Lent 4B: Trading Snake Stories

bronze-snakeOLD TESTAMENT: Numbers 21: 4-9

To read the Old Testament Lectionary passage, click here

This is truly one of the oddest passages in the Scripture. It’s probable that the only reason that it even shows up in our lectionary is because this week’s Gospel passage actually refers to it. Here we find the people of Israel in the wilderness. They have been delivered from their captivity and, once again, as they’ve done before, they are complaining, “murmuring” about how bad they have it. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt,” they cry to Moses, “to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water and we hate this miserable food that we do have.” (So, apparently, it wasn’t that they didn’t HAVE food; they just didn’t have what they wanted!) Now if you remember a similar occasion in the Book of Exodus, God hears the complaints of the people and rains down manna upon them.

But this time, God sends poisonous snakes. The Hebrew word is seraph, which could also be translated as fiery serpents or winged serpents. Whatever they are, I don’t think it’s a good thing, particularly when they are surrounding you and biting you. The serpents bite the people and many of the people die. So, the people come to Moses, full of remorse for complaining and they beg him to pray to God to make the snakes go away, as if Moses is some sort of divine snake handler. But in a curious, and certainly unexpected, move, God does not take the serpents away. Instead God sends a strange remedy. God tells Moses to make an image of a snake. Moses makes one out of bronze and, following the divine instructions, sets it on a pole. And, just as God told Moses, whenever a serpent would bite someone, that person could look at the bronze serpent and live.

Think about it, though. From the very beginning of Creation, the snake has slithered on its belly and eaten only dust without a word of complaint. What better character to rule over the people when they complain about the choice of food? The snake comes to teach humility and patience. Snakes demand our full attention. And in response to the plague of snakes, God gives the people a snake. It is a way of teaching them to look at their fears, to look at themselves, to look at those things that get in the way of life. It is a sight that brings fear and loathing and one that is truly hard to find God’s presence in it. This is a creature that has resigned itself to full surrender.

This is very interesting. God sends snakes to combat snakes; God does not destroy the snake as evil; instead God recreates the image of the snake. And centuries later…Jesus’ death is recreated into something that conquers our own and our lives are recreated into something that lasts for eternity. Snakes for snakes, death for death, life for life—it is a paradox.


The ancient rabbis equated both the primordial serpent and Satan himself with a force known as the “yetzer ha-ra.” This Hebrew expression is often translated as “the evil urge,” but this translation is dangerously misleading. According to the Jewish understanding, the good Lord implanted into every human being this yetzer ha-ra, a drive that combines features of ambition, greed and desire.

There is a myth found in the Talmud that relates how the Jewish sages, shortly after the Babylonian Captivity, were determined to put an end to this threat [of this adversary depicted as the serpent]. Encouraged by their recent success at eradicating the “urge” to worship idols (an urge that had been such a constant stumbling-block to earlier generations, but which no longer held any appreciable attraction to the Jews of their time), –these sages now felt (understandably) that they were “on a roll.” So they decided to seize the opportunity to capture and destroy the “yetzer ha-ra” itself. And they were successful. They caught the beast and bound it in chains, eagerly awaiting the moment when they would remove it from the world for all time. But soon strange reports started arriving: Nobody was showing up at work anymore. No one wanted to marry or raise families. The chickens were not laying eggs! Life had all but stopped.

Now these sages came to the realization that they had misunderstood the nature of this “evil urge.” For the drives represented in that faculty are essential for the proper functioning of humanity as God planned us to live our lives. The urge is not “evil” in any absolute sense, but only when it is allowed to trespass beyond its legitimate domain… [For instance], ambition can be an admirable quality when it is channeled towards spiritual creativity and service of humanity, but is a fiery scourge when it is twisted into unrestricted covetousness. It was this failure to set limits to the “yetzer ha-ra” that was represented by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This made the serpent a suitable instrument of divine punishment–but also of healing. The conclusion from all this is that our role as humans is not to eliminate the “serpent,” the yetzer ha-ra, but to keep it under control and direct it to a productive course. Jews believe that this is best done by following the values and way of life set down in the Torah. (Excerpt from “Brazen Serpents”, a sermon available at http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/Preaching/S970309_Serpent.html.)


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What do you think of the characterization of the snakes as humble and patient?
  3. So what is the snake on the pole supposed to do for us?
  4. So what does the midrash story mean for you? Do you think there is an “evil” in your life?
  5. So what, for you, does this say about the power of God in the world? In one’s life?



NEW TESTAMENT: Ephesians 2: 1-10

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

This is a typical “Reformation” passage. The author starts with a “before”. The three “before” characters are sin, Satan (the “power of the air”), and self. (The power of the air is a Greek reference. The Greeks believed that there was a space between the moon and the earth that was dominated by demonic activity. It’s just a way of thinking through the theology within their own understanding. Verse 4 begins the “after “ position. “But God who is rich in mercy…” The before, semi-dead state was never the way that we were supposed to be. We were made for greater things. God brings transformation through Christ.

The emphasis here is the shift from “before” to “after”; in other words, transformation. The agent of the change is God. We are playing a part in the change. This Scripture is a central tenet of the Christian faith. The writer emphasizes that we are saved by faith. But it is not an empty do-nothing faith. Good works, rather than being frantic acts to achieve a heavenly residence, are not transformed into the way we are supposed to live. They become the expressions of God in the world.

BUT the writer of this letter (who is more than likely not the Apostle Paul but rather a later follower or disciple of Paul’s) seems to be really focused on continuing this separation between this world and God, between the “sinful” world and God’s promise of grace and life. Paul had introduced the notion of being justified by grace through faith, the notion that God was a redemptive God, that it was a process by which we traversed the experience of this world and along the way encountered God. BUT, here, that word “saved” appears, as if it’s past tense, as if it is some badge of honor that we earn and wear as we continue to be forced to live in this sin-filled world in which we live. Somewhere along the way eschatology became realized, “already”, rather than something to which we look and live into.

Now keep in mind that this letter was probably written in the late first century. Jesus had come, died on the cross, and the Resurrection on which everything that is “Christian” is based had happened. And Jesus had promised to return. That had been imminent for Paul. BUT that hadn’t happened yet. The first century Christian followers (it still wasn’t “Christianity”, per se, the way we think of it today) were wondering if perhaps they had misunderstood, perhaps they had gotten the whole thing wrong. So the emphasis for the writer of Ephesians (as well as others), was a notion of echatology that had already happened, an emphasis on the crowned Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. And for those of us who are still mired in the throes of worldly evil and worldly despairs, there became a separation, a dualism that was put into place that pretty much exists even today. So many of us live in this world, burdened by sin, and hope against hope that God will swoop in and save us.

Really? Is that it? What happened to “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, BUT in order that the world might be saved through him.“? (But…but…but) God’s vision of the Kingdom of God is not to shun the world or even to rid us of all things worldly. God’s vision of the Kingdom of God is to recreate the world into what it is called to be–BUT the whole world, not the ones who follow the rules or the ones who are “good”, but everyone. So in this life of faith, we do not magically crossover to being “saved” from being “unsaved” and then sit back and wait for God to pluck us out of our miserable existence. Rather, we yield to new meanings and new circumstances as God recreates our lives into Life and brings about the fullness of the Kingdom of God throughout this wonderful created world in which we live.

That’s what Lent is about–new meanings and new circumstances. Maybe it’s about dropping the “but” in life. God created the life that each of us has. Why would God call us to leave it behind? Rather God is recreating it as we speak, bringing it into being, into the image that God envisions for it. You know, if we look at things with the eyes of a world where God is not, a world that waits for God to return, there is always a “but”; BUT if we look at all of Creation with the eyes of faith, with the eyes of those who believe in a God who came into our midst to show us how much we are loved, everything has an AND.


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. What meaning does this “before” and “after” hold for you? Does that sound to much like an “event” of conversion, rather than a process?
  3. What does being “saved by faith” really mean for you?
  4. How would you describe faith?



GOSPEL: John 3: 14-21

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

Well, obviously, this passage begins with the reference to our snake story. This is followed by one of the most well-known passages. Scripture proclaims that God’s extravagant love for the world is a self-giving act of grace. But are God’s love for the world and God’s giving of the incarnate, crucified, resurrected Son limited to the part of the world that believes what God has done? John’s Gospel assures us that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

This Scripture begins at the last part of what is actually a response to a misunderstanding by Nicodemus. Jesus predicts the Passion, drawing on what would have been a familiar passage as an analogy. There are parallels between the two—“look at the serpent and live” and “believe in the Son of Man and live eternally”. There is also the familiar light / darkness language. To love darkness rather than light is disobedience. In this season of Lent, we consider our disobedience, our “dark” living. If, then, believing is the same as obedience, do we really believe?

The third verse of this passage, though, is, of course, the “elephant in the room”, so to speak. It’s on street corners and marquis, T-Shirts, football helmets, and sometimes painted on faces at sporting events. It is often taken as the quintessential “insider” verse, the badge of honor for the believing Christian. It is often interpreted as “God came; God came to save me and the rest of you are on your own.” But keep in mind that this Gospel was written later than the others. To be a follower of Christ, a person of The Way, was just downright hard. You were NOT an insider. You were part of a fledgling and sometimes persecuted minority that was just trying to hold it together. So, these words would have been words of encouragement, words of strength, a way of defining who they were as a Jewish minority. It was a way of reminding them why they were walking this difficult (and sometimes dangerous) path—because of the great Love of God. But in the hands of the 21st century Christian majority in our society, they become weapons. They turn into words of exclusion, designating who is “in” and who is “out”. Well, first of all, nowhere in the Gospel are we the ones called to make that determination. And secondly, look at the whole context of this Gospel by the writer known as John. It starts out with Creation. It talks about this great Love that is God. And it proclaims that God came into the world to save the world. So how did we interpret this that God had quit loving some of us?

The Truth (that’s with a capital T) reminds us that God offers us Life, that God, in effect, DID come into the world to save us—mostly, I would offer, from ourselves, from our misdirected greed, our disproportionately selfish ambition, and from our basic desires to be something other than the one who God has called us to be. God desires this for everyone. God really does want to save the world from the world. And so the Kingdom of God seems to us to sometimes be inching (or perhaps slithering!) in rather than pervading our world. I think that the world DOES need to somehow be moved to believe, DOES need to somehow begin to see itself anew. But that will never happen if the cross is raised as a weapon. SURELY, we get that it’s something other than that! Remember, God redeemed it. God took something so loathsome, so foreboding, so, for want of a better word, evil and turned it into Life. God is doing the same for the world. God loves the world so incredibly much that God would never leave us to our own devices (or even, thankfully, to those of who count ourselves as well-meaning believers!). Instead, God comes into the world and offers us life; indeed, loves us so much that God offers us recreation, redemption, and renewal. Don’t you think THAT’S the story? It’s not about who’s in or who’s out. It’s about Love. It’s a promise that there’s always more to the story than what we can see or fathom or paint on a sign. To say that we believe does not qualify us for membership; it leads us to The Way of Life.


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. How does this Scripture speak to you?
  3. How is this Scripture misused?
  4. Does the story that we read from the Old Testament shed (no pun intended!) any new light on the meaning of the Cross for you?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:


There was, indeed, something I had missed about Christianity, and now all of a sudden I could see what it was. It was the Resurrection! How could I have been a church historian and a person of prayer who loved God and still not known that the most fundamental Christian reality is not the suffering of the cross but the life it brings?….The foundation of the universe for which God made us, to which God draws us, and in which God keeps us is not death but joy. (Roberta Bondi)


Surrender does not simply mean that I quit grieving what I do not have. It means that I surrender to new meanings and new circumstances, that I begin to think differently and to live somewhere that it totally elsewhere…Surrender is the crossover point of life. It distinguished who I was from who I have become. (Joan Chittister, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, p. 58-59)


It is well know that Christ consistently used the expression “follower.” He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for…Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. (Soren Kierkegaard, in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, p. 55-56)




The way to Jerusalem is cluttered with bits and pieces of our lives that fly up and cry out, wounding us as we try to keep upon this path that leads to Life.


Why didn’t somebody tell us that it would be so hard?


In the midst of the clutter, the children laugh and run after stars. Those of us who are wise will follow, for the children will be the first to kneel in Jerusalem.



(“The Way to Jerusalem is Cluttered”, from Kneeling in Jerusalem, by Ann Weems, p. 42)

Lent 3B: Standing With Fools

jesus drives out the- money-changersOLD TESTAMENT: Exodus 20: 1-17

To read the Old Testament Lectionary passage, click here

This seems at first to be an odd passage to read in the middle of Lent. But keep in mind that the whole of Exodus shows the people how to stay in relationship with God and, for us, that is the whole idea of Lent. This version of the Ten Commandments in Exodus was probably written and edited in light of the exile in Babylon. It is important to see them in that context. This is hard. The people are journeying through the wilderness. Food is in short supply and nerves are raw. They have quarreled and tested God but until now, they have had no real identity, no real purpose. This is the place where they are finally aware of the intention that God has for them as a people. This is the place where their lives and their journey becomes meaningful. And God gives them this covenant. The specific laws would have been selected from among the many social and moral laws over many generations. It is probable that they did not magically drop out of the sky but rather grew out of a people’s understanding of who God was.

The people are first reminded that God has already saved them before, bringing them out of slavery, bringing them into relationship with God. But you can’t help noticing that these commandments are formative of who one is before God and how one lives in response to God. The first four commandments related to one’s relationship with God and the remaining six have to do with the relationship between human beings. It is really very simple: You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (with all that you are, with every essence of your being) And…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

But God’s grace, as we are reminded, happened before any of these laws were laid down. It is expected, then, that in response to the salvific nature of God, the people will want to respond and stay in relationship with God. In Hebrew, these laws are known as the “ten words”, and for the most part are expressed in brief sentences. Tradition says that God gave these words directly to the people and then later Moses is summoned to receive the tablets on which they are written for posterity. (Exodus 24: 12-18) Torah, or “law”, is really more about teaching and positive instruction rather than a list of rules, the way we would normally interpret “laws”. Think of it more like the law that we talk about when we say “natural laws” or “the laws of nature”. It is the way things are; it is the way order, rather than chaos and relationship, rather than separation ensues. It is the way that God draws us into God. This reading continues the theme of covenant that we have had the last two weeks. The purpose of the “law”, here is to choose life. And that choice is easy to see how it relates to us in our walk to the cross and Easter.

But in our modern-day society, there are those who have tried to make these words “law” in the judicial sense, simply by displaying them in courthouses or public buildings. But they are missing the fact that these are not laws to obey but the natural way that we are called to respond to the freedom of God. In fact, these laws, unlike many others, do not sanction a certain type of government or a specific king. Rather than dictating what we should do, they depict who we are as a people of God. They are less about behavior than they are about identity—who God is, who the people are, and who we are as people of God. It is about how we relate to God, how we relate to each other, and, even, how we provide sustenance and nourishment for our faith journey. And regardless of whether or not we believe they actually dropped out of the sky, they are like manna in the wilderness, providing sustenance and life. Think of them as declarations of freedom to become who we are called to be, rather than a set of rules or regulations that force us into becoming what someone else wants us to be.

Now, admittedly, I don’t think they belong on the courthouse lawn or on the walls of a schoolroom. I think they’re bigger than that and I don’t think they can be contained. They are, yet again, the very breath and essence of the God who dances with us rather than holds court over us to make sure we follow the rules. The Decalogue is, once again, God with us. And this Season of Lent is not about following the rules or being burdened with regulations; it is about experiencing the freedom of this God who dances with us—this one God, who, alone, drives our life with a Spirit of steadfast love and the integrity of respect; this one God who offers us rest and reflection that we might delight in Creation and that we might enjoy the best that it has to offer; this one God who knows that we can only understand the love we are given if we love in return, if we honor the ones from whom we came, if we honor life and love and all of Creation; if we are honest with ourselves and with each other, and if we want the very best for our brothers and sisters. In this way we will understand this God who offers us life and all that it entails.


  • What is your response to this passage?
  • What meaning for covenant do you see here?
  • In what ways (if any) are these commandments formative for you?
  • What does that definitive difference between burdens and freedom mean to you?
  • What is your experience of The Ten Commandments? 



NEW TESTAMENT: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25

To read the Lectionary Epistle passage, click here

In the earlier part of this chapter, Paul has been bemoaning the divisions in the Corinthian church community. He starts here not really taking sides, but addressing the issue of wisdom and pointing out that wisdom in Christ is not the same as the wisdom of the world. Now, he is not attacking being “wise”, but is calling them to a more profound wisdom.

Think about it. The ugly sight of a mangled human body hanging on a cross confronts normal worldly values. In fact, in the first century, this was not a death of martyrs; this was a death of criminals and outcasts. There was nothing heroic about it. In fact, in terms of society, it would have been downright embarrassing. But these are not worldly values. And this first century church, no less than we, have tried to “clean up” this image and fit it into something that makes sense within the normalcy of the world. Paul is warning against the structures and intentions of the world that crucified Jesus and that are now trying to make it “presentable”. Because Paul is reminding us that for those wise in the ways of God, the cross is salvation.

In this Season of Lent, as we come closer and closer to the cross, we get a better and better sense of its meaning. You know, Paul’s really the only one that really ever dared to speak of the foolishness of the Cross, of the foolishness of God. And he’s right, because in terms of the world, the Cross is utter foolishness. The world says “mind your own business”; Jesus says “there is no such thing as your own business”. The world says “buy low, sell high”; Jesus says “give it all away”. The world says “take care of your health”; Jesus says “surrender your life to me”. The world says “Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own”; Jesus says “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The world says “get what you are due”; Jesus says, “love your neighbor as yourself”.

In his book, The Faces of Jesus, Frederick Buechner says that “if the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party…In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under delusion.” (Buechner, The Faces of Jesus, p. 61) Think about it. It is really pretty ludicrous. Here in this season, called to enter Christ’s suffering, called to follow Christ to the Cross. Are we nuts? That could kill someone!

But Paul says that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” That is why we are called to rest in God’s foolishness and relinquish our strength to God. Because, you see, God raises us up far beyond the wisdom of this world in which we live and takes our weakness unto God’s self that we might finally rely on God’s strength.

Life is not ever what we plan for it to be. It is because life is not a sterile existence that is never touched by illness or grief or hardship or suffering or deep and profound loss. Life is just Life. Perhaps it would be easier to live in a bubble or in some other sort of “Stepford-type” existence, but then that wouldn’t really be Life, now would it?   God gave us life and gave it abundantly. In terms of the world, that is sheer foolishness, but in terms of the wisdom of God, that is life.

This is the power of the cross. Maybe sometimes we make the mistake of cleaning it up too soon, of trying to wash away the wreak of death that it still holds. But the power of the cross IS the power over death. It did not just wash it away, but turned it into life. In the Byzantine tradition, this third Sunday of Lent is devoted to the Adoration of the Cross. A tray of flowers and sweet basil bears a cross in its center and is then processed around the nave as the hymn is sung: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.”–sheer foolishness if you look at it through the eyes of the world. But if you look at the Cross and recognize God’s power to make all things new, it begins to look a little different.

One of the dangers of being in church as often as I am is that it all starts to make sense. I speak of the Christian faith so casually and effortlessly that I begin to think, “Fine thing, this Christianity. Makes good sense.” And then I find myself believing all sorts of things in church that I wouldn’t let anyone put over on me in the real world. That which people would choke on in everyday speech, they will swallow if it’s in a sermon. That’s a blessing for those of us who get paid to preach Christ crucified.

And so Kierkegaard could say, “Christianity has taken a giant stride into the absurd,” and again, “Remove from Christianity its ability to shock and it is altogether destroyed. It then becomes a tiny superficial thing, capable neither of inflicting deep wounds nor of healing them.” It’s when the absurd starts to sound reasonable that we should begin to worry. “Blessed are the meek. . . .” “Thou shalt not kill.” “Love your enemies.” “Go, sell all you have and give to the poor.” Be honest now. Blessed are the meek? Try being meek tomorrow at work and see how far you get. Meekness is fine for church, but in the real world the meek get to go home early with a pink slip and a pat on the back. Blessed are those who are peacemakers; they shall get done to them what they are loath to do to others. Blessed are the merciful; they shall get it done to them a second time. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; they shall be called fanatics. As Paul says, when you hear the gospel not with Sunday-morning ears but with Monday-morning ears, it can sound foolish indeed — tragically foolish or comically foolish, depending upon one’s point of view…

Along with the world, we expected to see a savior coming to take charge on our terms. Then the parade comes, and we find that we are standing in the wrong place to get a good view. Here comes the carpenter’s son, bouncing on the back of a donkey — not coming for breakfast with [the president and his wife], or dinner with Congress, or consultations at 475 Riverside Drive. The smart ones, the ones who are well adjusted to the status quo, the ones in the know, neither see nor know — so the story goes. Here is a messiah who does not make sense. Only the very young, the very old, the women and the simpletons see him. They are standing in the right place to get a proper view. Along with the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame, the prisoners and the poor old crazed men like Paul, these “fools” see things as they really are. As for us smart ones, we know better. We know that if we work hard, achieve, get advanced degrees, adjust to the way things are, and act sensibly, we shall be in the know. It all depends on how you look at it. (From “Looking Like Fools”, by Bishop William Willimon, in The Christian Century, March 10, 1982., available at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1288, accessed 5 March, 2012)

  • What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  • What image does the cross hold for you?
  • In what ways do you think we try to “fit” God into our worldly values?
  • What is your notion of the “foolishness of the cross”?
  • What is your notion of the “power of the cross.”?


GOSPEL: John 2: 13-22

To read the Lectionary Gospel passage, click here

This is always sort of an odd passage for us because we don’t usually think of Jesus getting angry. Here, as he approaches the temple, there is all this activity blocking his way. There are those who are exchanging currencies so that people can purchase animals to be sacrificed (because foreign currency was considered “unclean” and had to first be exchanged.) (and, of course, making a little money on the side!) So he “turns the tables”—literally and figuratively. Jesus cleared the temple not because they were necessarily doing anything wrong but because the temple should be pure, clear of all merchandising, all bargaining, and reward-earning. Now before we discount this with our “God doesn’t just live in the sanctuary” bit, remember that for these first century Jewish followers, that was exactly where God lived. Just as Solomon had intended when he constructed the first temple, this second temple was THE place where God dwelled. This was the House of God. And in the inner holies of the temple was the Ark of the Covenant, the very dwelling of God. So, I think Jesus probably did mean this to be taken literally to remind people that God was the master here, that this was God’s house, God’s dwelling place.

So, fast forward…our theology tells us that God dwells everywhere in our lives. Really? Everywhere? Are you sure? The temple is a metaphor for our souls, the temple where God should indeed be the master. But think about our own society. Our lives are reward-driven and because of it we live with the idea that we should get what is “due” to us. We believe that by working hard and doing the right things we will be rewarded. And often that carries into our spiritual lives. How many of us do the things we do because we think we should, because we think that it will in some way earn us points with God, or, even, because we think that we are the only ones that can do them? It is our own way of merchandising. What do we do because we love God and what do we do because we think that will reap a reward?

Meister Eckhart (13th-14th century German mystic) said that “as long as we to get something from God on some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God.” Eckhart then exhorts us to “live as if you do not exist…then God alone dwells there.”

So, where, then, do we encounter God? Where do you expect to meet God? Where do you love God? If we really take all this journey stuff seriously, in what parts of our life are we aware of God and in what parts do we fall a little short? After all, if God dwells within our souls, if our souls are the temple for God, then why is this even a question? A life of faith is supposed to be just that—a LIFE of faith. This is not a trade-off. There is no such thing as “of the world” and “of God”. God is not locked in the sanctuary and we are not seeking some reward for a job well done. Our encounter with God in the sanctuary should, in essence, propel us into the world, carrying that encounter with us. God dwells with us. The Holiest of Holies is deep within our souls. That is how we connect with God—by growing our relationship with God.

When this Gospel version by the writer that we know as John was written, it was probably already late in the first century. Paul had written his letters and was gone. The writers of the synoptic Gospels were gone. And, more importantly, this temple would have been destroyed ten or twenty years earlier in 70 C.E. during the Siege of Jerusalem. (The Temple has never been rebuilt. After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, the Dome of the Rock, or al-Aqsa Mosque, was built on the temple mount. And even though Jews are now allowed to pray at the Temple Mount—actually the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall—the mount itself is under the administrative control of the Muslim Waqf.)   So, the Christian tradition holds that the temple is not needed, that Christ and we as followers of Christ are to become God’s dwelling place in the world.  Boy, that Jesus was a troublemaker wasn’t he? Look at that…he just turned everything over on our lives. So what do we do now?


  • What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  • What does it mean for you to be a “temple” of God?
  • What would it mean to “live as if you do not exist”?
  • Do we live our lives the way we do (or should!) because we want to please God or because we love God?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

 The world dies whenever reality demands absolute dominion. (Amery, on the wall of the Israel Holocaust Museum)

 Spirituality is the ability to live with ambiguity. (Ray Anderson)

 We are what we repeatedly do. (Aristotle)




Going through Lent is a listening, When we listen to the word, we hear where we are so blatantly unloving. If we listen to the word, and hallow it into our lives, we hear how we can so abundantly live again.

 Lord, teach us to listen. Teach us to be quiet. Teach us to hear. Amen.

(Paraphrased from “A Listening”, from Kneeling in Jerusalem, by Ann Weems, p. 33)