Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 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. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Sermon. March 7, 2021
Rev. John Steitz
Today we are going to focus on Compassion. Now I realize that this might seem like an odd focus to join to scripture on Jesus overturning tables in the Temple, and to the Ten Commandments, but we can understand these scriptures from the perspective of compassion.
Compassion can be divided into two segments. “Passion” meaning feeling, and “com” meaning with. Compassion is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
Clearly Jesus is motivated by compassion when he overturns the tables. The commerce that is taking place in the Temple is especially exploitive of the poor. In order to give alms to the Temple you needed to exchange a government issued coin for a temple coin. This exchange allowed for profits to be made on the exchange.
Likewise, the poor were exploited when purchasing small animals such as doves for religious sacrifice. No doubt Jesus had memory of this exploitation when he visited the temple with his family as a boy.
It was through this marketplace and its exploitive practices that the religious elite raised funds for the multigenerational project of building the temple.
Centuries later Martin Luther symbolically overturned the tables when he opposed the system of paying the church for special prayers. For payment priests would say special prayers to ensure that your deceased loved ones would be given entrance into heaven. This is how the medieval church raised funds for its building projects.
The Exodus story is about God’s compassion for God’s people. There is the liberation of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. There is the 40 – year formation period in the Wilderness, which is more than a typical lifespan of a person at the time. There is the giving of God’s covenant with the people.
The giving of the Ten Commandments can be understood as an act of compassion by God for God’s people. The Ten Commandments provide general guidelines on how to live a covenant life.
Centering our worship, attention, and lives in relationship to God. Living in non-exploitive relationship with each other. Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments as being about love: Loving God with all of our being, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The Great Commandment’s call to love underscores the compassion through which God gave the Ten Commandments. We can say that we are able to love because God has compassion for us.
Yet instead of love and compassion Jesus sees exploitation and breaking the Eighth Commandment not to steal. In the temple marketplace the Commandments that were given to ensure non-exploitive relationships among God’s people are being warped by the religious elites in a manner that actually steals from the poor.
Jesus is motivated by a deep sense of compassion for the poor and exploited and this moves him to overturn the tables in the temple. The motivation to work to end injustice, exploitation, and harm in our world today comes from a deep sense of compassion for those being harmed.
Theologian Andrew Dreitcher in his book Living Compassion: Loving Like Jesus points out that in the Bible, compassion is a circle of relationships. Compassion has life and meaning only within the circle of relationships between God, the eternal Source of Compassion, others, and ourselves.
The first relationship comes when we connect with God’s presence. The first section of the Ten Commandments, and the first part of the Great Commandment – loving God, center our attention on our relationship with God as the sacred Source of Compassion.
To love God is to love resting in God’s compassionate Presence. To love God is to love God’s compassion flowing in, through, and for the entire world. This divine Compassion grounds and energizes all that is. God’s presence offers us comfort, healing, and restoration wherever we need it. We are sustained by God’s compassion. We have life, and the promise of everlasting life through God’s compassion.
The circle of compassion continues in our connection with others, our families and neighbors, and the entire world beyond ourselves. Through our compassionate love for others, God’s compassionate love expands and deepens.
We don’t need to plan or envision this, it just flows. The way that our love for a grandchild doesn’t need a mission plan or vision statement to flow. God’s compassion flows through us as we love others.
The Christian faith holds that there is no love of God without loving others. This includes the distant other, the enemy, the vulnerable, and the excluded.
The third relationship in the circle is compassion for self. This isn’t being self – centered or selfish. Self-compassion, the ability to love ourselves grounds our ability to love others. Jesus practiced self-compassion every time he prayed alone. His practice of self-compassion through prayer and solitude grounded his ministry of healing and sharing the Good News.
The Ten Commandments lifts up the circle of relationships between God, others, and ourselves. This circle of relationship is held together through God as the Source of Compassion. This circle of relationship is expanded and expressed through our love for God, our love for neighbor, and our compassion for ourselves.
Where there is exploitation and harm this circle of relationships is broken. Then, as an act of compassion tables are overturned to call attention to the harm, and to all us back into the circle of relationship.
Compassion understood as a circle of relationships is how we express our Core Values as a faith community. Being spiritually alive, making disciples, loving church family, and neighborhood engagement are all ways that we act with compassion within a circle of relationships.
The Ten Commandments along with the story of Jesus overturning the tables reminds us of the importance of this circle of relationships. We are a people of God who is the Source of Compassion. We are a people of compassion. Amen.