different setting: a wedding in Cana.
Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana was a dramatic sign.
Jesus dramatic disruption of the Temple in Jerusalem was a far more dramatic sign.
The Passover, the holiest event of the year brought thousands of Judeans to Jerusalem.
“The Temple at the Passover time would have been an unbelievably loud, crowded, and busy place. Pilgrims from throughout Palestine and [dispersed places] came to Jerusalem three times a year for prayer, sacrifice, and payment of tithes….The normally noisy Jerusalem would at Passover be transformed into a cacophony of caterwauling, as animals, vendors, and money changers…cried out over the noise coming from the multitudes. This was the scene into which Jesus proceeded” (Wes Howard-Brook, Becoming Children of God, 83).

In the temple Jesus found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, take these out of here! Stop making [God’s] house a marketplace! (verses 14-16).

All the gospels report this dramatic temple scene, none more vividly than John’s gospel.
This account adds that Jesus “made a whip of cords and drove all of them out…”
Then Jesus overturned the money pots and tables.
It was a wild scene, no doubt about it.
But the true meaning of Jesus’ Temple disruption is wildly missed by most references to it.
Jesus’ disorientation of the Temple shakes the foundations and challenges institutional authority.

On a Christian radio station in April 2003, talking about Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq,
I kept returning to Jesus as the authority for peace witness against war not American politics.
The talk show host as usual pulled out the Jesus-used violence-in-the-Temple trump card.
An angry Jesus used violence in the Temple justifying violence to wage war.
That singular claim to ‘Jesus used violence and so must we’ is tragically wrong.
Jesus disrupted the Temple disorienting the system of authority and abuses “so embedded in its own rules and practices that it was no longer open to a fresh revelation from God, a temptation that exists for contemporary Christianity as for the Judaism of Jesus’ day” (Gail R. O’Day, NIB, 545)

Judean religious authorities demanded of Jesus, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
They demand a sign as in “What authority do you have to disorient the Temple system?”
Jesus is the sign!
Jesus is the sign of God’s revelation and reorientation of right worship and right living.
Jesus’ words about destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days is reorients God’s people to the life, death, and resurrection as the new pattern of life and faith.

Amy’s sign with the children from the commandment to “keep the Sabbath holy”
is to call us to a Sabbath rhythm of right worship so that our eyes are trained to see
and our lives keep being reoriented to this pattern of life-death-resurrection with Jesus.

Paul as disorientation and reorientation – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

At the beginning of the First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul confirms that Jesus
is the disorientation that reorients our world. As Paul often does, he does so with challenging as well as poetic words: “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom” for in Jesus God is revealing the foolishness of the world’s wisdom.

This is not a word of support for oppression, exploitation, and violence but a condemnation.
Jesus is God’s sign for life — the sign of the cross which looms ahead.
We continue on our Lenten journey with Jesus being disoriented and reoriented to God.

Where do I sign? What is our sign?

That is the gospel – the good news of Jesus for us today.
Have you noticed these three Sundays in Lent that the gospel is “signed?”
Each Sunday someone scripts the gospel in their own handwriting ahead of time,
brings it to church, reads it in worship and then signs their name to it and leaves it on the altar.
Cheryl did the first Sunday in Lent, Bob did last Sunday, and Carl did today.
The next three Sundays in Lent someone else will do the same.
If you would like to scribe, read, sign the gospel on March 25 or April 1, please let me know.
Their signing the gospel is personal, yes, but it is also a communal “signing” God’s word for us.
Most of all it is a recognition that Jesus is God’s sign for us and for the world.
To our theme question: “Where do I sign?” – we sign on with Jesus.

For the past two Sundays our “act of response” in worship was a signing act.
You came and signed your name or a name to hold in prayer on the “Sign Here” wall.
Step-by-step, Sunday-by-Sunday, on our Lenten journey with Jesus we are “signing on.”

Our “act of response” for this worship is in response to a question.
What “foolish” act is God calling you to sign on to and live out?
What “disorientation” and/or “reorientation” is Jesus calling/confronting you to sign on to?
Reflect in silence (2 min) on how you Jesus is disorienting and reorienting you.
“What “foolish” action is God calling you to sign up for?”
Write it on the 3×5 card (on chair) in words or image or leave blank as an prayerful intention.