Letters Reflections

Letter to parishioners, 5 March 2021

Read a letter from Revd Stephen to parishioners, reflecting on the readings set for this Sunday

Friday, 5 March 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Sunday the Church’s lectionary gives us two important texts upon which to reflect: the giving of the Ten Commandments and Jesus cleansing the Temple. At first sight you may struggle to see a direct link between these two well-known moments in scripture, but there is a relationship that it is good for us to pause and reflect upon. Both of these extracts from Exodus and the Gospel of John, respectively, invite us to pause and reflect upon our own relationship with God.

Religious thought and practice has always been a feature of human existence. The oldest relics that have been uncovered by archaeologists give evidence of humanity’s need for a relationship with God. However, that relationship, like all relationships, needs constant attention. If an intimate relationship with God is to flourish we need to constantly reflect on how we are thinking, speaking and acting in the world. We need to be perpetually asking ourselves how our thought, words and actions are honouring the God we claim to believe in and pray to. It is commonly acknowledged that, as fragile representatives of humanity, we are always falling short of God’s ideal for us. However, we can be equally certain that God understands, and that he is willing to forgive us if we make the effort to be constant and faithful in the way we live out our years on earth.

The Ten Commandments were given as God’s chosen people journeyed between exile and homecoming. During the period of exile there were many moments when the Jewish people made fundamental errors as they sought to find their way out of slavery. They complained, they ignored guidance and instruction and they acted in direct opposition to God’s teaching. But, God was faithful and patient as he waited for them to realize the error of their ways. Then God gave them (and us) a template for the future, a set of instructions that would offer them the opportunity to never go astray again. Of course, humanity is not good at following instructions. Humanity has a remarkable instinct for self-destructive self-determinism. Humanity believes that it can manage and control its own destiny.

The moment when Jesus cleanses the Temple in Jerusalem, the holiest place in Judaism, of the market traders and money changers is a moment when God steps in again. The market traders and money changers should not necessarily be seen as ‘bad’ people. They were tradesmen doing, what they believed to be, an honest day’s work. However, they were doing it in the House of God. They were demeaning the sanctity of the Temple with their worldly bartering and trading. Rather than facilitating the worship of God, they were adding a commercial dimension which was in total opposition to the teachings of God. The sacrifices and the use of Temple coinage may have been part of the ancient Jewish law, but the way in which such things were made available to those in need of spiritual refreshment led to a predominant preoccupation with worldly financial concerns.

This weekend we are invited to reflect upon the Ten Commandments and the way in which Jesus reacted to human folly and greed. We are called to reflect upon our own relationship with the Church in which we  worship and pray to God. We are called to set aside our obsession with human concerns and to come to God in simple and honest faith, praying for his guidance and inspiration as we continue our journey through Lent.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen