Readings, prayers and reflections are available below.
LENT III SUNDAY 7 MARCH 2021
Today's sermon is available as an audio recording here. Press play to start.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace ,through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
I Corinthians 1:18-25, John 2:13-22.
Let us pray for ourselves and for others that our faith may be strengthened and our common life renewed.
We give thanks for this place where we worship and for places which inspire us. We pray for their maintenance and good order.
We pray for the Church, the body of Christ. For those who lead us. Bless Pope Francis as he seeks to bring about reconciliation and hope to Christians in Iraq.
We pray for architects, builders and town planners, and all who determine the shape and landscape of our environment.
We pray for healing, inner strength and renewed hope for those facing sickness, bereavement, troubles and anxiety. We pray especially for Mary Maxwell and Paul Evans.
We pray for those who have died and especially for David Card Reynolds.
"Jesus said to the traders in the temple, 'Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace'" John 2:16
As you near Canterbury on the road fro London there is a sudden and wonderful moment when you see the Cathedral in all its splendour towering above the clustered houses.
It is a poignant sight, especially for English Christians. The Cathedral has stood there for centuries. It was the seat of St Augustin himself. It somehow represents the beauty and tradition and the life of the Christian faith in our country. And yet the building has no intrinsic permanence. It could be destroyed in moments. It so nearly was during the Second World War when many of the surrounding buildings were flattened by bombs. Here we have "no abiding city" and there is no guarantee that the Christian religion will continue in our country.
Throughout history mankind has built monuments to whatever it held sacred; Stonehenge, the Greek and Roman temples, the Pyramids, Wembley Stadium, Docklands. Temples and altars to whatever gods held the devotion of people.
The Jews built their temple. Wandering tribes settled and ended their nomadic life. Royal David's city, captured from the Jebusites, was the place where the stone tablets upon which God's law was inscribed and the Ark of the Covenant came to rest. It was a holy place, dedicated to worship and reminding the Jews of their particular and special relationship with God.
At the time of Jesus sacrifices were still being offered, animals bought and sold. The profane Roman coinage bearing the heads of emperors who were proclaimed gods was not allowed to be used in the temple. Money changers provided acceptable currency. Business flourished on the back of religion. It was noisy, crowded, smelly. This was no church Jumble Sale! There were no pots of homemade marmalade or bric-a-brac!
Yet housed in the temple were the Commandments, given by God so that his people should know how to order their lives. These were summarized by two great Commandments which Christ refers to. Love your God with all your heart and mind and strength -if you can do this you cannot place the pursuit of fame, money or false gods above him. Love your neighbour as you love yourself-if you do this you cannot cheat or lie or steal from or misuse people.
Christ was angry at the desecration of the temple and , perforce at the misuse of people which would follow from disregarding the Commandments enshrined in that building. This episode is by no means just about bricks and mortar and about the uses to which buildings are put. He says that even a building which took forty-six years to build can be destroyed- but one who is the temple of God will not and cannot perish.
I remember feeling sad and uneasy when years ago I saw churches and mosques in Cyprus which had been looted and burnt by each side in the conflict there. hatred and violence is aroused when Sikh temples are desecrated and when mosques are damaged by rival Muslim sects in Iraq.
Buildings which should be places of sanctuary and peace and contemplation are sometimes viewed as the symbols of the misuse of power, of greed and repression. The same forces were at work in Jesus' day. Not long after his death the temple was destroyed by the Romans as a punishment for a Jewish revolt. It was never rebuilt.
God is not contained in churches, his words are living and active and not chiselled in stone. He is not destroyed by death. The events we are preparing to commemorate and celebrate, the Passion, death and resurrection of Christ are evidence of this.
Humans may abuse and kill each other, may abuse and reject God. In the end this is futile. We are temples of God, part of a living Church, the object of God's dear love and of a redemption won at a heavy price on the cross. We are charged with sharing this love and proclaiming that all mankind, all creation, is redeemed.